A farmer was plowing his field, trying to get the soil ready for planting in the short time he had left before the rains. One morning, the horse he used to pull the plow bucked and reared, breaking its harness and racing off over the hills.
"This is terrible!" the farmer's neighbors in the village exclaimed. "Now you will not be able to finish plowing in time before the rains!"
"Well, we'll see." The farmer replied. "Maybe it's a bad thing, and maybe it's a good thing."
With much of their own work left to finish, the neighbors shook their heads and returned to their fields.
Later that night, the farmer's horse returned, and with him was a mare, trotting along behind.
"Oh, this is wonderful!" the farmer's neighbors cried out. "Now you can have your son help you plow, and finish the work in half the time -- or even do more, before the rains come!"
"Well we'll see." The farmer replied. "Maybe it's a good thing, and maybe it's a bad thing."
The neighbors shrugged, and returned to their own work.
Soon both the farmer's horse and the mare were pulling plows, and the farmer and his son made great progress in the field. But at the end of the day's labor, while the mare was being unhitched from the plow, something startled her and she reared and bucked, lashing out with her hooves and breaking many of the son's ribs.
"Oh! Terrible! Terrible! Your poor son! This is a terrible thing! And you were doing so well in the fields!"
"Well." The farmer responded, "We'll see. Maybe it's..."
"We know. We know." The neighbors sighed. "Maybe it's a bad thing, and maybe it's a good thing."
"That's right." The farmer replied.
"Looks like a bad thing to us." And shaking their heads, the neighbors returned to their fields.
Later in the week, the King's army came through the village like a terrible storm, pressing all the young men, all the neighbor's sons, into service, to go off and fight a battle they could never win, in land cold and distant from their homes. When the army came to the farmer's house, seeing his son in such terrible condition from having his ribs kicked in, they decided he would be useless, and did not take him, and so he was not marched off to war to die on foreign soil.
What looks like a problem can really be just a passing difficulty, with a greater good because of it following right on its heels.