How to Have a Bad Day Well

Life is inevitably littered with bad days. No amount of optimism or wishful thinking will ever change that reality. Try as we might, some flus and colds we can’t quite prevent. Some nights we don’t sleep well. Flat tires, disappointing meetings, stressful assignments seem oddly impossible to eradicate. This is to say nothing of the little disappointments that happen in human relationships - being misunderstood or not getting a little encouragement when you need it. Not every day is five star day.

But not every day is awful either. They aren’t just good or bad; there is a lot in between. I propose another way to think about them:  one, two, or five talent days. Remember the Parable of the Talents? Jesus tells of a man who gives his servants different amounts of talents as he leaves for a journey. The servant with five makes another five, as does the servant with two. The servant with one talent, however, does nothing at all. He alone is reprimanded.


We have a lot of five talent days. These are the days when God’s blessings are most apparent. We wake up refreshed, feel healthy, enjoy the morning, find success at work, connect with friends or family, find prayer meaningful, and so on. At the end of the day, we experience great satisfaction for having used our time well. These are delightful days.


What about one and two talent days? They often look pretty similar on the surface. You are in bed sick (worse yet, running to the bathroom), fighting with your spouse, dealing with cranky children, feeling a little down in the dumps, having to force yourself to prayer when you don’t want to, and so on.  Oh, those typical frustrating days.  The difference, however, is in what we do with them. God is not expecting a five talent response out of us – he didn’t give us five. That’s ok. But he did give us something! If we are sick, a few little prayers and a smile to our caretakers are not meaningless. Making a simple dinner still fills the stomach. Offering a helping hand despite your bad mood still matters.  


In fact, it can actually be harder to tell the difference between a two and five talent day. So many times I have forced myself to go running when I thought I was too tired, only to run faster than I had in weeks. Other days I think I am too exhausted to work on homework any longer, only to sit down and do some of my best work (I am currently praying today is one of those days…). I walk into prayer thinking I would rather be in bed, but find a far better rest in the chapel. No, not every time, but sometimes. Great days like to disguise themselves – God draws us deeper into love with Him and neighbor beyond the superficial.  


The point is: you don’t ever have to have a one talent day. If you are alive, you’ve been given something. Life is God’s greatest blessing. The day is never a waste. Nor does it mean every day is a prize winner; sometimes we really don’t have as much to offer.  This lent, consider beginning the day by asking: “1, 2, or 5? Which is it today? What are you asking of me, Lord?” We can’t make every day perfect, but they are never meaningless.