By Norris Burkes Oct 23, 2022
Did your team win last week? Did your stocks go up? Did you have a terrific vacation?
If so, I’ll bet you’re singing today. Singing is easy with good news, good weather and full stomachs.
But if you’ve had a bad day recently, you’ll know why Judith Viorst wrote the children’s book, “Alexander and His Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” (1972).
Alexander begins his day with gum stuck in his hair. From there his calamities seem to flow in a never-ending cascade of trouble.
Sadly, he gains little sympathy from his family. So for his 12th birthday he spends his candle wish hoping that his mom, dad, brother and sister will experience their own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
The promising theme of Viorst’s book seems to be that everyone has bad days, yet those times will come to an end, eventually.
But for those of you living in disaster zones like the fiery Western states or the flooded Florida beaches, your bad days may seem endless.
While this column avoids a Bible-school tone, I think it’s worth considering how the Apostle Paul faced his never-ending calamites.
Life started out good for Paul as a Roman citizen. In the decade following Christ’s crucifixion, he found a great job persecuting, torturing and crucifying Christian converts.
While traveling to Damascus with numerous arrest warrants, he had a come-to-Jesus moment. He saw a blinding light from heaven that questioned his career choice.
If Damascus sounds a bit familiar, it should.
A Jeopardy tile in the Idiom category might read: “An important moment of insight.” The question-answer: “What is the Road to Damascus?”
As you might imagine, Paul’s carnage colleagues took exception to him switching sides. So they conspired to stone him, whip him (five times), and pummel him with sticks and stones that broke his bones. His bad luck included a snake bite and three shipwrecks.
Despite his tribulation, Paul managed to write 14 of the 27 books in the New Testament. Given the number of cruel days he survived, you’d be surprised to find his to be some of the best words of encouragement ever spoken to those having a bad day.
My favorite is Philippians 4:8:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (NIV).
It’s basic advice. Simple, really. If you’re anxious about an issue, it’s because you’re overthinking the very thing that made you anxious in the first place.
Paul is saying you can arrest your anxiety – or at the very least diminish it – by intentionally recalling the good things in life.
You may not think a chaplain has bad days or is ever discouraged, but I assure you I do. And when those “blue days” come, I review Paul’s crystal-clear advice.
He says think on whatever is…
“True” — Instead of reading the “fake news” or worse yet, the “real news,” I refocus on what is spiritually true. True means faithful, reliable and real. I rely on true friends who keep me faithful and true to my calling.
“Noble” – This doesn’t mean the nobility of kings and queens. The noble focus prescribed by Paul points to honesty, generosity and courage.
“Right” – Revenge, envy or lust will hardly inspire right thinking. Doing the right thing is hardly easy, but it always begins with right thinking.
“Pure” – Not the “pure” of goody-two-shoes and better-than-thou, but the purity that seeks to both see and inspire the good in those around us.
“Lovely” – Sadly, we often use this word sarcastically to mean anything but love. But I read Paul’s point to mean considering the “God spots.” Find those lovely places in nature, like waterfalls, snow-capped hills or sweeping oceans to touch God’s lovely creation.
“Admirable” — Finally, aside from Paul’s words, I often look to inspiring nonfiction memoirs for the admirable qualities to which I aspire.
Pretty simple, really. “If anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Recent disaster victims need more than a scripture verse or our thoughts and prayers. Real dollars given to local help is what helps. I’m a regular donor to the Red Cross and Send Relief. I hope you will be too.
Please read past columns on my website, www.thechaplain.net. Send comments to [email protected] or 10556 Combie Rd. Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602 or via voicemail (843) 608-9715.