I suppose it comes down to the difference between a trial and a mere evil, the latter of which is totally pointless. I don't know that it's possible to distinguish one from the other on this side of the cosmic area rug, although it is often helpful to consider the bad tidings as a trial -- again, up to a point.
It would be difficult, for example, to have survived communist tyranny by reminding oneself that it's "just a trial" for the purpose of a transmitting a spiritual lesson from which one will emerge stronger or wiser: one death is a tragedy, but a hundred million deaths is an unparalleled opportunity for spiritual growth!
We're all familiar with the insipid happy-talking Flanderian Christian who regards everything as "God's will," out of which some gooey goodness will emerge.
I don't like this idea, for it makes God complicit in evil. The fact that, say, the great good of the state of Israel emerged from the unspeakable evil of the Holocaust doesn't make the latter any less horrific. Evil is evil and is never permissible, no matter what good may spring from its ashes. Besides, it's hard to find so ill a wind that it doesn't blow a little good someone'e way:
Such is the complexity of every historical event that we can always fear that from a good an evil might be born and always hope that from an evil a good might be born (Dávila).
Also, it's always easier to look at someone else's evil as an abstract trial, and one's own trial as an concrete evil. New York is no doubt being tried. But then, I'm 3,000 miles away. Or, for them it's a trial by fire. For me it's a trial by water. Big difference -- like the difference between meditating on death vs. a life-or-death confrontation.
Similarly, consider how global warmists have no compunction about wrecking the global economy for the sake of mitigating their abstract evil, since poor people in far off countries will suffer the most. We will suffer such inconveniences as more expensive energy, diminished wealth, and a reduced standard of living, while those in developing countries will suffer the concrete evils of disease, famine, and inescapable poverty.
Some people are saying this pandemic is a cleansing fire that will burn the progressive rot from our midst. Nothing reveals more the deadly plague of identity politics than a deadly plague. That would be nice, but still, I'd prefer that it be accomplished via ideas rather than plagues.
Others are proclaiming that the Progressive Moment has arrived, and that finally the scourge of capitalism will be vanquished. Me? I say the rot will always be with us in one form or another so long as man walks the earth. For
The progressive forgets that sin frustrates any ideal he longs for; the conservative forgets that he corrupts any reality he defends (Dávila).
Schuon writes that
A trial is not necessarily a chastisement, it can also be a grace, and the one does not preclude the other. At all events: a trial in itself not only tests what we are, but also purifies us of what we are not.
Perhaps the most we can do is ask ourselves how we might make some good come from this. I have this feeling that "things will never be the same," but one often feels this way in the midst of a confrontation with the Ultimate, only to revert back to isness-as-usual once the storm has passed. Soon enough people will once again take for granted the unmerited gift of toilet paper. Yes, our sleep is occasionally disrupted by the intrusion of reality, but never underestimate man's somnambulistic abilities.
Come what may, we should "look straight ahead and let the world be the world" (Schuon). For what choice does one have? Regardless of our hopes, fears, and wishes, the world is going to be the world, and although it is created good, there are other nonlocal forces and wills at play in it. Nothing we can do about that:
The whole purpose of our life lies before us, and [this] is one of the meanings of the injunction not to look behind when one has put one's hand to the plow. It it is necessary to look towards God, in relation to Whom all the chasms of the world are nothing.
Yes, of course there are aphorisms that speak to this existential moment:
The imbecile does not discover the radical misery of our condition except when he is sick, poor or old.
Modern man believes that death is “natural” except when he approaches dying.
Death must not be the object of our meditations, but rather the foundation of all of them.
I suppose one could say that for the person who is truly in touch with reality, the blows of reality should never really come as a surprise. Indeed, the more plans we make, the more fate and contingency bellow with laughter. But Serenity is the fruit of accepting uncertainty.