KATIE POLSKI | CONTRIBUTOR
One of my favorite childhood books is, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” The brilliant little story depicts the daily frustrations that create a terrible, horrible day for a child: gum in the hair, dropping a sweater in the sink, tripping over a skateboard, and all the no good, very bad things in between.
My freshman year in college I had a knee injury that required me to travel home for surgery. The day I returned to campus, I hobbled around on crutches sporting a massive brace on my leg. I also returned to campus the day after an ice storm, so hobbling outside became more like sliding. On crutches. With a knee brace.
I also returned to campus to find that the elevator in my dorm building was broken. I then discovered that not only would I be required to limp down four flights of stairs to get out of my dorm, but I’d need to stumble down two additional flights to get to my music classes. Because those elevators were not working either.
That day I returned to campus was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
Everyday, Ordinary Suffering
The reality is that life is filled with ordinary hardships. I’m not talking about the catastrophic or traumatic events that do occur, but rather the difficulties that we face on a regular basis. Most of us don’t wake up anticipating these challenges; in fact, the way we often react to everyday trials proves that we expect life to be void of them.
When a child wakes up sick, when we run into a conflict with a co-worker, when an assignment is missed, or travel is delayed, we almost immediately react in frustration or anger because we’ve begun to believe that ordinary suffering shouldn’t be a part of our daily existence. But Jesus did not come to earth to save us from our suffering; He came to save us from our sin.
Meeting Jesus in Everyday, Ordinary Suffering
So, what if we entered the day with a different perspective? How would it change our attitudes if we woke in the morning anticipating the likelihood of trials and expected to meet Jesus in the midst of them?
In Acts 14:22 Paul reminds believers that it is “through many tribulations, we must enter the kingdom of God.” Faith in God is how we enter His kingdom, and tribulations— both large and small— are how that faith is strengthened. It’s tempting to forget the connection between daily frustrations and our trust in God to work in and through every detail. He meets us through His provisions, and two of God’s greatest blessings in our ordinary sufferings are His comfort and His courage.
Comfort in Ordinary Suffering
The engine in my car died a few weeks ago, and anxiety rose as I thought through a busy week without a car and a grand bill without forethought. Walking outside the dealership, I prayerfully expressed my worries over this comparatively small trial, and as I looked up at the sky, the verse from Matthew 6:26 came to mind: “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”
It didn’t take long for my heart to be stilled. The calm in the chaos is felt when we remember that God is our greatest comfort. And He demonstrates His care in any kind of trouble through His provisions and through His presence (Ps. 46:1).
When I was little, my tall father used to hold his hand high when we’d walk through a crowd. This must have seemed foolish to those who watched, but as a child, it provided a unique sense of security. If I could see my dad’s hand in the air, I knew he was close, and I knew I was safe, no matter how chaotic my surrounding.
We don’t have to go looking for God when we are vexed; He is already in our midst because He cares for us. The scars on His hand prove it, and His closeness affirms it. When ordinary suffering presents itself, talk to God about it. He is right there with you.
Courage in Ordinary Suffering
In Christ, our faith is strengthened when we exemplify courage for whatever may come our way rather than exhibiting fear over all the “what-ifs” that accompany ordinary suffering. I’m good at the “what-if” game, especially late at night. The details regarding tomorrow are often plagued with this little phrase as I consider all the possibilities of what could or might happen.
What I forget all too easily is that the Lord has already gone before me; He hems me in behind and before (Ps. 139), and because of this, ordinary suffering can be met with courage in the strength of Christ rather than being fraught with fear. We can know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that God is at work in and through everyday trials, and He provides exactly what we need to walk through these daily challenges.
As you anticipate likely hardships in your day, ask Jesus to fill you with overflowing patience when plans are diverted, to provide you with a loving and tender attitude when there is confrontation, and to gently remind you of His presence when the day’s details become overwhelming. The God who provides comfort and courage will do it. Jesus will meet us in the moments of ordinary, everyday suffering.
About the Author:
Katie is a writer, teacher, retreat speaker, and Bible study leader. She is married to Chris, a PCA pastor at Trinity church in Kirkwood, MO, and is a mother to Ella, J-Rod, and Lily. Katie works as the music director at Trinity, serves on the Women’s Ministry Committee, and teaches a few high school English classes. She loves writing, leading women’s Bible studies, and speaking to women’s groups about the joy she has found in Christ. Katie graduated from Covenant College with a BA in English Education and is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Theology from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. For more information, as well as various blog entries, you can visit her website at www.katiepolski.com