by Robert Kenneth Jones
There is a poignant nineteenth century tune written by Stephen Collins Foster called “Hard Times Come Again No More.”
The beautiful and haunting lyrics cry; “It’s a song and a sigh of the weary. Hard times, hard times, come again no more. Many days you have lingered around my cabin door. Hard times come again no more.”
Foster was one of the most popular songwriters of his era yet died at age 38, destitute and suffering from alcoholism in the midst of the Civil War. He was a broken man.
Only our brokenness will allow us to be truly compassionate. Words of comfort and possibilities of hope in the midst of darkness fall on fertile ground only when there is a common experience of anguish.
It is difficult to see the beauty in times that are parched by long a draught with flat and endless, rocky debris.
We seem to walk forever with no sign of relief from our suffering and loneliness. We plead for help from above only to have our prayers seemingly ignored as we struggle on. Hopelessness begins to seep in. There comes a darkness that has no bottom, top or sides…just emptiness. We are lost in an illusion created by our finite vision. But as long as there is life there is hope. As long as there is breath there is a promise of an oasis.
Enduring and overcoming hard times requires a closer inspection of our surroundings. It will yield small miracles and reveal beauty that we have missed in our grief.
The eye of a child can see the marvel of an ant carrying an object five times its size, the amazing veins in a leaf that carry nutrition to the rest of the plant, and the nose of a chipmunk sniffing from its ground cave to make sure that it is safe.
The child finds comfort in the hand of mother and encouragement in the words that ‘everything is going to be okay’. A child is not surprised when the desert reveals a deep well with cool, fresh water.
Though emptiness and desperation feels as if it comes-to-stay, a spiritual experience occurs when we overcome hard times. Our ‘child eye’ can be renewed in a God-given gift that enables us to be of service to others who are lost in desert and darkness. We are given a chance to be an oasis for those who suffer.
Today I will open my ‘child eye’ and pay attention to the beauty and grace that surrounds me. I will become vulnerable by letting my experience strength and hope shine for others.
Note: I find myself writing again about overcoming grief after an unspeakable national tragedy. Only four months after Las Vegas we are in Parkland suffering through mass carnage with disbelief. May we all work together in a common cause to make ‘hard times come again no more.”
About the Author
In a career spanning over four decades, Robert Kenneth Jones has been an innovator in the treatment of addiction and childhood abuse. His blog, An Elephant for Breakfast, testifies to the power of the human spirit to overcome the worst of life’s difficulties. We encourage you to visit and share this rich source of healing, inspiration and meditation.
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Bob Jones’ blog An Elephant for Breakfast