I was driving home the other day and the Don Williams song “Lord, I hope this day is good” came on the radio and almost as soon as the song started, tears started flowing down my cheeks. The song has always had this effect on me and yet, I never could put my finger on why.
And then it hit me. The raw vulnerability of the chorus reminded me of all the times I had cried out to God with a similar plea.
Lord, I hope this day is good
I’m feelin’ empty and misunderstood
I should be thankful Lord, I know I should
But Lord, I hope this day is good
Lord, have you forgotten me?
I’ve been prayin’ to you faithfully
I’m not sayin’ I’m a righteous man
But Lord, I hope you understand
I don’t need fortune and I don’t need fame
Send down the thunder Lord, send down the rain
But when you’re planning just how it will be
Plan a good day for me
As I look back, some of the hardest times in my life have come from the empty, wounded feeling that comes from being misunderstood or feeling forgotten. These feelings were often joined by frustration, sadness, and yes, even despair. There have been days where everything has gone wrong, where I felt that everything I touched turned into garbage and that I was a complete and utter failure in every way possible.
I bet you can relate.
I bet you too have cried out – Lord, what do you want me to do? You’ve placed me here for a reason, help me to see why. Please, Lord, give me just one good day. I can make it through this if you give me just one good day.
Then there are those seasons that are just plain difficult and painful. Illness, grief, layoffs, the end of friendships, the terror of failing (or nearly-failing) classes and the demise of a romantic relationship can all knock the wind out of us, bringing us to our knees and make us question why we are walking through these difficult things.
Again we cry out – Lord, send me difficulty, send me turmoil, but please, send me one good day. I can do anything if I have just one good day. I know I can do all things through you, but I just need a break.
Sometimes we get that one good day. And it’s magical. Our spirits are lifted, we are refreshed and feel like we finally have our feet under us again.
But sometimes that one good day isn’t in the midst of the turmoil, it’s ahead of us, at the end of the trial. Sometimes we have to sit in our loneliness, grief, vulnerability and fear.
When there is nothing good in sight, nothing about my situation that feels positive, or productive, or secure, my view tends to narrow. The world around me tends to disappear and all I can focus on is what is immediately in front of me. All I can focus on is the ick, the struggle, the mess. Everything else simply does not exist. This is a horrible way to walk through a period of trial, and yet, we do it again and again. At least, I did.
And then, one day when I was walking through a time of serious uncertainty and fear and doubt, a dear friend came alongside me and shared her secret. When she is in the midst of the toughest times, she makes it a point to thank God for the trial.
I did not find this secret helpful. In fact, I thought this was the craziest thing I’d ever heard of.
And then I tried it.
I thanked God for the struggle, for not seeing eye to eye with my supervisor, for the frustration of writer’s block, for the pain of disappointment. I thanked him for illness and betrayal and grief. At first, I made things worse. It felt sarcastic and mean.
And then I saw the blessings. I had a supervisor who helped me see things from a different point of view, I had the opportunity to wrestle with ideas until a story emerged. Disappointment showed me what I felt passionate about and brought clarity around what I truly wanted my career to look like. I developed a greater appreciation for health, friends, family and started seeing all the blessings in my life.
Thankfulness brought joy, laughter and light. I started to see the reason for the trials and I began appreciating the ways they shaped my world.
I still have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days, but I try not to dwell on them. Looking for the blessings amidst the pain, embracing the chaos and cultivating gratitude help me to see the reason the trial was placed in my path.
I discovered what my friend knew all along – being grateful for the journey can transform a trial into a blessing.
How about you? How do you get through tough times?