When Your Bad Day is a Good Day

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.”

Learning contentment

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.

Man pushing a giant, heavy stone, rock over the mountain. ConcepSome 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

Contentment is a Prayer of Thankfulness

Our contentment tells God thank you for taking care of our needs and overfilling our cup. We tell Him that we are enough with Him and we are satisfied with how “all things dockhave worked together for good” in our lives, Romans 8:28. We do not sulk or whine about what others have nor live discontent because of their blessings because we are blessed with a loving Father: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5. Even though we want to grow and improve our skills and ability to serve, we are not discontent with our life now. Instead of searching for life’s meaning in the things of life, we find that “godliness with contentment is great gain,” 1 Timothy 6:6.

A content Christian is a prayer of thankfulness to God for satisfying our deepest needs beyond our ability to measure.

Connecting Three Bible Trees

How are The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Tree of Life, and the cross of Jesus connected?

Genesis opens the Bible with two prominent trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The first allowed continued existence and the second an opportunity to exercise free will in rebellion against God. Adam and Eve ate of the second tree and lost access to the first. They came to know good and evil and also came to know separation from a unique fellowship with God and the pain of death.

Revelation closes the Bible with access to the Tree of Life restored, its life giving fruit, and a unique fellowship between God and man .

What connects these scenes of rebellion and peace, restraint and restoration? The cross of Jesus where the Savior was hanged upon a tree, cursed to redeem us from a curse (Galatians 3:13).

The cross became a Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil for it informs us of the great evil that could crucify the Son of God, the exceedingly high price of sin, and the cost to redeem man. We also are taught of the exceeding love, mercy, and goodness  of God who would make such a sacrifice to redeem us (1 John 5:20). We come to know God in a special way through the cross.

The cross is also a Tree of Life through which the death of Jesus brought righteousness and life (Romans 5). The cross lifted Jesus so that even those who look to Him today can find salvation and eternal life (John 3:14-15).

What is Peace and Why Don’t We Have It?

What is peace?

The word peace is used in a variety of ways. It can indicate the absence of conflict or hostilities such as nations or a household at peace. Individually, it can describe a sense of contentment where there is no conflict within. The Bible describes Jesus rebuking a tumultuous sea, commanding it to be peaceful and a great calm followed, Mark 4:35-41. Similarly, following the command of Jesus can bring peace in our lives.

The desired state of peace most seek is:

  • Free of anxiety
  • Acceptance of self and one’s situation in life
  • Peace in our relationship with God
  • Harmonious relationship with others

Free of Anxiety

Anxiety steals internal peace

Anxiety disturbs peace. You may hear bad news or forecasts about national and world news, the economy, or uncertainty about your job, health, finances, or situation. Nothing bad has happened but the possibility of negative events can send us into a downward spiral of worry, negativity, and pessimism. Think of the times the news has predicted bad things that didn’t occur. Several years ago there were warnings of frequent super-hurricanes that would ravage the US but since then we’ve gone almost a decade without a major hurricane hitting our coasts. People waste much of their life worrying about things that will never occur and miss the opportunity to enjoy the good that is in their life.

Discontent steals internal peace

Part of this anxiety and dissatisfaction arises from the gulf between how things are and how we want them to be or think they should be. For example, if we are in a monotonous low-paying job but we think that by now we should be a high paid manager, that difference will cause grief, frustration, and dissatisfaction. If we feel like we are in the job we ought to be for our current stage of professional progression, we will feel satisfied. Likewise, if we feel that we should have close friends and enjoy good times but we are alone and bored, we will be discontent. It’s about the reality of our situation, how we think our situation should be (or dream it should be), and our reaction to that gulf. An alternative to frustration and anxiety is acceptance. We can acknowledge the decisions we made and the situations in life that brought us to our current state and accept our situation and be happy about the blessings we have. This doesn’t mean we give up for one can accept the situation and still strive to improve it by making different decisions. Those without peace dwell on the gap and blame themselves, God, and others for their plight, give up a hope that it can ever improve, and list all the things that will ensure things do not change. The key is how we react to the gap between reality and expectation. Even if the gap is broad, you want good health but you are fighting a disease, you can accept your situation and either make different choices from those that diminished your health or, if the problems are not of your doing, follow a plan to get the best improvement that you can. The better we get at accepting reality while allowing for improvement, the more peace we will have.

Finding peace with God’s strength

When faced with bad news or the possibility of bad events in your life, you must realize that there are some things that you can affect and other things that you cannot. Climate change, elections, the economy, and the job market are examples of things our of your control. You can turn off your lights, place your vote, make purchases, and improve your skills but you cannot control the bigger outcome of these large events. The Christian comfort is God’s control over the world for His purposes. When we realize that sometimes evil is allowed to prevail so a greater good may arise, we can accept the decline of civilization and trouble in the economy. God hasn’t promised paradise on earth so we should not expect it. Let me suggest four ways we can find peace in this:

  1. Trust God to take care of life’s needs. The answer is not to fold your hands up and expect God to do everything because He expects us to work. Jesus told believers not to worry about food and clothing, taking comfort that the God who cares for the birds and flowers cares more for our needs, Matthew 5:25-34. However, the scriptures also encourage us to do what our hands find to do with all our might and that one who doesn’t work shouldn’t eat. We have responsibilities that affect God’s provision for our food and clothing. But it is foolish to brood over the basics of life that God will provide. Jesus said to focus on His things (the kingdom) and the Father would focus on our needs.
  2. Trust God with the future. James warns that in making plans we must remember they can be fulfilled, “if God wills” it to be so, James 4:13-17. We should make plans to the best of our ability but realize that a different outcome may result and accept it and operate within that outcome. A song that gives me comfort says, “Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand. But I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand.” I can face the uncertainties of the political, economical, and personal realities of tomorrow because the God who guided me through today will be there tomorrow. Despite the drama of the world stage, God is in control. Romans 13 tells me God controls the government and its affairs so God can help me navigate what he brings about. He may bring about things I perceive as negative but produces a greater good. God may allow the world to descend further into perversity and darkness so the light of holy people and the truth of His word may shine brighter.  I don’t need to know the future, I just need to know God.
  3. Learn contentment despite your situation. We must learn to be content despite our condition in life. It is easy to be content we have plenty and are in comfort. The challenge is to be content when we have little and are discomforted. From prison, Paul wrote the Philippians to be joyful and encouraged them with his ability to be content in any situation, Philippians 4:10-13. The popular “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” is not written in the context of the “never say give up” attitude but is the power behind Paul’s ability to be content in any situation. We must recognize that we may be hard working godly people yet may struggle in life. Sometimes hard work does not pay off as well as we hoped but we can find joy in the results anyway. Sometimes things do not go the way we want but we shouldn’t give up or become negative. As others have said, we pray to God wanting Him to change the situation but God wants to change us. He is trying to make us better despite what we must endure in life. We are made stronger in struggle, develop patience through suffering, and gain endurance through trial. If God doesn’t remove your burden, pray for the strength to carry it and then rejoice in the gift you’ve received from God, 2 Corinthians 12:6-10.
  4. Trust God with everything in your life. Paul, in Philippians 4:4-7, described how we can have a peace that transcends understanding through trust in God. Notice the extremes described in this verse: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” If you want a peace that surpasses understanding and no anxiety, you must give everything to God. We often say we are putting things in God’s hands but then begin to worry about the outcome. Paul is commanding a radical step of complete trust in God. You can only have a peace that transcends understanding by giving your concerns to God in a confident way that transcends the world’s understanding. You can be free of anxiety when you truly trust that God hears your prayers, cares about your life and your needs, is actively doing something in response to your request (though the outcome may be something different from what you desire), and that His response will be the best because “all things work together for good for those that love God (Romans 8:28).” We can say it but do we really believe it? Do we trust God with the results? I recently talked with a lady whose cancer went into remission. She told me that she didn’t worry at all because so many godly people were praying for her, she was being treated by good doctors, and she would accept the results which either would be death (and going home to be with God) or life (and an opportunity to continue serving God on this earth). Her heavenly perspective and trust in God was such that she said, “I really didn’t worry.” Had she only been focused on a clean bill of health, she would have anxiety but she trusted the results to God and continued to live her life.

Peace Within

Sometimes we do not have peace because we are overly critical of ourselves or unforgiving of our past sins. It is important to learn from our failures and even use them to help others out of the mire of sin that we escaped, but we cannot dwell on the wasted time, damaged lives, and lost opportunities due to sinful choices. We must ask God to forgive us and forgive ourselves as well. No amount of self-loathing or despair will change one minute of the past and it steals opportunities from the present to accomplish much good. As we would find plenty of grace and mercy to forgive a brother or sister anguishing over sin, we should offer mercy and grace to ourselves. I’ve written elsewhere on the importance of forgiving ourselves that provides additional insight into this challenge. We are being perfected, we are not perfect and we must accept that. When we focus on trying to serve God diligently and don’t dwell on our failures, we will be more useful in God’s service.

Peace with God

The comforting words of Paul in Romans 5:6-11 remind us that Jesus died for us while we were in rebellion in order to reconcile us to the Father. If He did that for us when we were in rebellion, how much more can we enjoy the peace as children of God when we obey His will, enjoy His grace, and do His work (2 Corinthians 5:17-19; Colossians 1:21-23)? The Christian can enjoy sweet sleep and calm days because the greatest peace that can be obtain was offered by God through the blood of His Son and He will receive the faithful into glory when this life is over.

Peace Perfect Peace

If we reconcile with God through His Son, forgive ourselves for our failures, and put our cares and anxieties in His hands, we can have peace within, a peace that surpasses understanding. We can have peace though we live in a sinful world, though we have challenges and trials, though we often fail to get what we want, and though life is imperfect. Peace is a wonderful spiritual gift that we should savor and seek to regain if we allow our hearts or our lives to drift from its pleasant harbor.

Video – Lessons from the Song “Just As I Am, I Come Broken”

This was a lesson I presented at the 2016 Florida College Alabama camp reflecting on the theme song from camp: “Just As I Am, I Come Broken.” This is a beautiful adaptation of an old hymn that expresses the response of someone coming just as they are to God for healing and transformation.

This was a lesson I presented at the 2016 Florida College Alabama camp reflecting on the theme song from camp: “Just As I Am, I Come Broken.” This is a beautiful adaptation of an old hymn that expresses the response of someone coming just as they are to God for healing and transformation.

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