Naturally, I am a well-organized and structured individual. As a pastor, I have certain things I like to do on certain days in an effort to stay on top of my busy ministry schedule. Therefore, when unexpected things arise, the schedule gets thrown off track and often times anxiety and frustration set in. A few weeks ago I was having one of those days.
I don’t really understand how God goes about allowing what we would qualify as a “bad day” but if we are willing, God will teach us something and maybe even bless us through it. The problem is often times we respond negatively, we become frustrated, maybe even angry and our attitude changes and not for the better. God taught me a lesson that day, one in which I want to share with you in hopes that the next “bad day” you encounter won’t turn out to be so bad after all. It is amazing how God can bless us even when we’re not extremely “blessable”. I know I just made up a word but stick with me as I share this testimony of God’s sovereignty.
It was a Wednesday morning and I had a very busy day ahead. This is the day I usually begin preparing for the Sunday morning message and we were in the middle of Vacation Bible School. I also had to make a hospital visit for one of our dear men from the church who was scheduled for surgery. At the time, all three of my grown children lived nearby.
Around 8:30 am I received a call from my youngest daughter who had a need that would require a bit of my time. About thirty minutes passed when my other daughter called with a slightly more significant problem and I began to sense that my day was slipping away from me. All that was left was for my son who is serving as a camp counselor for the summer to call with an issue of some sort and the day would be complete. As my frustration level rose, so did my negative attitude as my phone rang. and rang.
Finally, you guessed it, my son Jack calls! With great trepidation I answered the phone because the number was not one familiar to me. My son was on the other line using a friend’s phone because Jack had accidentally taken his iPhone into the lake with him for about an hour before he realized it. The phone was obviously ruined and replacing it would cost $100. “Bad day” attitude had officially set in and my frustration began to show.
The issue of not having a phone here is more significant than the usual twenty-two year old that is forced to do without for any period of time. The camp is about forty-five minutes from town and does not offer wireless internet. Our phone provider does not have a tower in the area and so the only contact we have with our son for the summer is by way of his phone (calling and texting).
Obviously he needed a new phone in case of an emergency. The plan was to take my wife’s phone to the camp to hold Jack over until we could get him another one. In the meantime, my day had gone sideways off the tracks and while in route to the camp, I received yet another call. Once again it was my son informing me that he needed a tetanus shot because he had just taken a rusty nail in the leg. Talk about going from bad to worse! Not only was I taking him a phone but now I needed to take him to the doctor for a tetanus shot. My day was not only turned upside down but getting back in time for VBS seemed unlikely.
Upon arriving at the camp and in an effort to find a place to get a tetanus shot in what is a very small and rural town, we were greatly challenged and had to travel another thirty minutes to find someone that could help us. All told, I spent my day in a place called Brookneal, Virginia, a town so small they don’t even have a McDonalds. The only pharmacy in town proudly displayed a “Get your tetanus shot here” sign only to tell us that they didn’t have any. But then again, this was just one of those days.
However, what the Holy Spirit did in my heart during the forty-five minute drive to Brookneal was truly a blessing. I don’t mind telling you that I was frustrated with God. He had allowed my day to totally get away from me and catching up would require significant effort on my part. As I prayed, I found myself fussing with God, my attitude was terrible. But the Holy Spirit began to speak to my heart and what He told me was simply this; “embrace the day”. I didn’t want to! I didn’t feel like just taking this “bad day” lying down but I came to the realization that God had a different plan for my day and regardless of how I responded, God was in control.
In that moment, I decided to just embrace the day. My son is a great kid and he felt terrible about everything that had happened that morning. He felt bad about taking me away from my normal routine and forcing me to drive out of town to take care of the issues he was faced with. So I decided to listen to the Holy Spirit and be encouraging to my son as best I could.
However, embracing the day meant one thing; it’s a whole other issue to trust God with my day. Wherever He leads me I need to be willing to follow with a good attitude and an open heart. In Psalm 131, the psalmist David speaks of simply trusting God during difficult times. Now we don’t know the circumstances behind this particular writing of David but what we do know is that David made a decision to trust God with a good attitude and an open heart. “Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.”
If anyone had a right to be proud it was David. He was once a humble shepherd who became Israel’s greatest king. He was a courageous soldier winning many battles and wars and at the same time, he became a man after God’s own heart. Yet in the midst of his circumstances, David refused to be prideful. He refused to take control of his life the way I thought about trying to take control of my day.
David refused to usurp the authority of God! This is the temptation we face when things don’t go our way, when we think God has forgotten about us or left us alone to suffer. Do we really believe we can direct our lives better than God? Even if we’re just talking about a day that has gone off the rails. Here is what David understood and what God taught me on that day; sometimes God wants our life to leave the train tracks. Sometimes God wants to take us away from what is normal or ordinary so that He might teach us something; maybe even to trust Him more.
In verse 2 David reveals that he had learned to compose himself. He speaks of humility and the importance of keeping your emotions in check when life gets a little crazy. The word “wean” means “to complete”. In a child’s life, the time comes when they are mature enough to be removed from the mother’s milk. In other words, they have reached a certain level of maturity.
This is God’s will for His people, spiritual maturity. Sometimes God weans us away from what we believe to be good only to give us something better. And through the weaning process, if we are willing with a good attitude and an open heart, God will draw us closer to himself. Is it possible that when your day or your life runs off the tracks, God is trying to cut something out of your life only to give you something better? Or maybe He’s trying to teach you something. The “hope” David speaks of in verse 3 is not a “hope so” feeling; it is a “know so” belief. We as children of God are able to embrace the hope we have in God because He is always faithful to finish what He started. Even in the midst of a “bad day” there is hope because the Bible says “All things work together for good, to those who love God.”
On that Wednesday afternoon a few of weeks ago, God taught me that Brookneal, Virginia was exactly where I needed to be. God knew something I didn’t know, my son needed me. He didn’t need me so much for a phone or for a tetanus shot but he needed to spend some time with me. On that afternoon, my son and I spent several hours together talking, catching up, sharing a meal and sharing stories of what we had been experiencing during the summer.
Jack was tired, a bit discouraged and when I dropped him off at the camp he hugged me and went on his way. He texted me a little while later to thank me and to tell me that in all that had gone wrong that day, he realized that what he really needed was some time with his dad. Suddenly my bad day became a good one because I trusted God and I opened my heart to what He had for me. I’m so grateful for the Holy Spirit and His conviction upon my heart to embrace the day and trust God with the rest.
The next time a “bad day” rolls around, open your heart, embrace what God has for you, you might just find a blessing to lay hold of. The sovereignty of God is an amazing thing to behold! He sees what we cannot see but we can choose to trust Him and allow Him to do a work in us and we too can be a blessing to others if we’ll just follow Him in faith. As for my day, it ended as it started. The last text I received from my son that evening simply said this; “My backpack broke, I need a new one.” Yep, it was one of those days…Glory to God!