May 9, 2021


How to Handle Life’s Bad Days


            Bad days happen. They happen to everyone. So we need to be prepared to handle those days when everything seems to go wrong.

            You know what I mean. We’ve all been there. You slept late. You’re in a hurry to get to work on time. But you cut yourself while hurrying to shave — and it takes forever to stop the bleeding.

            Finally, you gulp down a piece of toast and you are walking out the door when your phone rings. It’s you mother-in-law. You don’t want to talk to her but you know you must. Distracted, you walk to the car and realize you left the keys on the counter. You get Mama Dearest off the phone without insulting her and rush back to the car. It won’t start. The battery is dead. Jumper cables to the rescue. As you finally get the car started, you notice grease on your shirtsleeve.

            The guy with the blue light stops you for speeding. Gives you a lecture and a ticket. You are an hour late to work. Exasperated, you say to the first person who will listen, “I should have stayed in bed!”

            Crazy days happen to preachers. You come across a great story that you build your sermon around. You tell the story exceptionally well. But after church some wise guy says something that ruins your day. Example: One Sunday I designed my sermon around my own experience of baptizing a tall man who slipped out of my grasp when I put him under the water. By the time I raised him up, he was spewing water out of his mouth and gasping for air. Five minutes after the benediction, wise guy walks up and says, “I liked your story about the baptism; I heard Robert Schuller tell that story on the Hour of Power.” My story! My experience! But Schuller gets credit for it — and it never happened to him! Bad day!

            I heard about a country preacher who retold quite eloquently the biblical story of creation — with a homespun twist to it. God, he said, made Adam out of mud and then leaned him up against a rail fence to dry. But with a wry smile, an old farmer ruined the preacher’s day with his question: “Preacher, if Adam was the first man, who built that rail fence?” Red-faced, the preacher replied icily, “It’s questions like that that ruin religion!”

            I have two suggestions about how to handle life’s bad days. First, no matter what happens, never surrender to pessimism. Clint Eastwood introduced us to Toby Keith’s song, “Don’t let the old man in.” That’s the way to combat pessimism — don’t let it in. When old man Pessimism comes knocking, tell him to keep walking. Light up the “No Vacancy” sign outside your mind.

            Second, never give up on optimism. Refuse to become anxious. Be positive no matter how bad the day. When my dog Buddy dumps a load on the floor in the Great Room, I don’t shout “Glory,” but I do say, “Lord, I thank you that Buddy did not drop two loads on the floor.” If I spill milk on the floor, I don’t despair. I thank God the floor is cleaner now where the milk was spilled. If you fall and break a hip, thank God you did not break both hips. Stay optimistic because nobody enjoys being around a sulking, pessimistic person.

            My role model for optimism is the football coach who remained optimistic even though his team kept losing every game by one or two points. He refused to complain and remained positive. Asked how he kept his spirit up, he said, “Let me tell you the kind of guy I am. If I fall in a mud puddle, I get up and feel in my pockets for fish.”

            On bad days, and good days, that’s a winning attitude in the game of life. Pessimism is a loser. Optimism is a winner. All day long. Somebody heat up the grease. I’m ready to fry some fish. And tomorrow is bound to be a better day!

            Now lest you get the impression this is merely the philosophy of a country preacher, I must remind you that Jesus was the ultimate optimist — and he warned against pessimism. At the end of chapter six of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus urged the disciples not to be “anxious about tomorrow.” I like the way Eugene Peterson renders verse 6:34 – “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

            That’s the good news about bad days. Trust Christ when bad days happen because He is ready to help you — especially on the days when everything goes wrong! + + +