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‘Bad Day’? It’s a Matter of Perspective.

24 Sep

I’m always surprised by how people define “bad day.” For many, a “bad day” is when:

  • You can’t find earrings at Charming Charlie’s to match your dress for caution-baddayinprogress_lolwithgod_dawnwilsona birthday party. (This almost never happens because that store is amazing!)
  • You break a fingernail, right after getting a professional manicure.
  • You can’t find a parking space a few paces away from Home Depot’s front door.
  • You discover someone ate the last chocolate chip cookie in the bag … which you carefully hid.

Really?

OK. This isn’t going to be an especially lighthearted post. But I thought about this topic after I got upset looking for that aforementioned parking space. God really spoke to my heart that day. Broke it, actually.

THESE are the kinds of real-life “bad day” issues that lead to REAL frustration or fear:

  • You can’t find your child at the mall for more than 60 minutes.
  • Your husband loses his job. Again.
  • Your cancer returns. With a vengeance.
  • Your home is burglarized, your house ransacked and you discover many treasures are missing.

And then there are “bad days” most of us will never have to face.

  • Total rejection: A woman who cannot find a job because no one in her village will hire a “Christ-follower.”
  • Horrific persecution: A pastor whose leg is broken during torture in Laos because he dared to preach the gospel.
  • Unspeakable pain: A mother who weeps because her daughter was raped because the family converted to Christianity.

A bad day is a matter of perspective, isn’t it?

There’s simply no comparison between the first group and the last.

We can view the circumstances in our lives in multiple ways, and how we view them affects how we feel and respond.

One of the best ways to view circumstances—especially the tough ones (because really, with the absurd ones we just need to grow up!)—is through the lenses of trust and gratitude.

Trust when you feel abandoned? Gratitude when a crisis comes?

Stay with me here ….

There is great power in trusting God; and there is great transformation in a thankful heart.

For the Christian, there may be many bad days, even awful-horrible days; but there is more to life than even these circumstances. In the midst of great upheaval and struggle:

  • We can trust the Lord when we are afraid, and be grateful that most of the things we most fear never even happen.
  • We can trust the Lord for what we don’t understand, with gratitude that He is never perplexed and always has a plan.
  • We can trust the Lord with an uncertain future, gratefully acknowledging He will be in our future as assuredly as He has in the past.
  • We can trust the Lord to care for us, grateful for His endless resources and loving supply.
  • And we can trust the Lord when life falls apart—when we suffer incredible loss or pain—still grateful He is sovereign and will yet accomplish His will in, for and through us.

Granted, this is easier said than done. But daily practice is good heart preparation.

When we practice trust and gratitude in the simple, everyday circumstances of our lives, these habits will strengthen us when the bigger challenges and unexpected trials come.

In wisdom, we exercise our trust and gratitude “muscles,” and God (because He cares about us) wants to help us with that. As Matthew Henry wrote,*

Christianity teaches men to be joyful under troubles: such exercises are sent from God’s love….”

Believe me. I am not taking on this topic lightly.

I love and pray for The Persecuted Church and have found both conviction and great strength in the stories of God’s struggling children around the world. These believers “count it all joy” when they face trials of various kinds (James 1:2-8). Many rejoice and even celebrate, knowing God is working and they will receive great reward for any sufferings they face (Matthew 5:12; Romans 5:3; James 1:12).

How can they do this? They’ve counted the cost of following Christ and partaking in HIS sufferings (Luke 14:25-33; 1 Peter 4:13-16). They’ve  found God’s grace sufficient and strengthening in their greatest times of need (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

When asked how we can pray for them, members of The Persecuted Church usually do not ask people to pray their burdens will be lightened, but rather that they will be wise to make good use of their afflictions—especially to be a strong witness to those who observe how they are suffering for Christ.

In cushy America, our concept of suffering for the Lord is so skewed. We’re constantly praying for “safety,” but not for opportunities to share Christ. Amy Carmichael wrote, “We must learn to pray far more for spiritual victory than for protection from battle wounds.”

So convicting. Especially when I lament over a broken fingernail or empty cookie bag.

It puts our petty “bad days” to shame, doesn’t it?

Are you having a bad day today? How might more trust in the Lord coupled with the practice of gratitude help your perspective … and ultimately, your responses?

 – Dawn

 * Matthew Henry, Commentary on James 1:1-22.

 

 

 

 

 

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Are You a Patient ‘Patient’?

27 Feb

There are so many LOL opportunities at a doctor’s waiting room.

“Adam, an elderly man was seated in the doctor’s waiting room. When he was called in to see the doctor, Adam slowly got up, and, grasping his cane and hunching over, slowly made his way into theOldManWithCane_TheMiracle examining room.

“After only a few minutes, Adam emerged from the room, walking completely upright. Paul, another patient who had watched him hobble into the room all hunched over, stared in amazement.

“‘That must be a miracle doctor in there.’ he exclaimed. ‘What treatment did he give you? What’s his secret?’

Adam stared at Paul and said, ‘Well, the doctor looked me up and down, analysed the situation, and gave me a cane that was four inches longer than the one I had been using.’*

LOL! Things are not always what they seem, are they?

I’ve been in a lot of doctor’s offices lately, and I’ve started wondering if I’m a patient patient.

Not long ago, I watched a crabby old man complain and complain and COMPLAIN! He griped about the time he had to wait. He sniped at the receptionist. In general, he was a miserable guy and determined to make others in the waiting room uncomfortable too.

He wasn’t a patient patient.

And as I sat there thinking about how I felt watching him, I started thinking about how I act as a “patient” of the Great Physician. As God is working to heal my soul and sanctify my life–to make me more like Jesus–I get so impatient sometimes.

But God is teaching me three things:

1. I need to “wait” on the Lord with anticipation and hope.

Waiting as the Bible describes it is a positive experience–or it’s supposed to be.  Here are just a few of the scriptures that teach us this truth:

  • “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long” (Psalm 25:4-5)
  • “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).
  • “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:25).
  • “But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me” (Micah 7:7).
  • Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you” (Psalm 33:20-22).

That doesn’t mean there’s no suffering in the wait (Psalm 40:1-3; Colossians 1:11), but rather that God will use hard circumstances to build strength of character in us when the going gets tough . . .IF we are turning to Him to get through them.

A.W. Tozer said, “Problems patiently endured will work for our spiritual perfecting.”

The truth is, while we wait we can still choose to set aside bitter complaining and rejoice in the Lord.

“… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4).

We don’t have to act like that grumpy old guy in the waiting room!

2. I need to remember the Great Physician knows what is best for my life.

I need to relax in Him … rest in Him (Isaiah 30:15) if I want to experience His deliverance and strength. The blessing is, God can make us “fruitful” even in our times of affliction (Genesis 41:52b).

The One who sees the beginning and ending of time knows what is best, and I believe He “who began a good work” in His own will “bring it to completion” when Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6).

3. I need to practice patient trust.

I need ditch my pride and stop trying to make all the elements of my life work the way I want them to. Instead, I need to exercise faith that God will accomplish His purposes in me (Hebrews 11:1). I need to practice patience daily.

God’s thoughts are above my thoughts (Isaiah 55:8), so I need to trust His wisdom and rest in His sovereign care.

Trusting God is releasing our lives to His control. It’s understanding His work may take some time, and it may not follow our agenda. 

Years ago, a friend of mine (also named Dawn) shared this poem with me and it stuck with me, deep in my heart:

“Just as my child brings his broken toys with tears for me to mend,
I took my broken dreams to God because He was my friend.
But then instead of leaving Him in peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help with ways that were my own.
At last I snatched them back and cried, ‘How could you be so slow?’
‘What could I do, my child? ‘ He said. ‘You never did let go’.” **

Oh, how we need to practice the patience of faith!

Are you a patient patient? What can you do to better trust the One who loves you and desires to heal and change your life for His glory?

 * Humor – Will and Guy’s Selection of Clean Doctor’s Jokes.

** Poem by Junior Frontilus

– Dawn

Rely on Joy

28 Mar

After Zeuxis, a Greek painter, completed his painting of an old woman, he thought it was pretty funny. The painter laughed so hard at his creation he couldn’t catch is breath. He ended up choking to death! (Mentalfloss.com relates this and nine other stories about people in history who laughed themselves to death.)

It’s one thing to laugh until you cry. But laugh until you die? I’ve heard the phrase, “I laughed my ClingToJoy_LOLhead off.” Really? Maybe it just felt like it. It’s been my experience that extreme laughter can give me a headache.

Have you ever laughed so hard, maybe even while crying and holding your sides, that you declared, “Oh. Oh! I can’t breathe!”

I’ve had those moments. Once, while on vacation with my husband, his sister and her husband, we got so tickled we were all laughing, crying and pounding the table, yelling, “Stop! Stop! Oh . . . it hurts!” Just when we got settled down, one of us made a comment and we’d sputter into a laughing jag all over again.

Health mag* shared some facts about laughter.

  • 25 – number of calories burned in a five minute laugh session
  • 17 – average number of times an adult laughs every day
  • 15 – number of facial muscles that contract when you laugh
  • 5 years – age at which we laugh the most exuberantly
  • 30 times- greater likelihood of laughing when with others rather than alone
  • 3 months – age at which humans start to laugh
  • 4/10 second – amount of time between the occurrence of something funny and your brain’s  reaction to it

Clearly, laughter is good for us – when it doesn’t kill us!

And it is, the Good Book says, “good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22).

But what do we do when laughter escapes us — when circumstances hurt and we think we’ll never smile again, let alone laugh?

Then we rely on joy.

Depending on the translation, the words “happy” and “happiness” show up in the Scriptures around 30 times, but “joy” and it’s cousin “rejoice” appear more than 300 times!

James says joy can occur even in the midst of trials (James 1:2) . . . “Knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:3-4). This kind of joy comes through the Lord as He strengthens and matures us, in spite of our struggles, but also in our struggles as we place our trust in Christ.

For Christians, when happiness flees, joy remains. It’s not dependent on circumstances. Paul could speak repeatedly of joy while in Rome’s prison because God transformed his perspective about suffering. Paul rejoiced because He relied on God’s purposes, and He understood one of those great purposes was for him to share the Gospel with the prison guards (Acts 28:30; Philippians 1:12-24).

Cling to joy. It’s a gift of the Spirit. And when you can, enjoy a good, healing dose of laughter.

When do you find it most difficult to laugh? Can you cling to joy instead?

* “Laugh It Up,” Health mag, June 1013, p. 90.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

– Dawn

 

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