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

Social Media Fame Will Not Ease Your Emotional Pain

A Bing search today provided an ironic set of results for celebrity Selena Gomez. She became the first person to reach 100 million Instagram followers AND checked herself into a rehab facility to deal with depression and emotional issues. One would think that someone who has so many fans would have no reason to suffer emotionally, yet this is not the case, as social media followers cannot provide the same emotional support to deal with serious problems in life. As a celebrity, Gomez probably realizes this and understands the difference between fans and friends. However, those of us who do not have fame may feel that if we could just have 1,000 social media followers then our voice could be heard and we would be important. Such is an illusion. There is far more value in a few people who truly love and support you than many times that in “followers.”

Gomez likely is suffering additional problems brought on because of celebrity. If we think fame will solve problems, it will probably only magnify our problems and may create new ones. Many business, sports, and entertainment stars have achieved their goals and received the riches and accolades they desired only to discover a nagging question: “Is this all there is?” The book of Ecclesiastes emphasizes the futility of the things in this life bringing our life meaning; however, we can be satisfied with work and achievement if we have it in perspective. There are famous people who do not care about fame who are able to handle its rise and fall with grace.

From my understanding, Selena Gomez has gone through some significant challenges that would impact anyone’s emotional state. It is wise that she is seeking help to deal with these issues and hopefully she will find strength and encouragement to get through this difficult time. It is good that she is turning to people and not drugs or alcohol. I understand the treatment is from a Christian perspective so I hope, and will pray, she can find God’s wisdom as a strength and guide.

7 Things Christians Tell God When They Avoid Daily Prayer

The Power of Daily Prayer

Prayer is a wonderful opportunity for Christians to spend time with God praising Him, thanking Him for all that He has done, and bringing our anxieties, needs, and concerns before His throne. Prayer is not a burden to God; He seeks worshipers, John 4:23. Jesus urges us to pray and taught His disciples how to pray, Matthew 6:5-13. Paul promised peace to the believer who cast all anxiety into the care of God in Philippians 4:6-7:

“…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.”

Through the scriptures and history, great men and women of faith devoted themselves to prayer and trusted its power.  It’s no wonder Paul urges Christians to “pray without ceasing” in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.Pray

Obstacles to Daily Prayer

It is perplexing that some Christians confess to not praying daily or forgetting to pray when its blessings are obvious. Some obstacles I have observed:

  1. Start the day focused on tasks and problems instead of praying before facing the demands of life
  2. Little trust that God will answer our prayers because they doubt that prayer is effective despite what the Bible teaches
  3. Can’t figure out how God will answer their prayers or are disappointed when God doesn’t answer the way they want or expect

We must remember that God will hear His children and He answers prayers through wisdom giving us what we need. Sometimes what we want is opposite of what is best for us. Sometimes we are asking for things opposed to His will, as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 12,  prayed repeatedly for one outcome but rejoiced the outcome God chose for him as it made him stronger spiritually. God is not a genie to grant our every wish; He is our Father who wants what is best for us and acts out of love for our greater good even when we can’t see or appreciate it at the moment.

6 Things Christians Tell God When They Avoid Daily Prayer

Understanding the blessing and power of daily prayer, when Christians fail to act on that belief they are telling God several things:

  1.  You are not important to me or a priority in my life
  2. I do not have time for you
  3. I do not want to spend time with you
  4. I can handle things without you
  5. I do not believe that you can impact the things I am facing in my life
  6. I have nothing of which to thank or praise you
  7. I can take advantage of our relationship and use you only when I am in trouble or need

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.

Learning Lessons From The Death of a Loved One

A thoughtful person will leave the funeral home with a prayer on the heart for those grieving and consideration of their own appointment with death. God put eternity in our hearts and when someone leaves this world and has no part in it, it should cause us to reflect on how we live. Ultimately, we will have to face our deeds on the day of judgment (Romans 2:6-10). Reflecting on our own mortality allows us to judge ourselves to see what we need to change before that final judgment.

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4: It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

In our youth oriented, recreational, and hedonistic society, to say that it is better to go to the house of mourning (funeral) instead of the house of feasting (party) seems blasphemous. Our society is financially blessed and relatively painless health care is available that allows us to live longer than our ancestors. We do not have to travel by foot or animal for long periods just to leave the area; modern transportation can take us anywhere in the world in a short period of time. We do not have to chop wood for a fire and kill or grow food in order to eat. We do not even have to wash dishes—we just put them in the dishwasher and let it do the rest. An hour of cooking has been reduced to five minutes in the microwave. Women do not have to spend hours at a creek washing clothes but can put them in the washing machine and go about their business.

Despite all of these conveniences and blessings, our country has a high rate of depression and suicide. Why are people seeking escape in alcohol and drugs when the life they wish to escape is infinitely easier and more luxurious than the life their ancestors lived? Why do we have so many labor saving devices yet no time to spend with our families, the work of the church, and brood about our lack of time? Perhaps we have tried to live too long in the house of feasting and our gluttony is making us sick.

Consider the differences between the house of mourning and the house of feasting

Subject House of Mourning House of Feasting
Thoughts Sober: reflecting on the end of life and the importance of living today, Eccl 7:2 Vain and futile thoughts: great attention to foolish things
Compassion Great concern for those who are suffering Cannot be burdened with sadness and people who are depressed bring down the party.
Help Can find many to help bear burdens. Work together to take care of family and friends No one works. Ease is sought
Forgiveness There is much forgiveness, apologies over the casket, regret that one did not say “I’m sorry” in life, and sometimes reconciliation with the living False fronts conceal malice and envy. People will put others down to lift themselves
Materialism Material things are put in proper perspective (passing), Eccl 2:17-21 Material things are exalted and cherished
Future Sober reflection about one’s future, Eccl 12:13-14) No thought of the future. “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.”
Mortality Face to face with mortality, Eccl 9:2-6 Feeling of immortality. Some die during a drunken binge or drug overdose. Feel invulnerable
Vanity of Life Cold reality that life is vain, Eccl 1:12-14 Think that life is one big party

The house of mourning shatters our illusions. In the house of mourning we realize that the world will be destroyed. We realize that all will die and be eventually be forgotten by future generations. One hundred years from now no one will care who we were or what we did. This reality should remind us not to compromise our values for passing popularity or acceptance. Though we will be forgotten by man, God will remember us and what we have done.

We are made better for the time of reflection. The house of mourning means facing the realities of life. The house of feasting means escaping the realities of life. One house will make us ready for judgment; one house will put us in danger in judgment.

The house of mourning will lead to more satisfying joy than the house of feasting. The goal at the house of feasting is a good time, yet the most joyful, content life begins at the house of mourning. Although we get perspective at the house of mourning, it is not a permanent residence, we cannot live in sorrow and mourning. The solemn thoughts we have when we visit the house of mourning should enrich our lives. Our encounter with death should help us make the most of every day and every relationship and thus get more satisfaction from life.

Those in the house of feasting are eventually bored and dissatisfied with life because their life has no substance. There is no true happiness in the house of feasting, just entertainment.

Our eternal home will be in a house of mourning or a house of feasting. The Bible pictures heaven as a place of eternal bliss and joy, rejoicing with God. Pain and sorrow are removed. Hell is a place of mourning and sorrow, pain and grief for ignoring God’s word and failing to worship Him. If we learn the lessons from the house of mourning while on earth, we can live in God’s house of feasting for an eternity.