Wednesday, May 26, 2010

So You Had a Bad Day?

A few weeks ago I preached a sermon on how to discern the root cause of, for lack of better words, "bad days." We have a few options to choose from. For this post I'll cover the primary ones. First, there is the crystal clear teaching from the Bible that all Christians will suffer. It is a part of maturing in Christ. The Bible says that because of this, we can rejoice in our suffering (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4).

The second option is spiritual warfare. Now I realize that some readers of this blog may get a little concerned when they see this term. There are two extremes when it comes to spiritual warfare. The first is to give Satan way too much credit. Those who fall in that extreme see Satan behind everything bad that happens to them. The other extreme often comes about as a result of the first extreme, but I am learning that it is equally dangerous. That extreme is to not give Satan enough credit. The Bible says that Satan is like a roaring lion, roaming around and seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8-9). I don't know about you, but I find that to be a very powerful image. We have an enemy, and his ultimate desire is to destroy us.

So now, a little application...

I've made it a habit to get away for prayer and study several times a year. My place of choice is now St. Columba's Episcopal Retreat Center. Yesterday afternoon I left my house around 4:00. The plan was to get there around 5:00 and leave today around noon. I stopped at Wal-Mart in Raleigh to get some food for my time there, and when I got back out to my car to leave, it wouldn't start. I was pretty sure it was the battery. It ended up turning into quite an ordeal, of which the specifics I'll spare you. But three hours later, I decided that going home would be the best bet.

Over a Frosty and burgers at Wendy's (and I might add that I do believe in Wendy's tagline that a Frosty will always make a frown go away), Mandy and I talked about this topic. Why did this happen? Is there a reason? Was it a time of testing, in which I was supposed to press through and still go? Was it the work of our enemy? I was, after all, carving out a day for prayer and study? I guess it would make sense that he wouldn't like it? Or is that giving him too much credit? Was it just a matter of my battery going dead? Was it simply coincidence?

As you can see, times like these yield lots of questions. It seems that over the last two months I have had lots of times like these. Again, I won't go into all the details, but it has been a trying time. Now, of course, it could be worse. I am a very blessed man, and I never want to take these blessings for granted. But I also want to be honest and say that yesterday was very frustrating. More importantly, I want to respond appropriately to these ordeals. After all, I'm called to embrace suffering, but I'm not called to embrace the enemy's work. I'm called to resist him. That's a big difference.

So here's what I'm learning. In the moment, my job is to cling to truth. What do I know about God? What do I know about myself? That is so key, no matter the root cause. If it's suffering, I remind myself that God is sovereign and that I'm his beloved child. I remind myself that I can rejoice in the ordeal, knowing that God is going to use it to make me more like Jesus. And if it's spiritual warfare, I remind myself that God is bigger, that Satan is ultimately defeated, and that I don't have to fear. I can resist. I remind myself that if this is the work of my enemy, then I can rejoice in the fact that he is in some sense threatened by what God is doing in my life.

It all comes back to truth.

But here's where I need to grow. It's one thing to know how to respond in the moment. It's another thing to know how to prepare beforehand. This is what Mandy and I talked about over the yummy Frosty. We need to ask our key leaders at Neighborhood Church to pray for me when I'm getting ready to take this type of retreat. Sounds so simple, yet it is something that I neglect all the time.

The bottom line is this. I ultimately can't control what happens to me. My battery went dead and I had to replace it. Otherwise, I would still be sitting in the parking lot at Wal-Mart. But my God is faithful. I'm in my office instead of a cabin in the woods, but regardless, I want to seek Him today. That I can control. And I pray that God would use my weakness and dependence as an opportunity to do what only He can do in my life, and I also pray that He might use this as an encouragement to you.


Ginger said...

Well, Adam and Walt would definitely say it was ordained by God -- they had a ball in those few hours! Seriously, though, thanks for those words -- they were timely for me today.

Robert said...

Yeah, Adam was saying last night that he wanted to go over to your house again. I thought about asking if he would still want that if it meant that I would go through the same ordeal. But I didn't, because I knew what the answer would be!