Checking texts, opening emails, answering the phone – some days I’d rather ignore those tasks. The other day they carried to me three bits of negative news. A beloved relative lay dying. A close friend didn’t get the job we’d hoped and prayed for. The birthday party for a dear friend is over – and no one remembered to invite me. Oh, ouch.
Then a fourth bit of news hopped on the train; just as a test, perhaps. A vital piece of furniture I’d planned to buy at a great price became unavailable, meaning we’d need to make a long car trip to find another.
Bang, bang, bang, bang. With the arrival of each news-bite, I considered its impact on me. As usual with selfish thinking, my mood slumped further, finally matching the day’s weather – cloudy, with a chance of thunderstorms.
Even the Preacher felt down. “How’re you doing?” I asked him, when he walked into the room. He has difficulty sleeping and had had a rough night trying to get used to the new bed we hoped would bring relief.
“Trying to feel better,” he said. At least he was trying. I merely slopped around, not trying. Complaining and worrying instead. Forgetting, for awhile, some of my favourite Bible verses –verses I’ve memorized, mind you. Instructions to be grateful, even for difficult circumstances; to be hopeful, knowing that God is always faithful; to be trustful, knowing he can knit even the worst of circumstances into something beautiful; to be charitable, realizing that all bad news means someone else out there is grieving, needy, suffering, anxious or worse.
Days like that happen to every believer. Author, pastor and professor John Piper puts it this way: “There are times when the tide goes out. God is still God; joy is still joy; but I am baking in the seaweed on the beach waiting for the tide to come in.”
Baking there on my proverbial personal beach, the Holy Spirit reminded me: Joy is still joy. God is still God – and you’re not.
I told God the truth he already knew: I’m a selfish woman, Lord. Forgive me. Then I stopped my stewing and made time to talk to him about each troubling situation, praying for the people involved.
My dark mood lifted. Nothing else changed in that moment – except me.
Don’t let anyone leave you with the impression that following Christ brings instant perfection. That all Christians, at all times, must wear a million-dollar-smile. Spirits and souls, like bodies, wear thin sometimes. Grow weary. We need constant nurturing – frequent visits to God’s Word, a habit of prayer, and the support of other believers.
The default response for healthy Christ-followers when life goes sideways should be to pray. To trust. To obey, thank, and love. Or it should be. I’m grateful that God understands that some days it may take us awhile to get there.
Especially when we’re not invited to the party.