There is a story about a ruler of a desert kingdom that was in turmoil. Businesses were failing, people were sick, riots were breaking out, the people were fearful, and bickered and complained about most everything. So, the king went out into his troubled domain to see what he might do to help. The situation was bleak. But the king was surprised to find a cheerful monk who mended shoes to raise funds for his monastery. To test the monk, and especially the monk’s faith in God, the king outlawed shoe mending. So, the monk started carrying water for people.

When the ruler outlawed carrying water for pay, the monk switched to cutting firewood. Then the king banned woodcutting, put all the woodcutters in the army and made them all carry swords. Now this was a very big problem for the monk because monks aren’t supposed to carry weapons in the army. But the monk sold his sword and carved a perfect wooden replica to replace it.

Next the king ordered the monk to execute a man accused of stealing fruit from the royal garden. Horrified, the monk refused but the king told the monk that if he didn’t obey both he and the thief would be killed.

As the monk began a hasty, silent prayer for help he had an idea.  He stepped forward and loudly prayed, “O Lord, you know that I have never killed anything in my whole life. Please God, if this man is guilty, let my sword be so sharp as to kill him in a single blow. But if he is not guilty, let my sword turn to wood as a sign of his innocence.”

With that the monk drew his sword and showed that it was wooden. Everyone thought a miracle had occurred. The king knew better but appreciating the monk’s cleverness and perseverance to do good, the king made the monk his advisor. And working together, the kingdom was restored.

Under dire circumstances our cheerful monk made opportunities. The world, under any conditions, looks different when we decide that we’ll create opportunities and, with God’s help, act on them.

There is no mention of a reversal of circumstances in the readings. The darkness and gloom do not go away for Isiah. Evil reports do not cease for the Psalmist. Instead, we see challenges as offering opportunities to demonstrate the goodness of God expressed in our response and actions especially in difficult times.

Read the Psalm again. The generous and just person will never be moved. An evil report will bring no fear. Finding ways to help and encourage others brings light to the darkness. Let your light shine.