It is one of those phrases that people may think is in the Bible, but it isn’t. Like the saying “God helps those who help themselves,” “This too shall pass” isn’t in there. It sounds like it could be, but it isn’t.
The catchy line probably gained its popularity from President Lincoln, who used it in a speech at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1859, just before an award ceremony. Lincoln explained that long ago an Eastern king commissioned his wise men to create a sentence that would fit in all times and in all situations. They came back to him with “And this too shall pass away.”
The reason Lincoln used the phrase was to give hope to the losers that day and also to encourage the winners to be humble in victory. Whatever their situation – victorious or defeated – they could be assured that “this too shall pass.”
But even though “This too shall pass” is not a direct quote from Scripture, the idea is very biblical. In the book of Ecclesiastes, for example, Solomon said, “For everything there is a season…a time to be born and a time to die…a time to weep and a time to laugh...” In other words, this too shall pass.
And on a more personal level, David testified about his experience with this too shall pass in Psalm 30. There, he describes a couple of situations that, at the time, felt as if they were permanent but as it turned out, they passed.
The first was a season of prosperity. David was rolling along and things were clicking quite nicely for him, giving him a sense of invincibility. He said, “When I was prosperous, I said, ‘Nothing can stop me now!'” (v. 6). But things changed and the prosperity passed. While David was swollen with pride the bottom fell out, leaving him “shattered” (v. 7).
Not surprisingly, the other experience that seemed like it was forever was a period in which David was deeply discouraged. He faced what some have appropriately called “a dark night of the soul.” If you have ever experienced a season like this, you know that what makes it so hard is that it feels so permanent, like you will never get out of it.
But David did emerge from the depths and when he came up, he reported:
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness, 12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
For David, the mourning became dancing. The sadness became gladness. The cries for help became a song of praise.
Friend, whether you are in the pits or on a peak today, be reminded that life has a fluid, dynamic quality about it. Like a movie, life is a succession of scenes. Like a book, there are different chapters and the pages keep turning. If you are in a good place, enjoy it but keep it in perspective. If you are in a hard place, it may feel like it is forever, but it isn’t. This too shall pass.
The reason we have hope is that from page to page and from scene to scene, God remains the same. Circumstances – both good and bad – will pass, but Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
It’s a new day with God. Run with it.