Do you know what I mean, Reader, when I talk about having a rough day? It’s not quite the same as a bad day, because those are the days when everything goes wrong and you’re quite sure staying in bed with pretend (or actual) measles would have been better. A rough day, to me, is one that just steamrolls you, a day that takes everything you have and gives nothing back.
Wednesday was a rough day.
There are a great many reasons for this, including the fact that I’m stupidly busy right now in my life, I have some health issues that are relatively minor but are freaking me out, I had a ton of stress dropped on me in several meetings at work, and on, and on. The day didn’t even stop to catch a breath until about 8 o’clock—post meridian—and that found me exhaustedly curled on the couch watching Revolution while eating lukewarm Burger King because I had neither the energy nor the clean dishes to cook. I was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually worn thin, which made me physically drained. This is a terrible combination, and one I bet you know of it.
When I get to that place, I’m never content to be simply fried—I usually have to be miserable, too. I’m not quite sure why, but I can really work myself into a state of seeing all the awful things in my life and get really lost in my partially-legitimate Eeyore cloud.
I say all this not to bitch about my day at you or even to explain to you my brand of neurosis. I say it because I am very frustrated with myself, on days like that, for being such an incredibly fickle dolt.
Here’s the thing: I love hymns. I love music of all sorts, but I really love hymns, and when I work myself up I find that often the best way to climb back out of the tree (or the well) is to mull over hymns. Fortunately, I have several memorized, and on Wednesday night as I was standing in my room crumbling under the roughness of the day, the mental hymn jukebox clicked to What a Friend We Have in Jesus. I only have that one partly memorized, because I always get stuck on the lines “oh, what needless pain we bear! / All because we do not carry / everything to God in prayer.” I have the feeling that this block is every bit as much theological as it is mental, but it really fit that moment, and I wanted to track down the rest of the lyrics.
In rifling through my files, however, I came across Great Is Thy Faithfulness. We sang this at my dad’s parents’ interment ceremony, and it was easy to talk about the faithfulness of God while standing on a grassy mountain under a clear blue sky with a light wind ruffling the bright summer blossoms dancing on neatly tended graves of those who are still utterly loved, a crowd of people gathered to celebrate the loving union that gave them life.
It’s rather harder at the end of a very rough day while in pain and frustration and weariness as a pair of lights burn feebly against the night’s shadows and the laundry you never have time or quarters to do slumps scornfully against the closet door. I understood, looking at the lyrics, that I did not believe God’s faithfulness was all that great, or even that it really existed at all.
So I read through the song, and sang it, and thought about it, and got to the place where I understood that the greatness of God’s faithfulness doesn’t mean that I have to be an optimist (which I am not) or that I’m not allowed to be grumpy. It is a recognition that there are so many gifts and blessings from God in our lives—in my life—but more than that, it’s a realization that God isn’t fickle. God doesn’t deliberately send me rough days to counterbalance good days, God doesn’t wander off to the shoe store while I’m at the bank, God doesn’t take a nap in the backseat. Every morning God is present, just waiting for me to see that the faithfulness is that Presence, not the stuff or the fuzzy feelings. The promise in the hymn is “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,” not “smiles today and more sunshine tomorrow.” The Presence wouldn’t be necessary to “cheer and to guide” if things didn’t suck sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that the Presence isn’t there when things suck.
Does that make sense? I feel as though I might be reasoning in circles, but for me there was that moment when I realized just how often I tell God that my rough day is bigger and stronger than He is. What foolishness! Why on earth would I tell the only One Who truly knows why the roughness is so difficult that He can’t handle this with me, or better yet, for me? That He has left me alone when it has been me saying “I got this”? If I’m going to sing that God’s faithfulness is great, it makes zero sense to doubt it simply because things are hard. If anything, that’s when the faithfulness is greater, because I’m not the only one in the foxhole of a long Wednesday.
A life of faith, I keep finding, is one that never sticks. There is no steady and unyielding faith, because we’re human and we yell and doubt and get suspicious and lonely and steamrolled. But how truly great the moments when we–when I see that that’s what I’m doing, and I am faced with a hymn that reminds me that all I have needed (not wanted, not craved) His hand hath provided. So I start there, and know that on Thursday, and Friday, and Saturday, et al., great is His faithfulness unto me—even when mine is having a rough day.
I entrust my spirit into your hands; you, LORD, God of faithfulness— you have saved me. (Psalm 31:5, CEB)