Patience: Dealing with a No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexanders Bad Day“I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (1972)

You ever have one of those days where nothing seems to go right?  One of those days where even your best efforts don’t seem to be enough?  A day in which you feel that moving to another country might be the answer you are looking for?  A day that could only be described as a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”?

Some days life can get us down…some days life can throw us a curve ball…some days we want to move to Australia to get away from all of our troubles…Some days we feel like Alexander.  The 1972 children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day written by Judith Viorst is a book about a young man who wants to get away from it all by moving to Australia.  His logic?  That everything in Australia is upside-down, so it would have to flip his fortune…deserted by a friend, no dessert in his lunch bag, lima beans for dinner, kissing on TV…with many other little things thrown in the mix…all contributing to one of the worst days in his young life.

Many of us can relate to Alexander…dealing with the small things that can all pile up…forcing us to wonder, “can it get any worse?”  Life can cause us pain.  Life can get us down.  Life can defeat us on a daily basis…all working together to get us off our game.  Job had one of those days…lost his family…lost his belongings…lost everything that he could have ever wanted in life…all without reason…all without explanation.

Job was a man of God, giving God the praise in every situation in his life, earning God’s favor.  In the Book of Job we see many things that we can apply to our lives as Christians… First, we see that Satan doesn’t mess with those he already has.  Satan knew of Job because God knew of Job…we see this in the way that Satan was looking for someone to bully.  Satan had to go to God to ask permission to mess with Job’s life…which leads us to the second point…God will not give us more than we can handle at any given time.  God allows Satan to attack Job, but gives him guidelines each and every time that Satan asks.  Third, we see repentance and redemption as the book comes to a close…and we also see God establishing His authority.  As part of this we see Job brought down to size by the words and ways of God…as God explains what authority He has in a world that has forgotten Him.

First, Satan cannot mess with a child of God unless God allows it to happen.  Not only do we see this from the fact that Satan had to ask God for permission to even approach Job and his family.  God was looking out for Job, and also proving a point to Satan that a true believer will stand firm no matter what the test.  Over the first few chapters it looks like Satan is winning…he is attacking Job from every angle, but Job continues to stand strong through out the battles.  Satan may have seemingly won the first few battles, but when all is said and done we see that God won the war.

Job faced the storms in his life with a hope that endured…loss of virtually everything that contributed to the livelihood of his life.  Think about the economy we live in today…many losing their jobs, losing money, losing assets, houses, etc.  We are in a financially trying time.  That is what Job was facing, complete loss of a way of life…and on top of it all he lost his family and his health…and we think we have it bad?  Paul even echoed this in his life where in Philippians 3:9 he says, “I consider it all lost for the sake of knowing Christ.”  Paul echoes this in Galatians 2:20, stating, “I am crucified with Christ, yet I live…” as well as in Romans 8:28 – “For we know that God works all things together for good for those that love Him.”

Paul was on both ends of this; going from persecuting the church to being persecuted for being part of the church…Paul understood that no matter the struggle, no matter the situation, God would not allow him to be tested if he couldn’t have handled it…Paul had patience…the patience of Job.

Job’s patience was a part of the second point of God not allowing more than we can handle.  Our patience is needed for us to fully grasp the love that God has for us…if we can’t be patient and anticipate the good that will come from the bad, there is no way we can receive the blessings granted to a child of the Most High God.  Look back at Paul’s words in Romans 8…

18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that[i] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

— Romans 8:18-27 (NIV)

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Paul states that the sufferings that we face here on earth are no where near comparable to the glory that awaits us…in other words, the good greatly out weighs the bad.  He goes on to state that all creation is waiting for the children of God to step up and exemplify the love of God to the world…we do this through living a righteous life, be it through missions, ministries, or even how we handle that unruly neighbor…all of these show God’s glory to a suffering world.

In verse 24 Paul states, “For in this hope we were save.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?” Is Paul saying that we have no hope?  No, Paul is saying we must have faith.  He tells us here that the hope of our future is what we were saved for…the eternal hope that comes as a promise from a Father who loves deeper than the oceans, higher than the skies, and as far as east is from the west.  The instance of where hope is gone mentioned here by Paul is this – when hope is realized.  When we receive what we hope for, there is no reason to hope.  If we have received our hopes, it is pointless to hope any longer for that; we have it…why waste time hoping for what you have.  We redirect focus when hopes are realized.

Third, we see repentance and redemption through the story of Job.  Job had the counsel of his friends, four friends who offered their advice on Job’s situation…three of which told Job that it was his fault he was facing the sorrow and loss.  Job was already suffering, and his friends felt that they would share in his suffering by offering words of an earthly fix.  How many of us do this on a daily basis?  We sit with a friend who is suffering and offer our condolences by supplying a fix…but where is God?  We offer advice too many times based on an earthly feeling of recovery…does this mean we should not offer friendship and counsel in someone’s time of need?  Not at all…what it means is we should be like the fourth friend of Job…the friend that explains that God is in control, that God is working through the situation, that God should be the main focus.

Why do we feel that we have to have all the answers?  If we did, we’d have nothing to hope for…nothing to have faith in…nothing to look forward to.  Toward the end of the book, Job seems to have taken it upon himself to explain why he should not be suffering…something we do daily as well.  We’ve all had those days where the only way to explain something in our minds is to focus on our accomplishments, to focus on what we have going for us.  Job was being told by his friends that he had to have committed a great sin for God to allow this kind of suffering, and Job bought in.  Job explains that he is a righteous man, a man who has devoted his life to God and served diligently.  But, Job forgot one thing…to give God the credit…Job focused on what he had done to better his life, but where was God in Job’s response?

God responded, asking questions of Job, asking Job who he was to question God…establishing the authority that He has had from the beginning of time.  God allowed Job to suffer, because He knew Job could handle it…but when Job lost focus and was forced to repent and receive the redemption that only God could provide.  Job’s patience had run out, but the end of the story is that God’s grace was sufficient when Job’s hope was gone…which means for us…that God’s grace is there when our hope is gone.

This truth of God’s grace is evident to us in His promise in Jeremiah 31:13…

“I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.”

— Jeremiah 31:13b (NIV)

God’s promise rings as true today as it did then…he offers happiness to those who have lost hope…he offers comfort and joy to those who have none…He offers life to those who believe.  God is God, and we are not…He is in control, we aren’t…He is always there, even when we feel alone…God is right there with us…God offered Job redemption…as He does each of us…

Let your prayer be the prayer of Job today:

“1 Then Job replied to the LORD:

2 “I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.

3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’

5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.

6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”

— Job 42:1-6

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Running Man Challenge

I’m sure by now many of you reading this have seen the craze that is sweeping the nation called the “Running Man Challenge”. I’m not here to talk about whether or not this is something we should do. What I have realized in seeing all these videos however is this, if we as Christians would approach things like folks have this challenge, the church would grow exponentially.

Why is it that something like the “Running Man Challenge” or the “ALS Water Bucket Challenge” can catch fire like this, yet we are afraid to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in the same way? We are afraid to acknowledge that we know Him and challenge others to accept and acknowledge Him as well. We are worried that if we say that we are a Christian someone will delete us as a friend on social media; or that they will no longer talk with us.

Why have we become so worried about what others think of us when it comes to worldly matters? Why is it that we strive to find acceptance from the very thing that Jesus tells us not to look like? Why is it that we are attempting to change the church instead of letting the Word of God and the Church change us from the inside out? I know there are many other questions we can ask, but they all lead us to one thing…we need, now more than ever, to realize the love of God.

God has called us out of this world to be different…he has asked us to go against the flow…

In John 15:18-25 we see in Christ’s own words how we should view the world: ” If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’”

It is for this reason we cannot allow ourselves to give in to the pressures of this world…if we look like the world and live like the world then we will be loved by the world and we are not of God. They will hate you for standing for Christ, they will turn their backs on you and attack you, but Jesus also reminds us a few verses later in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

I challenge you today to issue a new challenge to others…challenge them to get into the Word of God and to challenge others. Challenge others to separate themselves from this world and to allow God to work through them. Let’s begin spreading the Word of God and sharing His love with everyone rather than sharing a dance craze…doesn’t Jesus deserve to be shared with your family and friends? Or, better yet, don’t they deserve to have Jesus shared with them by someone who loves them?

Joy in Vanity

“22What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? 23For all his days are full of sorrow and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity. 24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God…” — Ecclesiastes 2:22-24 (ESV)

I have been focused over the past week or so on the book of Ecclesiastes. On the surface one can take this book to be a negative account of life; a book where Solomon takes the chance to recount everything that is wrong with the world around us…and on many accounts leave us in a situation where we can look at the world today and agree.

But I want to shed light on what I feel Solomon is really trying to convey through this book. It is written almost like a sermon, giving us insight into life from his personal experiences and observances. Solomon speaks to the reader with encouragement about the vanities of life. He states early in the book that, “all is vanity,” and continues on giving examples of our vain lives.

From our striving to become the best looking person we know, to being someone that leaves a legacy and is remembered by the toys or wealth we have, Solomon uses his wisdom to share insight.

The key to the book comes when Solomon really explores the heart of the matter, and shifts from what is vain, to what can bring us true joy in our times of weakness. He mentions that we seek to fill our empty lives with pleasure, work, and other things that will give us a moment of joy in a world of heartache…but he then says to focus on God. Consider everything a blessing!

The only way to truly enjoy our menial lives is to focus wholly on God and the blessings that he gives us daily! Too many times we get stuck in the negative things of life, but what we can learn from the book of Ecclesiastes is that we can find God in every moment we live.

It is our purpose on earth. In the final chapter, Solomon shares the most important message from his ‘sermon’ when he states:

“ 13The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” – Ecc. 12:13-14 (ESV)

Fear God, keep His commandments, for this is the WHOLE duty of man! It is our purpose…it is why we were made!

Mom

Here I sit…Ten years later……reflecting on the life and example that my mom lived out daily.

Do I know she’s in heaven?  You bet I do.

Why?  Because she was an example of what it means to be a faithful servant of God, no matter what the circumstance she was facing.

Life over the last three plus years hasn’t been the easiest…and I don’t expect things to get easier as the time goes by.  They say, “time heals all wounds,” but I’m not so sure that whoever said that had dealt with the loss of a parent.  It’s a hard thing to go through, and it is something that I would never wish upon anyone — especially when they’re so young; I mean, mom was only 55 years old.

That being said, I want to reflect on a few things that I have learned over the past three years about my mother’s impact on my life:

1) What it means to be a faithful servant of God.
My mom taught me a lot of things throughout my life.  She taught me how to open doors for women – she always waited for me to open the door for her – did it bother me? a little; am I a better person? yes, because in that small lesson she taught me, she showed me the love that Jesus had for each one of us…by opening the door of heaven so that we could enter in.
She showed me how to serve a living God.  Dad is a minister, and I’ve learned alot from him…many who know me would tell you that I’m alot like him.  That being said…I’m alot like her too!  She showed me how to serve in a way that was all out…100%…no-holds-barred for my Savior.  She studied the scripture constantly; always seeking to apply anything she’d learned to her life, so that anyone who met her would see that He was first in her life.

2) The meaning of the word Unconditional.
She taught me how to love unconditionally; she showed love to many, no matter what they had done to her.  The best example of this is when I came home with my first tattoo…she didn’t like it, she made that known (you see, mom wasn’t shy about telling you how she felt)..I walked into her room and showed her – she cried (making me feel about as small as Lincoln on the penny – and by that I mean the little Lincoln that is on the back of the penny seated in the Lincoln Memorial); but she loved me anyway…even though at that moment she didn’t really like me.
I imagine that love is alot like the love that God showed each one of us that day on Calvary…when He sent his ONLY SON to die on our tree…in our place…for OUR sins…and not just one or two sins, no EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM!  Mom had that kind of love for anyone she ever came across…she loved unconditionally.

3) The necessity of following Christ.
Mom taught me how to apply the teachings of Christ to my life…she knew the meaning of Mark 8:34b-35, “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s sake will save it.”  She understood what taking up your cross daily meant.  She understood what losing your life for the sake of Christ meant.  She understood that denying herself would glorify Christ…and that was her goal.  Mom wasn’t about the lime-light, she didn’t seek the attention…no…mom would much rather sit in a room, away from everything, and keep herself out of the spotlight…just so that the name of Jesus would be visible and glorified…Mom got it!

4) Perseverance.
Mom was a fighter…she didn’t want the end to come…and I fully believe it wasn’t because she wasn’t ready to go…it was because she didn’t want to leave her family.  It goes back to the unconditional love…she was willing to live, so that she could be here to take care of her family.  She also knew the reward that was waiting on the other side…and when all was said and done…she chose to spend the rest of her days with the Maker Himself.  I’m sure they have a lot to talk about…my mother was a homemaker…that’s what she did for a living…she probably wanted to get there to talk to the greatest Homemaker of all…you know, catch up on all she might have missed (which I’m certain wasn’t much, she was a perfectionist).

and…

5) Who Christ is.
Plain and simple…the greatest lesson my mother ever taught me…who Jesus Christ is.  Not was, but IS!  My mom’s greatest lesson to me in life was that we serve a RISEN, LIVING SAVIOR!  So many other religions of the world serve a ‘savior’ figure, but they also have a grave to visit, because their ‘savior’ couldn’t defeat the bondage of death.  Mom knew that Jesus raised from the dead…that the grave had no bearing on Him, and death could not defeat Him.  Mom taught me the meaning of Christ’s resurrection…that he defeated the bonds of sin and death, allowing each one of His beloved children the opportunity to share in the eternal glory which is reserved for all who daily carry their cross and follow Christ.

Mom showed me that God is real…He is here…He was there…and He’ll be there in the end.  The greatest lesson that I ever learned from my mom is this…Words don’t tell a person’s story – a person is not defined by the words that he/she says…no, my mother showed me that the life of a faithful servant speaks for itself.  She didn’t have to preach the gospel to me…that is because she lived it…100%, all out commitment to the Savior of the world!

Thanks Mom!  Happy Mother’s Day!  I know you’re looking down on me, and I hope that my life speaks volumes for the example you set…I hope I make you proud, but most of all (I know you’d want it this way) I hope that my life is a reflection of the King of Glory Himself…

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” — Mark 8:36