|A Pain Where?
May 8, 2001
Think you’ve had a tough day? Worried about what’s coming up this week? My friend, you don’t know what a tough day is.
Brian Hise recently had the mother of all bad days. It started when a water pipe broke in the apartment above his in Provo, Utah. Water ran down into his apartment, causing a minor flood. The manager of his building told him to go out and rent a water vacuum. That’s when he noticed that he had a flat tire.
Brian changed the tire, then went back into his now-very-wet apartment and called a friend to help him out. Apparently, all the water caused him to get an electric shock from the phone, which startled him so much that he inadverdently (he claims) ripped the phone off the wall. Water had also caused his front door to swell and jam tightly against the door frame, trapping him in the apartment. A neighbor had to kick the door down before he could leave to get the wet-vac.
When Brian finally escaped from his apartment, he discovered that someone had stolen his car! Fortunately, it was almost out of gas, so he found it just a few blocks away. Of course, he did have to push it to a gas station.
That evening, Brian went to an ROTC ceremony at the university he attends. Somehow, he managed to sit on his bayonet. The resulting wound required several stitches. When he got home, he found that his four canaries had been crushed to death by plaster falling from the wet ceiling. He also badly injured his tailbone when he slipped on his wet carpet. After all of this, Brian lamented, “I was starting to wonder if God wanted me dead, but kept missing!”
Now, no one wants to have a day like Brian’s. But let me suggest that having a bad day every once in a while isn’t so, well, bad. In fact, a bad day might be just what you need.
Jesus once said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34) My guess is that Brian wasn’t worried much about tomorrow. The thing about a bad day is that it grabs your attention. A person who’s sat on a bayonet isn’t worried right at the moment about the bills that need paying. If your apartment’s flooded, you don’t think much about the stack of work on your desk and the deadline that’s fast approaching. There’s something about a bad day that gives focus to your life.
Most of us live decidedly unfocused lives. We’re eaten up with anxiety and worry. If we’re not worried about what we don’t have, we’re worried about taking care of what we do have. If we aren’t worried about what might happen to us, we’re worried about what might happen to the people we love. We worry about losing friends or gaining enemies, about how much we weigh or how much we make, about our kids, our parents, and whether or not we’ll be able to take care of either of them. We worry about grades, performance reviews, and the opinions of people we barely know. And all that worry keeps us from focusing.
Jesus says that worry is a faith problem. It’s born from doubt -- doubt that God can or will take care of us. To Jesus, worry isn’t bad because it raises our blood pressure or stresses our hearts. It’s bad because it betrays a deficient understanding of God. “Why be like the pagans?” he asks. We who know the God of the cross and the empty tomb should know better. In some places on the globe, people don’t have the luxury of worrying about whether their IRA’s grow or where their kids will go to college. They’re highly focused on surviving. At the end of the day, if no one under their roof has died, or seems near it, then it’s been a good day. The kind of anxiety most of us experience is a uniquely middle-class phenomenon.
A bad day demands that you focus on today. It reminds you that there really is enough trouble today to keep you occupied. It reminds you that tomorrow is largely out of your hands. And that would be terrifying except that a bad day does one other thing. It pushes you to find a source of strength beyond yourself. Maybe it prods you to go to your knees and ask for strength and guidance. Maybe it makes you, like Job, ask some tough questions: “Where are you, God? Why are you letting this happen?” Either response, asking for strength or asking questions, is appropriate. They are not opposites, they’re twins. Both imply a faith in a God that is good, just, and hears our cries.
When we experience a truly bad day, when trouble comes fast and furious, it takes your attention away from everyday worry and places it squarely on the only One who can really save you and care for you. Jesus certainly didn’t see life with rose-colored glasses. He knew how difficult living in a sin-twisted world can be. But he knew that focusing on the troubles would take his eyes of his Father and kill him a little at a time. “While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could deliver him out of death. And God heard his prayers because of his reverence...” (Hebrews 5:7) Jesus didn’t live with anxiety. He lived with faith. And God showed that he could be trusted.
He still can be. He still can be trusted with a life -- even yours. But if you’re worried and anxious about “many things”, you’ll have trouble when it’s time to leave your troubles boiling over on the stove and kneel at his feet to receive grace, peace, and help.
So maybe we all need a bad day once in a while, just to restore our focus on the God who feeds the birds and dresses the wildflowers in splendor, and who loves us more. I hope you don’t need to sit on a bayonet to be reminded. But if you do, so be it.
I think you’ll get the point in the end.
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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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