Our morning was full of tears… a LOT of grumpy tears. Grace cried all morning. She cried when we offered her breakfast. She cried when we took it away. She cried when we put on her coat. She cried when we dropped her off at school. She only wanted to be held. And even when we held her… she cried.
When I picked her up that afternoon I asked, “Gracie what was wrong today?”
She quietly answered: “It was just a rough day.”
Gracie is only 3, and on a “rough day” all she knows is that she is filled with negative emotion. She doesn’t know why or what to do with it. All she can do is cry. The only source of comfort is to crawl into the arms of mom or dad. At 3 years old, what else can she do?
What are you like, and where do you turn when it’s “just a rough day?” On those rough days when the anxiety presses down so hard we can physically feel the pressure in our chest, there is a place we can go and have that weight lifted. God’s word tells us: Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7) And Jesus invites us in his own words: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
I don’t know about you, but I have days like that. Rough days. Grumpy Days. Days when there is some gray force of anxiety or burden pressing down to consume me. In every seemingly consuming moment like this I have found His promise to be true: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. (Lamentations 3:22)
Is there any better invitation than that for relief from life’s burdens? I’m not claiming that I am perfect in my pursuit and turning to the Lord in every moment of trial. There are a lot of other voices calling to me that promise to ease my anxieties… sometimes its “Retail Therapy,” sometimes its “Chocolate therapy,” sometimes its “T.V. Therapy” (that T.V. stands for “Tune-out & Vegetate.” Ahhh, the mind numbing qualities of entertainment.)
But as good as all these voices sound, they never live up to their promises. In fact, I know from experience they just create added burden. In reality they make me feel far away from God. What we need in those moments is to get back to God. “Well,” you say, “That all sounds quite nice, but how exactly does that work when I’m all worked up and worked over in my rough day? And by the way, my rough day is a lot rougher than a three year old’s.”
The Book of James says Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8) Look for Him in the midst of your rough day, and He will show up… Here are a couple of really rough days when we found ourselves in God’s arms.
Over the last 20 years we have run a summer travel camp for teens. Part of that adventure includes the Grand Canyon. If you know anything about hiking the Grand Canyon you know “rough” is an understatement. If you have ever stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon, you know it would be more than a “rough fall” from the edge.
My first summer with the program, I chose to hike the canyon with the kids. It was my responsibility to make sure they got out safe. But Nicole was having a rough day, and that meant I was having a rough day too. Nicole was suffering from heat exhaustion. She could not walk more than a few steps without vomiting. We were 6 miles from the rim; up-hill the whole way out. My staff partner, Betsy, and I had to take turns carrying Nicole and all of our gear. When we go to the water station we laid Nicole in the shade to rest and I went off by myself. I will never forget that view of the canyon. I looked out over the vastness and felt pathetically small and helpless. I dropped to my knees and I prayed. “God, please get us out of here safely.” I drew near to Him….
And He drew near to me. From the moment I got off my knees until the time we walked out of that hole, there was help. Other hikers carried our gear. A ranger came and gave us extra food and water, and monitored our progress. People offered to support Nicole as she slogged up-hill to the top. In the end she walked out of the canyon on her own steam. The ranger who had been monitoring us said: “That doesn’t happen. I didn’t think you guys were going to make it out alone.” And in that moment I knew— We weren’t alone. We made it out because God showed up. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. He will draw you out of a literal pit of hell if you’re reaching for Him.
A few years after my rough day in the canyon Doug had his own. Our tradition is to take the kids for one last look at the rim after their tremendous adventure hiking. On this day, one of our kids, Davis, got up from his place on the rim, slipped and fell over the edge. Thank God, Thank God, Thank God, there was a ledge he landed on 8 feet below. But, had he fallen to either side— we can’t even think about it. With the help of others Davis scrambled back to safety, suffering only minor cuts and bruises.
But even after the panic had settled, Doug still suffered though a rough day of anxiety filled with “What ifs” amidst his “Thank you Lord’s.” You would think, “Well, how else does God need to show up? God protected Davis and Doug by stopping the fall.” Yes, Doug believed that. He continued to pray in thanks to the Lord. But a part of him was still free falling and reaching out to the Lord. He needed God to come near again and stop the fall.
It happened the next morning at a McDonald’s where we stopped for breakfast. Doug struck up a conversation with a cute old lady who was wearing a small angel pin on her lapel. He said “I LOVE your angel pin!” She immediately took it off and gently pressed it into his hand. “I want you to have it.” She said. “They are watching, you know?” And in that moment, Doug was caught from his free fall and landed in the arms of the Lord.
God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 & Deuteronomy 31:6) In Him we can find shelter from the storm of anxiety pressing on our hearts. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:8) How do we manage a rough day? We get close to God.
Ultimately, the place where I finally find relief, the place where I am released from being consumed is resting in the arms of the Lord… not in the bite of Chocolate, not in the new pair of shoes, not in the 6 hour mini-series version of Pride and Prejudice. (Though the latter I would argue does hold some merit. I often bring out my “popcorn theology” and draw parallels between Jane Austin’s love story and the ultimate love story between God and His people… but I digress— that’s for another Life with Grace.)
The point is: it’s not the chocolate, it’s not the new shoes, it’s not the vegetating on TV that gives me peace. Nothing this world offers can do it. Jesus tells us so himself: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled…. (John 14:27) If we want real peace we aren’t going to find relief from what the world offers us in all its false promises. What we need are promises that are out of this world… and in the arms of the Father.
I don’t really think our rough days are all too different from Gracie’s. Sometimes all I really need to do is cry… cast all my anxiety out on Him… trust in Him… and to crawl (or fall) into the Father’s arms.
The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
God is with you.
He is mighty to save.
He takes great delight in you…
In the moment of deepest anxiety of your heart, He will quiet you with His love.
He will rejoice over you with His song….
Crawl into the Father’s arms and rest in His song. Draw near to Him and He will rain peace over any “rough day.”