Today Was One of Those Days

"I do not have the answers, but I choose to trust that He does." by Marybeth Mitcham

Today was one of those days. I had hoped that days like this were in my past, something to which I could look back and be grateful that I no longer had to hurt like this. A day where unwanted and unasked for, difficult circumstances outside of my control had hurt me.

The sort of day when the pain that I had thought abated somewhat instead roared forth, like a waterfall, loosed from the melting torrent of winter-laden snow and ice, and carrying with it anything unfortunate enough to be caught in its merciless wake. 

It’s easy to forget, when I’m caught up in overwhelming and all-consuming pain and grief, that good is happening. I want to not be so blinded by my anguish that I cannot see past it, to hope for a future based on the One who ultimately holds my future in His hands.

I remember when I was a child, hearing my grandfather tell someone that he hated Romans 8:28. He hated it because, to him, it sounded trite; that the hardships that he had faced and were facing were somehow okay, because God would bring good out of it. “God might bring good out of my pain,” he stated, “but I sure wish that I never had to go through it in the first place.”

As a child, I thought it was silly that someone would say they hated a Bible verse. My young mind could not grasp the idea that someone could actually be upset about what God did. As I became an adult though, I started to understand.

Yes, God does allow things to happen that we do not understand, that our finite minds cannot comprehend. There is an ultimate question of why bad things happen to good people or at all. I have heard theologians argue that the question should not be why bad things happen to good people, but rather, why good things happen to any of us. While there is merit to that perspective, I can promise that it is not at all beneficial to hear when you are in the middle of your own personal hell. 

Why does a loving and merciful God allow bad things to happen? Why does God allow a young mother to waste away from the cancer that eats her alive, ending her life before she has had the chance to raise her young children? Why does God allow wonderful, loving couples who would make wonderful, loving parents suffer the agony of infertility? Why does God allow immature and selfish people who have had multiple children taken away for neglect or abuse continue to become pregnant, time and time again? Why does God allow mass shootings to occur, causing untold pain for countless families? Why does He allow the circumstances that are causing my pain to continue? Why does He allow the circumstances that are causing your pain to continue?

I do not have the answers, even though I wish I did. I do know that, while I cannot control what is happening to me, I can control my response to my circumstances. Will I allow what is causing me pain to make me angry and bitter, or will I instead choose to surrender to God, placing my trust in His hands and allowing Him to use the painful circumstances to bring about good? This latter option is not easy. It’s the harder option actually. It’s hard trying not to wrest back control over my life; hard choosing not to respond to my pain like any other wounded animal would, lashing out at others; hard to not simply want to curl up and earn a long moment’s respite of sweet numbness; hard choosing to continue to relinquish the control that I do not have to God. 

Nahum 1:7 reminds us that, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.” It does not promise that those who trust in Him will not experience days of trouble. It promises that God is good, that He knows those who trust Him and that will be their stronghold when the days of trouble come.

Days of trouble do come. Anyone who has lived on this Earth for even a short while knows that. The times in which we live are troubling, even without the extra hardships that some are made to face. How we respond in the face of those troubles will dictate not only the good that will come for us (Romans 8:28), but also, even more importantly, the good that we are then able to give to others (Genesis 50:20). 

I do not have the answers for why bad things happen, and why overwhelming pain and grief are allowed to afflict so many. I do not know why the circumstances that are continuing to cause me anguish are still being allowed by God to continue. But I do know that I am choosing, by faith, to continue to trust in Him, knowing that He has promised to bring what is good out of all circumstances as I follow Him. The pain might be overwhelming at times–and believe me, it still can be so acute that it takes my very breath away, but I know that ultimately, it will birth hope (Romans 5:3-5); hope that I will continue to cling to, in deliberation and desperation, knowing that while I am in the midst of my suffering, God is very present, pouring His love out on me. And that truth is one to which I can—and will—choose to cling, holding fast, during my days of trouble. I do not have the answers, but I choose to trust that He does.  

Marybeth Mitcham holds degrees in biological and human development sciences. She is a public health educator and adjunct professor of biology.