In China many years ago there lived an old man, with his son and a horse. Back in those days, having a horse was like owning a car today, so you can well imagine how valuable a property the animal must have been. One morning, when the man went to his field to feed the horse, the animal was gone. People in the village said, "What bad luck to lose a horse!" But the old man said, "Good luck or bad luck, who’s to say. The horse happens to be gone, and we’ll leave it at that." The people thought the old man silly, and wondered, "How could losing a horse not be a bad thing?"
A couple days later, the horse returned and brought with it a beautiful mare. People came by again. "You were right. Not only was your horse not stolen, it brought you another horse. How lucky you are!" But the old man said, "Good luck or bad luck, who’s to say. It’s not always a good thing to have another horse. The fact is, now I have two horses, and we’ll leave it at that." This time, his neighbors just shook their heads. "How could it not be a good thing to get another horse for free?"
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the old man’s son, while trying to break in the new horse, fell and broke his leg. When the neighbors learned of the incident, they said, "You’re right. Since the new horse caused your son to break his leg, maybe it wasn’t exactly a good thing to get another horse. In fact, you might say it was unlucky for you that another horse showed up.
Same as before, the old man was indifferent about the whole thing, and said, "Good luck or bad luck, who’s to say. My son fell off and broke his leg, and we’ll leave it at that."
This time the neighbors thought that maybe the old man was right, and went back home. A few days later, a war broke out and a government official came into town. He conscripted all the able-bodied young men to go and fight in the war. However the old man’s son was made exempt because of his broken leg.
I think that James would have liked that story. He seemed to enjoy an ironic twist or two as he began his letter with such a challenging thought as "consider it pure joy when you endure trials