What makes a life, day, or event ‘good’ or ‘bad?” We categorize so many things into these two buckets, often without thinking. With spiritual discernment, we may see some things that seem good are bad, and some bad things are ultimately good.
Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun. So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity. Ecclesiastes 11:7-8
Rejoice in the good days
Life is generally good and so if we live many years we should enjoy the days. For the Christian, each day is a walk with God. Even challenges strengthen us:
- James 1:2-4: Trials teach endurance and perfects us
- 1 Peter 1:6-9: Trials refine and strengthen us
- 1 Peter 4:13-14: Persecution can inspire rejoicing
Trials and persecution grind down and embitter the disobedient. The way of the sinner is hard, Proverbs 13:6, 15.
Dark days will come
There will be dark and difficult days. Even the trials and persecution that strengthen us will darken our days. Paul learned to endure times of plenty and want through the strength of Christ, Philippians 4:10-13. Anyone can be content in the good time; the challenge is being content during difficult days. According to this passage Paul “learned” to be content regardless of the circumstances. God’s wisdom must change our perspective. As my friend Barry Hudson wisely said, “you want God to change your circumstances, but God wants to change you.”
See God’s hand in all things
In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him. Ecclesiastes 7:14
Meditate deeply on the passage above. God may not cause events but He is in control and allows them to happen. Paul encouraged the Romans that all things could work out for their spiritual good, Romans 8:28. Do we trust this or do we second-guess God’s management of the universe?
God may not cause events but He can help us turn challenges an difficulties into something good. We must let God’s word and faith do its work. These blessings do not come when we whine, complain, or give up.
God made Israel hunger then give them bread from heaven to teach them that “man does not live by bread alone” but by God’s word, Deuteronomy 8:3. Israel had an opportunity to learn dependence on God, prayer for daily bread, and trust in His care. bur responded with whining, complaining, and rebellion against God and Moses. They saw disaster when they should have been filled with home and trust.
We can rejoice, our faith can grow, and we will learn contentment if we respond to trials with trust.
Realize something ‘bad’ may be ‘good’
We are so quick to say that a day, event, or life is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Consider this fable:
A farmer had only a son and his horse. One day the horse ran away. The neighbors pitied the farmer but he replied, “We’ll see, we’ll see.”
A few days later the horse returned with 20 wild horses that the farmer was able to tame, sell, and make a profit. The neighbors rejoiced and praised the farmer but he replied, “We’ll see, we’ll see.”
One day the horse kicked his only son and injured him so badly that he became lame. The neighbors were angry at the horse but the farmer said, “We’ll see, we’ll see.”
Soon war broke out and all of the sons of the village were taken to war but the farmer’s son who was lame, and all were lost in a terrible battle. The neighbors consoled the farmer that at least his son was still alive to which he replied, “We’ll see, we’ll see.”
We are quick to judge something as good or bad although we do not yet see how it ends! Once again, we see that even the trials and tribulations can create great positive changes that we would not have otherwise.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
The affliction is working towards our glory, but if we gripe and moan about our affliction we will miss the blessing. We must look at the events of our life with spiritual eyes. We are poor judges of an eternal, all-knowing God. Will we take issue with God’s work in our life, Romans 9:19-23? Shall we put God on trial in our courtroom, Job 40?
Consider how something that seems bad might be very good:
- Death on the cross resulted in a powerful resurrection and salvation open to all.
- The persecution of the church scattered teaching Christians throughout the world, Acts 8.
- Paul saw his imprisonment as an opportunity to spread the gospel to the guard and encouragement for other brethren to preach, Philippians 1:12-18.
- Trials have the fruit of patience and perfection of character.
I’ve known people who lost a job. Was it a bad day? Many found more fulfilling jobs with better pay that they would have missed had they not lost their job. So, was it a bad day? Of course we sorrow as we do not know the future but we should trust that God cares for us and continue forward in hope.
Pray for vision
Life is good if we will see it. We need to pray for spiritual wisdom and godly vision to see the good in the bad and build our trust in God’s care. When Elisha’s servant despaired, being surrounded by the Syrian army, Elisha calmly prayed that God would open the servant’s eyes. When He did, the servant saw the Syrian army surrounded by the horses and flaming chariots of God, 2 Kings 6. We, too, can see the immediate enemy and forget the hosts of heaven that encompass them and care for God’s children.
Certainly, there will be events so tragic in our lives that we will anguish and strive hard to see any good. The vision may not come immediately and bittersweet rejoicing may be long delayed, yet the Christian can learn even in the worst situations. Christians have told me how cancer really taught them the value of a moment and deep faith and trust in God. Parents who’ve lost children have become advocates to save other children, comfort other mourning parents, and have learned profound compassion and service through the trial. These things happen to the faithful and the wicked but the faithful can learn and be stronger as the wicked become bitter.
Some difficult days come from our bad choices. We may suffer great consequences of sin that endure emotionally and physically through our lives though we may repent with tears. Genesis tells us of Jacob who, for 30 years was hated by his brother for deceiving their father and stealing the inheritance, but himself was deceived by his father-in-law. His sons broke his heart by selling his beloved son, Joseph, into slavery but led him to believe that Joseph was killed by a wild animal. He had marital problems because of jealous wives. God blessed Jacob but he suffered a lot from poor decisions.
We may be abused or hurt by the wickedness of others. Joseph was almost murdered by his brothers who, instead, sold him as a slave into Egypt where for a time he was imprisoned on false charges. Yet Joseph trusted God and the family of Jacob was saved from a famine and he reconciled with his family
I have seen people in both situations rise above the evil and use the trial for good to help others avoid a sorrowful path or help those who have been hurt by evil people. Again, wicked people face the consequences of their actions or suffer at the hands of evil people. God’s people can learn from suffering, become stronger, and help others whereas the wicked often harden their hearts, become bitter and resentful, and lash out at others.
You cannot control what happens in life, but you can control how you will respond to it and what you will do with the experience.
“May this journey bring a blessing, may I rise on wings of faith;
At the end of my hearts testing, with your likeness let me wake.”
From “Jesus Draw Me Every Nearer by Keith and Kristyn Getty