We were all horrified at the shootings in Atlanta this past week perpetrated by the gunman who took the lives of eight people before being stopped by the police. Eight lives cut short in a senseless act that is impossible to understand.
What I found just as disturbing was the police captain who gave the press conference to talk about the crime. He stated that the shooter was having “a really bad day for him and this is what he did.”
Having a bad day. And he killed eight people.
I have had a lot of bad days. Heart crushing loss and grief. Days I thought couldn’t get much worse. I’m sure most of us have faced such circumstances. Thankfully, they are rare, but they do happen. However, I did not unleash my frustration, hurt, or anger by killing someone. That isn’t a reaction to having a bad day. Not at all.
When I think of having a bad day, I consider some of those who have gone before me and left their testimony. I think of Job losing all that was dear to him. I think of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. I think of Moses coming off the mountain with the ten commandments after meeting with God only to see the people indulging in horrible sin. I think of David faced with the truth of his sin and the death of his own son. I think of the Mary and the disciples on the day Jesus was crucified and their hope was shredded.
What is the proper response to having a bad day? What did those who went before us do?
Job—In one day Job faced the loss of his livestock, the death of his servants, and the death of his children. His response: “Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.” Job 1:20 (NKJV) He didn’t rant or go after those responsible. He worshiped God in the midst of his grief.
Joseph—Joseph was a young man when his brothers conspired against him, threw him in a well, and sold him to be taken to Egypt as a slave. Years passed before Joseph and his brothers were reunited. After their father’s death, the brothers worried what Joseph would do to them since by then he was the second most powerful person in Egypt. When they fell to their knees before him, hoping for mercy, “Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good…”And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” Gen. 50:19-21 (NKJV)
Moses—When Moses came down Mount Sinai after talking with God and receiving the stone tablets with the ten commandments, the people had fallen into sin. They turned away from all Moses taught them and all the miracles they’d seen God perform. Moses had good reason to be angry. What did he do? “…So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain…” Deut. 32:19 (NKJV) This is after God wanted to destroy the Israelites for their sin and Moses interceded and begged God to forgive them.
David—Nathan the prophet came to King David to confront him with his sin of adultery and murder. David had taken Bathsheba in adultery and then killed her husband Uriah. When faced with the enormity of what he’d done, “…David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” 2 Sam. 12:13 (NKJV) David humbled himself instead of blaming others.
Mary and the Disciples—Jesus’ followers were there as he was crucified. Mary’s beloved son and the disciples’ teacher, whom they knew to be the Son of God, died and they could do nothing. While there were many reactions to Jesus’ death on the cross, we read this about the disciples and Mary, “But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.” Luke 23:49 (NKJV) We read after this that they were together, most likely praying since this was their habit as seen in the book of Acts.
What great examples of how to handle a “bad day” or the crushing hurt or grief that can overwhelm. We are to pray, be humble, ask God’s forgiveness for those who hurt us, worship God in the midst of our bad day, and consider that God works out all things to our good, when we are called according to his purpose. (Ro. 8:28)
Our response is not to be one of hatred or violence and likewise we are not to excuse those who act in this way. Instead, we must encourage the above attributes and promote love toward all. We must love as God loves us.