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

Blessings With Car Troubles

My son and I were traveling to college out of state recently. I drove the family van and he followed with his truck. We got to our halfway point at 3 am the night before and were up at 8 am the next day to finish the trip. After a quick stop when we had been on the road a couple of hours, I noticed my son pull onto the freeway shoulder. He called to say that the truck was overheating.
At that point I could have gotten very frustrated and agitated. After all, we still had many miles to go until we arrived at the college. We were far from home as well. This was an unnecessary and inconvenient interruption in my schedule. I was still tired from a long drive the day before and little sleep. Honestly, I would have often reacted negatively in such a situation but I’ve been working on improving my attitude and to have more gratitude for the things that are going right.
Here were the blessings I observed about the situation:
  1. My son was watching the temperature gauge and noticed the engine was hot. We didn’t find the problem by the engine overheating and becoming damaged. By monitoring the gauges he identified trouble before it became an expensive and time consuming problem.
  2. We were between two exits that were not far apart and both had several stores where I could purchase premixed antifreeze. We had come along stretches where the exits were many more miles apart and some did not have stores at the exits. This could have taken much longer if the problem developed in those areas.
  3. A short time later we were driving in extremely heavy rain which would have made fixing the problem more difficult and messy. It was still dry when the problem arose.
  4. The problem did not develop a 2 am when we were tired and trying to reach our destination the night before.
  5. We left in plenty of time so we weren’t in a rush to fix the problem in order to meet a tight deadline. My son had an event scheduled that night and he still was early even with this problem because we planned to leave early to accommodate potential problems.
  6. This didn’t happen after I left him at college. I was able to help him fix the problem.
  7. My son has a vehicle. That is a blessing.
I could probably list more blessings in this problem but I think these illustrate my point. We can look at the bad in any situation or we can see the good, at the very least, how it could have been worse but it was not. We cannot control a lot of the things that happen in our lives but we can control our attitude about the situations!
It is that type of attitude that James describes when he urges us to have joy in trials because of the fruits it produces (James 1:2-4). The problems you endure teach you lessons if you will listen. They can make you wiser in planning better in the future to meet or prevent problems. Dealing with problems gives you experience to help others when they face similar trials. Problems can help you depend on God more than yourself.
Going through trials gives you opportunities to develop a good attitude when facing trials. The reaction I had to this incident was truly a learned response because I have not always reacted in a positive way to obstacles in my life. However, I have learned that obstacles are going to come my way whether my attitude is negative or positive. Why not face it with trust in God’s care, looking for the best in the situation, and actively working to resolve the issue? When I face problems with a more positive attitude, I realized how blessed I am, even when I’m having car troubles.

In God’s Time

As a self-proclaimed leader of God’s people, Moses was very frustrated. Having been raised in the palace of Pharaoh, he saw from a protected distance the oppression of his Israelite brethren. When he was 40 years old,  he murdered an Egyptian taskmaster beating an Israelite and the next day tried to negotiate a peace between quarreling Israelites. Moses supposed that his brethren would understand that he would deliver Israel from their oppression but they did not (Acts 7:25). Instead, he fled from Egypt alone fearing for his life. It seemed that Moses would live as an exile in Midian and forgotten to history. But God had other plans. Forty years later, God called Moses at Mt. Sinai to deliver Israel from slavery.

Moses resisted the call of God initially. Perhaps the sting of the rejection of Moses by the Israelite slaves 40 years before haunted him. He doubted himself and whether the Jews would believe him. Yet God commanded Moses to go and promised that he would be successful in leading the people from slavery into the Promised Land. Moses failed the first time because he tried to deliver the people through his power and at a time of his choosing. He succeeded the second time because he delivered God’s people on God’s schedule using God’s power.

Of course Moses didn’t have the benefit of God’s plan and schedule, but he didn’t need it. We don’t need to know His plans either. We must trust that He will accomplish His plan and the best for us if we trust and obey Him. This doesn’t mean He will give us everything we want or even make events in life turn out like we want, but He will make all things work out for the best.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

The difficult part is trusting in God when we don’t see how God can bring good out of our current circumstances. I had this confusion in many things when I was younger but as I have reflected on my life, I see how things worked out for the best even of what were very trying times. There were destructive tendencies in my personality and attitude that have been corrected through trials and what, I perceived to be setbacks at the time. There were life situations that seemed like dead ends that actually became important in helping me receive good things later.

Sadly, some people become impatient with God, follow worldly passions and materialism, and do not submit to Him. They sacrifice long-term growth and treasures for temporary pleasures and trinkets. To have “all things work together for good” you have to love God and trust Him.  Sometimes the full blessings one can have in life are limited because of the consequences of foolish living. God can still create a good life out of a damaged past and heal the damage of sin but it may take longer and some scars may be difficult to heal. If we live by God’s will, His plan revealed in the New Testament, we will have the best possible life on earth though it may take time to realize that God did accomplish good in His time.

God Gives Me Songs in the Night

In the still of the night loneliness and sorrow can envelop us. But God gives Christians songs in the night when they seek him in their sorrow. The perspective of Psalm 42 is someone in distress. As is often the case in the Psalms, the writer trusted in God’s deliverance though he had to endure suffering at the hands of his enemies.

Though he was in sorrow, he wanted to enjoy pleasant times with the Lord again. He fondly remembered how he led the multitude in praise as they made pilgrimages to God’s house. He eagerly desired God’s company as a deer longs for the water. After a big meal neither food nor drink are appealing. When one is feeling self-satisfied, self-sufficient, and at ease he does not hunger and thirst for God—he does not need the Father. However, when one is suffering, broken down, and weary, he acutely feels the pain for God’s presence and comfort.

The psalmist did not thirst for God’s word but for God Himself. It appears that his enemies had hindered his ability to come to the house of God and worship. Just as a young couple eagerly desires one another’s company and seeks every opportunity to be with one another, so one who truly enjoys fellowship with God will hunger for opportunities to join with Him in prayer, study and worship. Though he was suffering, he could still see the kindness of God in the daytime and sing songs as darkness enveloped him in the night.

Think about this comforting theme: God gives us songs during dark times. The phrase “songs in the night” appears a few times in scriptures and indicates confidence in God in the middle of dark times.

  • Job 35:9-10 – Job’s friend, Elihu, told of the confidence of the oppressed who cry to God and receive songs in the night
  • Psalm 77:1-6 – The psalmist reflected on a time when God answered him though he had to suffer some sleepless nights; yet even in his despair he had songs in the night.
  • Psalm 149:5 encourages saints to sing loudly on their beds

When we are enduring trials or sorrows, we often lie on our beds staring at the ceiling and praying for help and answers. Though despair has driven sleep from us, God is ever near. It is often in the silence and loneliness of the darkness that we realize how much we depend upon God and that in suffering we see Him more clearly. John Michael Talbot said, “I can look back at my darkest periods and realize that these were the times when the Lord was holding me closest. But I couldn’t see his face because my face was in his breast—crying.”

In the darkness of pain and despair we can find a song of love, praise, and comfort from our God. Acts 16:20-25 records how Paul and Silas were severely beaten and cast into the depths of a Phillippian jail. It would be understandable if Paul and Silas moaned about their beating, complained to God, and wallowed in self-pity yet late into the night they were singing praises to God. They were following the example of Jesus who, before spending the night in agonizing prayer and going to the cross, sang a hymn with His apostles, Matthew 26:30.

Before the Civil War, as slaves labored in the field and endured beatings, separated families, poor living conditions, and all of the indignities associated with oppression they sang spiritual songs of praise and deliverance. It is a challenge to sing songs in the night when you are enveloped with despair and feel that your suffering is unfair.

How can we sing songs in the night?
First, we must trust in God’s love and care. God as our shepherd can comfort us even when the suffering is the valley of the shadow of death, Psalm 23:4. We can have confidence in His comforting presence for He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5.

We must seek strength from God. Paul urged us to be strong in God’s power, Ephesians 6:10. We must not depend so much on our own strength. This is also when we need to allow others to help us bear our burdens. God is intimately concerned about us, Luke 12:6-7, and will not keep His strength from us if we request it.

We must also realize that there will be times of joy and sorrow. Times of sorrow help us appreciate the good times. The timeless wisdom of Solomon reminds us to enjoy the good days because the dark days will come, Ecclesiastes 7:14. He further reminds us, in Ecclesiastes 11:3-8, that some things are out of our control and some things are within our control. We must do what we can do and leave the rest to the wisdom of God.

God can only give His children songs in the night. Those who have rejected Him or Christians who are rebelling against Him will only have anxiety and worry for they know that God will punish them if they do not repent. To sing songs in the night, one must have peace and true peace can only come through obedience to God.

Reflections on the Alabama Tornadoes and How To Help

by Russell Poe

Wednesday just felt like things were going to be bad. The ferocious winds of the morning that destroyed a house a few miles away reminded me of the hurricane winds I witnessed many times in Florida. The weather reporters seemed more nervous than usual. Nothing prepared us for the ferocity of the storms, the continual reports of new tornadoes in various locations, and the early reports of devastation. The strangest moment was listening to the account of the tornadoes sweeping near where I preach (about 45 minutes away) as I sat on my deck in the sunshine having just witnessed a tornado system pass by a few miles away only an hour or so before.

I grew up in Fultondale, preached for five years in Northport/Tuscaloosa, have directed summer camps at Children’s Harbor near Alexander City, and live just north of Warrior (all cities in Alabama). All of these locations were seriously damaged in the tornado and straight line wind damage last Wednesday, April 28, 2011. Our own small town suffered damage and we were without power for over three days and without water for about a day. Though we suffered some electrical system damage to one of our house circuits, some friends of ours down the road suffered serious damage to their house. The tornadoes in our area passed a few miles either side of our house so we happily accepted the inconvenience of lost power and water to loss of a house or life.

Over the past two days I have passed through several of the communities damaged by the storms and seen the videos and pictures of damage in other areas. The devastation to areas that I knew so well is shocking and hard to grasp. It is one of the few disasters where everyone I know was affected directly or knew someone who was. Many of the communities destroyed were working class or low income areas where the normal challenges to living day by day have now intensified. The government and aid agencies are responding quickly but I think most people are wanting to know how they can help. Here are some ideas:

Donate and/or Volunteer

There are professional organizations who have the personnel and organizational ability to coordinate relief quickly to these areas. Some good sites for coordinated efforts to respond to this disaster are:

Serve Alabama (Governor Bentley’s Alabama Tornado Relief Fund)
Federal Emergency Management Agency Helping Others Site
American Red Cross (Or text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to give $10)
Local Media (WERC and MyFoxAL)


The people here need your prayers for those who have lost loved ones, homes, and are trying to recover. Remember the rescue crews and utility crews as they try to save lives and help the communities rebuild. Pray for opportunities for the gospel to reach those who are lost who, because of the events of the past week, are reconsidering their relationship with God. Pray for the other states that were affected and the communities recovering.

In Alabama we are accustomed to tornado watches and warnings during the warm months. Several times a year we  journey to the basement–our safe place–to wait out the threat. I believe the average Southerner probably knows more tornado related weather terminology and can interpret a weather map better than the rest of the world. Sometimes we can become complacent, but most of us have been close to or in a tornado and have developed a healthy respect for the power of these storms. This week, our appreciation for the power of the storms and the power of everyday people helping others rebuild after a disaster grew exponentially.

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