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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