Have you ever had one of those days when nothing seems to go right? I had one of those days yesterday. I had not slept well during the night. I woke up with a splitting, sinus headache, which made me drag through the morning. I finally figured out how to program my new phone to operate my Nest thermostat and then the phone stopped working. I spent my entire evening sitting in an over air-conditioned room attending a 55+ drivers’ refresher course. I had registered on line, but when I checked in, the instructor did not have my information or my certificate. By the time I arrived back at home, I was feeling miserable.
We all have bad days from time to time. It is a part of life. Most of those bad days are over fairly quickly. But, I believe God allows us to have those bad days to act as a mirror into our soul. Bad days have a way of revealing things that we have become very good at hiding most of the time. My Aunt Mil, who lived with us, when something unpleasant happened, would say, praise the Lord anyway. It used to really irritate me. It felt artificial and even flippant. When bad things happen, my first response is not to praise the Lord. Instead, I get grumpy, complain, and withdraw.
The Apostle Paul knew what it was to have a bad day. In fact, if we read Acts carefully, he had more than his share of bad days. Yet, Paul was able to maintain a genuine, positive attitude in the face of some enormous struggles. There are two passages of scripture that allow us to see Paul’s attitude in the face of some really bad days.
The first relates to a chronic physical illness from which Paul suffered. There has been much debate regarding what this illness may have been. From some subtle clues in other places, I believe it was some kind problem with Paul’s eye sight. Paul did the right thing and took this situation to the Lord, but he did not get the answer that he was looking for.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Paul was not happy about his thorn in the flesh. He repeatedly took it to the Lord and asked to be relieved of his discomfort, but God refused. Instead, God gave him the grace to face the challenge. Paul discovered that he could face any difficulty in the strength of the Lord.
The second passage is even more intriguing to me. Paul was able to put the things he faced in life into an eternal perspective. That perspective allowed him to rise above his circumstances.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10,16-18
Paul refers to his light and momentary troubles. I chuckle every time I read that line. Paul sure had a different definition of light and momentary than I have . In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul describes his light and momentary troubles.
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.
2 Corinthians 11:24-28
Paul was able to tap into a source of strength that often alludes me. It is not that it is not there. It is that I become blind to it, as I focus my eyes on my “light and momentary” troubles. I can say that, through my years of ministry, that source of strength has been there to see me through. There have been Saturday nights when I felt life death warmed over, yet God gave me the strength to step into the pulpit on Sunday morning with energy and enthusiasm. Yet there are too many days, like yesterday, when I just drag myself through hoping for a better tomorrow.
Paul was able to face the most difficult challenges by keeping his eyes on eternity. On days when nothing seems to go right, it is important that we examine our attitude. God has not abandoned us. The troubles we are facing will pass. God will give us the strength to keep moving forward.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.