What a Difficult Day Can Teach Us

Photo by Chitto Cancio on Unsplash 

A Difficult Day

Yesterday was a difficult day for many people. Unless there is some on-going horror to be worked through, the dawning of another day changes the mood and gives perspective. In the West, a decent night’s sleep or an unexpected kindness can prove transformative. They remind us what whimsical creatures we are and how apt to let the enemy of the moment, be it pain or muggy weather or some disappointment, dominate our lives.

Yesterday I stayed off social media because I was feeling a little below par myself and was surprised this morning to see how many people had not only been having a bad day themselves but had been busy sharing their irritation with others. Sometimes the way that irritation is expressed speaks volumes, especially when listened to with the ear of love and attention. Of course, it is quite a big ask to listen to a ‘moaner’ lovingly and attentively! (Please note the use of quotation marks.) Sometimes, with the best will in the world, we can only conclude that they are out of sorts; sometimes we can glimpse a deeper pain within — and it does nothing to assuage that pain to talk about how much worse must be the experience of those in less affluent parts of the world. Pain is pain.

Monastic Prayer

One aspect of monasticism that is not always sufficiently recognized is that monks and nuns withdraw from the world, so to say, in order to be closer to it. Many people ask us for prayers, often specifying a particular outcome they desire. There is no harm in that and much that is good; but monastic prayer has to go beyond such specifics. It has to embrace all the pain and hurt, sin and failure, difficult days and disappointments, that we experience as human beings. I do not know what it is like to be a parent in Ethiopia watching my child die of starvation; I do not know the despair of someone locked into an over-crowded prison cell in South America; I do not know the agony of decision-making of someone who feels they must choose this minute between two evils. I do not know, but my own experience of difficulty and of a gracious God whose love and mercy are beyond anything I could ever dream or imagine, mean that these unknowns can be brought into prayer. 

Giving a Difficult Day Time

If a difficult day merely turns us in on ourselves or makes us snappy with others, we need to give it more time. Not everything is made plain all at once. Just as we grow physically and mentally over the years (or, at least, I hope we do), so does our understanding and our ability to use that understanding for good. We learn to reflect as well as react. We can turn a difficult day into a learning day. That may sound trite and obvious but with the challenges the world faces, it is not to be despised. Let us continue to pray for the G7 Summit, for those whose decisions affect us most personally, for ourselves and our impact on others. And as for those seemingly intractable problems, those we personally can do nothing about, let us entrust them to the mercy of God. God knows, and God will.

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9 thoughts on “What a Difficult Day Can Teach Us”

  1. Thank you !
    Sometimes in our weakness our prayers for the ongoing pain and suffering in the world , can seem futile , How are they making a difference , forgetting the power of our prayers in the hands of our all powerful God .
    I have a tendency to leave God out of difficult days or situations I face , take the whole burden on myself !
    Timely reminder for me to entrust more to Him as you say God knows and God will.
    To use a friends simple phrase .. go to the throne and not the phone !

  2. Dear Sr Catherine, I’m brought to humble silence & gratitude by your reflection today. I haven’t words to express how timely it is. Heartfelt thanks.

  3. Thank you for taking the time to write. My bad day happened to be Thursday, I didn’t handle it well and have many excuses but not of them worthy ones. I’ve never thought of it before as a learning day but I certainly will now. Best wishes

  4. Difficult days usually come back-to-back with unexpected blessings when we offer them to the Lord. I believe that what he wants from us is total dependency on his goodness and peace, a conversation at any time of the day or night that can change the order and shape of things. Even sleeplessness spent in prayer can bear us up and put a new complexion on the dawning day, when we are subject to all kinds of distractions and pressures. As the Psalmist says, ‘…at night my inmost heart instructs me’.

    Thank you and God Bless.

  5. Until it dawned on me to offer to God my pain directly within the turmoil of a bad day, I would scrabble around for an earth bound solution. Sometimes the distraction of say a walk, listening to the radio, can be good so as not to get immersed into hole of despair of a bad day, the only way to get an answer is to ask Him.

    And wait.

    Thank you Sr Catherine.

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