A couple of years ago, a member of our church passed away about the same time as a good friend’s sister. As it happened, both calling hours were at the same time, at the same funeral home. You know it’s not a good day when the funeral parlor director asks you which family you are calling on, and you have to say, “both”.
There are bad days, and there are – in the words of Judith Viorst1 – “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days”. The situation described above was not the worst day of my life (and probably didn’t make the top 10), yet I know that some of my readers have dealt with far worse times than I ever have.
What does the Bible say about bad days? I’d like to share a chapter from the Bible later in this article, but first I’d like to set it up with a couple of suggested strategies:
For one thing, when the days are bad, we can cry out to God. Anyone who has a best friend (who they can talk with) should be able to relate. Sometimes, we need to just tell someone how we feel. It might be sad and blubbery, it might be angry and loud, or it might be frustrated and raging, but we need to get it out.
I don’t think that God is aghast when we talk openly, honestly, and frankly to Him. Faithful people in the Bible did so: Abraham bargained with God. Moses tried to refuse Him. David wrote out his frustrations. Elijah poured out his loneliness. Jeremiah complained. Job argued. Paul asked for the thorn to be taken away. While God corrected mis-statements in some of these situations, and didn’t compromise the importance of obedience and truth, He didn’t destroy these people for speaking their mind.
Even when we just don’t know the words to express what we are feeling, the great promises in Romans 8:26-27 confirm that the Holy Spirit (i.e., God, Himself!) helps us out.
In addition, I propose that it can be beneficial to read the Psalms. I guess that you could read Lamentations or Ecclesiastes, especially if you want to hold a pity party, but I appreciate that the Psalms contain both raw words of pain and grief, as well as words of hope and the remembrance of God’s faithfulness.
When things are bad, we may not be ready to soak in words of joy and happiness right away, but the writers of the Psalms show us that their messages of hope have credibility, because these authors also experienced sorrow and frustration. When we need healing, sometimes we don’t want to listen to the words of someone who seems to have it all together, and who appears to have never struggled a day in their life. Instead, we need to hear from those who have been through valleys just as dark as the one we are in now, and – with God’s help – eventually made it through to the other side.
Now, back to what the Bible says. You can find many writings and accounts throughout the Bible of those who struggled and yet still found God to be faithful (including, but not limited to, the book of Psalms). If you’re in the pit of despair right now, though, consider this short psalm. I encourage you to bookmark it in your Bible (whether electronic or in print), and even memorize it.
O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
Turn and answer me, O LORD my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the LORD
because he is good to me.
Psalms 13:1-6 NLT
Note the three parts to this Psalm:
Verses 1-2 are about crying out to God, with some specifics about what is going on in the author’s (David’s) life. You can do the same. Even though God knows every detail of your life, it’s OK to pour it out to Him. Articulate exactly what is on your heart, and what burdens you are carrying. Tell God how you feel.
Verses 3-4 are about asking for God’s help. Sometimes, this isn’t just a “please bless me, God” prayer. It may look like desperate pleading or humble begging. God isn’t a vending machine where a certain quantity or type of prayers always yields the result that we want, but even Jesus prayed with earnestness and intensity.
Verses 5-6 describe perhaps one of the most important elements to getting through difficult times (even those that stretch on for years). Here, we see how David knows that God is faithful, and David proclaims that he will trust God. Did David just make that up, or believe a prophet who said that God was trustworthy? Maybe David was taught about God’s rescue of the Hebrew people from Egypt, along with many other ways that God had kept His promises. Regardless, though, David also knew that God had been individually faithful to him, and David could personally testify about God’s nature.
There are other Bible passages that provide similar examples of hope from those who were in anguish, yet trusted God. Outside of the God’s Word (and other believers who share each others’ burdens), I think that you would be challenged to find anything so valuable to get through difficult times.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.