As a son of the East, have long been fond of oriental Zen stories. They are of universal appeal and often have relevent application to the Besorah (Gospel) of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). One famous one can be interpreted in many ways but first let me share it with you and then give you my take on it and how I use it.
One day while walking through the wilderness a man stumbled upon a vicious tiger. He ran but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Desperate to save himself, he climbed down a vine and dangled over the fatal precipice. As he hung there, two mice appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine. Suddenly, he noticed on the vine a plump wild strawberry. He plucked it and popped it in his mouth. It was incredibly delicious!
How differently Western an Eastern minds approach such situations. The Easterner, seeking to live each moment to the full, decides that in his last moment of life (since there is no apparent hope of rescue for him) he would rather enjoy the delight of a succulent strawberry than ponder the awful fate that awaits him. Talk about making a radical choice! And whilst I am not suggesting that this was necessarily the right choice - the believer would (and should) call upon His Deliverer (Saviour), even if it had been decided by Yahweh that his life was forfeit that day - there are surely many commendable things to note about this man's decision that have great application in a wide array of situations.
Let us take Yah'shua's (Jesus') wise counsel not to worry or fret about tomorrow or the future:
Contained within this observation is the emet (truth) that as humans we don't actually have a greater capacity to deal with the problems spanning more than one day at a time. There isn't a thing we can do about the future unless it is dealing with the here-and-now - the moment. This Zen take is actually telling us that the immediacy of the moment is the most important thing - the man was seconds away from death so why not live life to the fullest in his highly limited situation.
"Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof" (Matt.6:34, KJV).
We may not often face cliff-hangers like this but we certainly face numerous situations that present us with numerous choices in the way that we react or respond. How we deal with bad, negative of disadvantageous situations is a reflection both on our character as well as our maturity - or lack thereof. Yah'shua (Jesus) said:
He knew, of course, that we all worry but suggests, by implication, that it's actually rather silly to do so. Indeed, worry is equated in the Bible with a lack of emunah or faith - a kind of atheism - because it represents a failure to trust in the One who is absolutely trustworthy and is ultimately in control.
"Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?" (Luke 12:25, NKJV).
I am not saying that the decision by the man in this Zen tale was necessarily the right but but it was a pretty smart one, don't you think? Talk about making the best of a situation! This man decided to live the remaining seconds of his life to the full.
According to one writer, a French aristocrat facing the guillotine during the Freanch Revolution, who was very fond of books and reading, decided to end his life humorously. Standing before the gallows, he asked his executioner to throw the book he was reading into the basket into which his severed head would fall. "I'll finish it later!" was his last quip. Perhaps he was a little touched in the head, maybe he was trying to put a brave face on an awful situation, or maybe he was trying to cheer his own heart and others around him facing a similar fate, but he chose to go out of life in an amusing way nonetheless. It takes guts to do such a thing.
I think the way we respond to such or similar situations is largely a function of our personality, and who is say which is best, let alone right? I think I am one of those people who would want to exit this world praising Yahweh in song, though who knows what any of us would do in the final moment? Some go out silently, some screaming in terror, others in witness or praise. We won't know what we'll do until we reach that last moment. Stephen, while being murdered by the Judeans for His 'crime' of following Yah'shua (Jesus), chose to leave this world talking with His Redeemer and forgiving his enemies:
I suspect that had the man in the Zen tale been Stephen, he would have prayed the first part of his prayer before the murderous mob, but who can say how he would have ended it.
"'Master Yah'shua (Lord Jesus), receive my ruach (spirit).' Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, 'Master, do not charge them with this sin'" (Acts 7:59-60, NKJV).
What would you have done?