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Ordinary Days


farmer working on tractor

7by Dennis Pollock

The apostle Paul called the sufferings we experience in this world “this light affliction.” Many might have a hard time thinking of their particular struggles and challenges as a light affliction. Perhaps the following illustration will help:

Imagine there was an immunization shot you could get which would guarantee perfect health for the next eighty years. Get the shot and you’ll never have a cold, never get the flu, and you’ll have no worries about infections or cancer for the next eight decades. But there is one side effect. The shot will make you sick, in fact quite sick for a twenty-four-hour period. For the next day you will feel terrible. Your head will ache, your stomach will be nauseous, and your joints will feel like those of an old man suffering from terrible arthritis. But after that, the symptoms will go away, and you’ll feel better than you’ve ever felt in your life. And you will go on feeling that way day after day and year after year for the next eighty years.

If we could be certain that this was for real, who would refuse such a shot? Who would not trade one day of sickness for eighty years of perfect health? Any person would be a fool not to take that shot. And during that one day of sickness after the shot you would have no reason to complain. In fact, you would be rejoicing, knowing that you had just done yourself a tremendous favor.

This little illustration helps us to see why our struggles and sufferings during our short seventy or eighty years on this earth are truly a “light affliction.” God asks us to receive His Son Jesus Christ, take up our cross daily and follow Him. After a handful of quick decades of struggle and afflictions, we will be transferred to a different realm, where we will know constant joy, perfect health, and fulfillment like we have never known before, not for eighty years, but for eighty billion years, and at that point we’re just getting started. We shall live with Christ in a state of righteousness, peace, and joy for eternity.

It’s a good illustration, if I do say so myself, but it’s not perfect. The truth is, for nearly all of us, our life on earth is not constant misery, sickness, tragedy, and suffering. Our gracious God gives us many pleasures and reasons to be happy much of our time here. No, the hymn didn’t get it quite right, when it declares, “Now I am happy all the day.” We are not always happy, and some days are a whole lot tougher than others. But we all have much to be thankful for, even in this “world of woe.” And that brings us to the main point of this little devotional. The older I get, the more thankful I am for ordinary days.

Ordinary is not so Bad

In my opinion ordinary has received a bum rap in the minds of many. We all want to be special. We want all our days to be incredible and exciting and completely satisfying. We go to church and we often hear some energetic youth leader or pastor assure us that after today our life will never be the same. For most of us, our lives don’t change all that dramatically after that particular church service, but declaring that the service will be life-changing has a dramatic effect and never fails to get a few hearty amens.

Nobody wants to be ordinary or wants their children to be ordinary. But the truth is, most of us and most children are on the ordinary side. Our children are usually not geniuses or pop stars (thank the Lord), and they will probably live out their lives and never receive a Nobel prize nor will their picture ever appear on the cover of a major magazine, with bold-faced words declaring them “man of the year,” or “woman of the year.” In the eyes of God, of course, we are all special and greatly treasured, but in the eyes of society, most of us will amble through life without ever receiving great honors or popular acclaim.

I am starting to digress, though. I really want to focus on ordinary days, not ordinary people. For the sake of simplicity, we could divide our days into three categories: the great days, the terrible days, and the ordinary days. I would guess that for at least 99% of us, the ordinary days far outweigh the great or terrible ones. We almost never see ordinary days in the movies or on television. It just wouldn’t make for a very interesting story. Who would pay money to sit in a theater and watch a man or woman get up in the morning, eat a breakfast of bacon and eggs, go to work, quietly do their job for eight hours, come home, eat dinner with their family, watch television in the evening, read a book for a half an hour, and then go to bed? What, no gunshots? No car chases? No explosions? No life-threatening dangers? No adultery?

A Sure Thing

It would be nice if, in our own lives, we could eliminate the bad and ordinary days, and just enjoy great and thrilling days one after another, year after year. But of course, that is not possible. According to the Scriptures, rough days (you can call them tribulations or trials or sufferings or afflictions) are not merely a possibility; they are a certainty. They will come. Guaranteed.

I have surely had my share of them. Strange illnesses… times of joblessness and near homelessness… major expenses that come up out of the blue … The day I discovered that my wife of thirty years was unfaithful to me… The day Benedicta and I ended up in an Indian police station with a group of angry Hindus clamoring for us to be put in prison (or worse) for preaching Christ without a missionary visa… These kinds of bad days are scary and are no fun at all. I have not been “happy all the day” during these times. In fact, I have been miserable and depressed. Belonging to Christ does not mean that we walk around through life with a silly grin plastered on our faces.

You can make a case that some of our bad days are totally our own fault, and should not be considered the perfect will of God. We brought them on ourselves and have no one to blame but ourselves. But this is by no means always true. I am convinced, and the Scriptures testify that some of these days, these terrible, painful, fearful, mind-numbing, dreadful days are written in the Script of our lives by the Heavenly Author of our circumstances and the events of our days while on this earth. “In this world you will have tribulation…” says Jesus, and anyone who walks with Christ very long will discover the truth of this by personal experience. Peter writes, “Let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19)

The great days balance out the terrible ones, for most of us. Still it is the terrible ones that seem, at least to me, the most unforgettable. These can leave emotional scars that, even after time and God’s healing touch, are still unpleasant and distasteful to remember. Some of my greatest victories and highest highs lose a lot of their emotional sweetness as the years go by, but those rough days and seasons seem to retain their sour flavor much longer.

Neither Great nor Terrible

Thank the Lord, most of our days are not bad days. Nor are they great days. They are ordinary days, those common days in which we do what we always do, days that seem important to us while they exist but which we will soon forget after they have passed. They are not miraculous, not spectacular, they contain no thrills or chills, nor terrifying phone calls, nor frightening diagnoses from doctors, nor major arguments with your spouse, nor pink slips from your employer, nor worries that you may soon be homeless.

I must confess that, having had more than a few terrifying days and rough seasons in my life, I have become more and more pleased with ordinary days. When I put my head on the pillow at night, if I can check the boxes next to: “No major conflicts,” “No major crisis,” “No health scares,” “No unexpected major expenses,” I am happy. At this point you may be thinking that this is a pretty lame way to think and live. Should we not all pursue big dreams, aim for the fences, and shoot for the stars, and be unhappy and dissatisfied when big things are not constantly popping?

For the Christian, our goal in life is not to be spectacular, or become celebrities, or hit grand-slam home runs in the bottom of the ninth inning in the last game of the World Series. Those of us who are in Christ see this present life as merely a warm-up. It is not the main event. This is our testing ground, our time to trust in Jesus Christ for salvation and receive eternal life, and then to demonstrate our faith in Christ by walking responsibly and faithfully with Him day by day. A part of the demonstration of our faith will involve those terrible days and tough seasons when life is not especially fun. At times it will get downright painful. But it is precisely in these situations where Jesus proves Himself the faithful Shepherd and the Keeper of the souls of His people.

Until the End

It does not last forever. Jesus told the believers in Thyatira: “He who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations” (Revelation 2:26). When we are born again through faith in Jesus, we are not immediately taken to heaven. We must stay here on earth and do the works of Jesus for the short years we are allotted. How long are we to keep these works? Jesus says we are to keep His works “until the end.” This means we believers have a limited time to carry the cross and struggle and sometimes suffer. For each of us this time is different, but as we age, we know that we are getting a lot closer to the end of suffering and struggles than we were in our youth.

As we approach that end, we put a lot of those difficult days in the rear-view mirror. Many tribulations, afflictions, scary moments, and heartbreaks are behind us. We are getting closer and closer to our destination – to live with Jesus in eternity. And every ordinary day that passes is like a bonus. Now we are one more day closer to a life of eternal joy and peace. One more day has been translated from future to past. And when that day was pleasant, perhaps uneventful and rather common, but still pleasant – we are doubly blessed. For this day we were not tested beyond endurance, we did not experience heart-pounding fear, our health was fine, our relationships, while not perfect, were solid. We experienced no hurricanes or floods, we were not robbed or beaten or rejected by our spouse, we had enough food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and we slept in a comfortable bed. And we are one day closer!

These are the kind of days in which the followers of Christ should rejoice. This is that “quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” of which Paul spoke. Thank God for days lived responsibly, people treated respectfully, relationships treasured, God honored, and all done with an abiding faith in and dependence on Jesus Christ. And when we can string together a good long season of such days, we can surely say “Life is good.”

There likely will be some more rough days here and there. And when they surface we will deal with them through the grace of Jesus and the enablement of the Holy Spirit. And there probably will be some wonderful, exciting, and amazingly blessed days as well. On those days we will pause to recognize the kindness of God for granting them.

Sooner or later we will come to the end of our days. We will experience our last bad day. We will live out our final ordinary day. By staying true to Jesus “in season and out of season” we will hear those blessed words, “Well done, good and faithful servant… Enter into the joy of your Lord.” And then we will enjoy the greatest day of all, by far. And because of the cross and resurrection of Jesus, it will never end. What a Day that shall be!


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