The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week
Are any of you familiar with the children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst? The story goes that young Alexander, from the moment his feet hit the floor in the morning, has a string of bad luck: he gets gum in his hair, trips and falls over his skateboard, and drops his sweater in the cold sink water – all before breakfast!
Any one of these things happens to all of us from time to time, but then there are those periods in our lives where we just cannot seem to catch a break: times where work life is hectic, family relations are tense, the weather is uncooperative, and nothing seems to work like it should. These periods can last anywhere from hours to years. My most recent terrible, horrible, no good, very bad period was the week following Christmas. My list of troubles included food poisoning, a snowstorm, and the furnace quitting- not a desirable combo.
I, therefore, found myself on a walk with my dog the other day, sharing my troubles with God in prayer. My prayers sounded something like “Oh God, I know that all of these terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things just happen, but I cannot help feeling discouraged. It is just so, so hard sometimes.” At that moment, my foot kicked something hard, hidden beneath the slushy snow. I reached down into the cold, wet pile and caught my breath in surprise when I grasped a whole, perfect antler shed. My dad and I used to go hunting for antlers on my grandparents’ property in Colorado, but I had never found more than a single-pointer. This four-pointer was smooth to the touch and blemish-free. I had to study it closely to determine if it was even real!
My first thought was “God must have put this here for me to find, so I would know everything is going to be alright!” But, just as quick I formed that idea I rejected it. I do not believe everything happens for a reason nor do I find it helpful to think that way (Just read Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved). Instead, another wondering later emerged for me, and I have found it quite powerful ever since: “Maybe signs of hope, peace, and strength are not so scarce in terrible-horrible times. Maybe they just get buried under the muck.” In other words, just because we cannot find the good, does not mean the good is not there. Just because we cannot see God, does not mean God is not present. And just because we lose touch with our senses of security and confidence, does not mean we have lost those traits. As Paul writes in Romans 8:35-39:
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Some days are just terrible, horrible, no good, very days. Some days are okay. But on all days, we are beloved children of God- God who knows us, loves us, and cares for us unconditionally and eternally.