Yes, you read that right, and yes, that was how my day started yesterday. I’ll spare you the rest of the icky details. As my friend Forrest would say, “That’s all I have to say ’bout that.” (I’ve been on this weird Forrest Gump quoting spree lately.)
This post is not an attempt to gross you out or a public service announcement about checking your shoes before you put them on (although, not a bad reminder, right?) What I’m trying to say is that sometimes you’re just going to have a bad day. I know this isn’t something you need to be reminded of, but what you may not realize is that we actually need to have those kind of days.
Now let’s be clear about the kind of “bad day” I’m referring to. There are bad days that come because of our own doing, and then there are those bad days when, by no fault of our own, we encounter unfair or unpleasant things (like my shoes) that we really have no control over. Both kinds of “bad days” teach us important lessons, but I’ve come to believe that the “not-my-fault” type can sometimes be the most useful and formative days we have.
A couple of days ago, my oldest son got in the car after school and I knew before he had even opened his mouth that it had been a bad day. He was upset because his entire class had gotten in trouble for misbehaving. What made my son so mad was that he hadn’t been one of the kids who had caused the problem. He had just been sitting with that group but he ended up receiving the same amount of punishment as the rest. I could easily understand his frustration.
However, the more he talked the prouder I became. My son is willing to admit when he has done something wrong, but he emphatically told me that he had resisted joining in with the rabble-rousing. He said he’d been tempted to do what the other boys were doing, but he knew in his heart that it was wrong so he refrained. I’m sure he was thinking, I don’t know if they’ll get into trouble, but at least I’m safe! But he wasn’t. The entire group of boys, in fact his whole 4th grade class, caught the flack for the actions of a few.
I told my son that I was sorry about what had happened and that I agreed it wasn’t fair. I reminded him that even when we try to do what is right we won’t always be protected from bad things. I also told him how proud I was because he had recognized he was facing a temptation, had carefully considered the best course of action, and stayed true to what he knew God would want him to do. By the time we pulled up to our house, my son’s entire outlook had changed. He still wasn’t happy about what had happened but he felt good about himself and had had an important life lesson lovingly reinforced.
Let’s quickly consider another example of how we are to handle life’s unfair, unforeseen, and unenviable situations by looking in the book of Genesis and the life of Joseph. Talk about a guy who faced some “dog-vomit-in-your-shoes” kind of days! By no fault of his own, he was hated by his brothers, attacked and almost murdered, and then sold into slavery. Even when things seemed better and he had found favor with the Egyptian general Potiphar, he gets falsely accused of rape, thrown in jail, and forgotten by those who promised to help him. Years later, after having been released from prison and by God’s hand of blessing been promoted to the number two man in all of Egypt, he came face to face with those brothers who had started the whole mess. Joseph could have taken his revenge and tried to balance the scales of justice, but we must never forget what he did instead.
His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:18–21, ESV)
While this passage does teach us an awesome lesson about forgiveness, it also reminds us how blessed we are when we don’t let the things we can’t control or the unfair situations of life get the better of us! Not every day is going to start off well. Not every person you meet will treat you as you deserve. Not every situation you encounter will be fair. But why get bitter, when you can let God help you get better?
If every day was perfect, you would never be challenged in the ways that help you grow. So the next time your day starts off badly, or when you encounter the person(s) who seems to live to make your life more difficult, or when you experience the unfair consequences of someone else’s actions, pay careful attention to your response. You still might not be happy about what you are facing, but if you will seek God even harder in those times, asking Him to guide you and to protect you from anger and bitterness, then you might just find that day was more of a blessing than you first thought.