Book Review: What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life by Brian Zahnd

04 Mar

What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life by Brian ZahndThis is the book I want with me when all hell breaks loose and I am battling the worst day of my life.

I have had some difficult days, some challenging days, some tearful days, but on the worst day of my life would somebody please hand me a copy of Brian Zahnd’s, What to Do on the Worst Day of your Life.

This book is more of a story than a how-to guide. Zahnd retells the biblical story of King David and the tragedy at Ziklag (1 Samuel 30:1-8, 16-20, 26). He masterfully weaves the reader into the story, so that like David, we feel the heartbreak, the disillusionment, the turn-around, the grace-infused renewal, the righteous anger, the thrill of victory, the celebration of recovery, and the proclamation of hope.

King David was having a bad day. As Zahnd tells it: David went bankrupt, had his house burned to the ground, his possessions stolen, and his entire “family kidnapped by terrorists—all in one day [author’s emphasis]” (3). For sure this was a bad day, the worst day in David’s life up to this point.

Zahnd’s retelling of David’s story gives us an encouraging template, a heart-stirring testimony of grace and hopes, so that we cannot only endure our own worst days, but reach a place of full recovery. He peppers the retelling of David’s story with his own stories of struggle and celebration and he appeals time and time again to the Scripture. (There are 163 biblical references recorded in the “Notes” section in the back of the book.)

As an unfolding story itself, What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life does not offer a picture of naïve optimism or a catalyst for superficial emotionalism. This story is centered on the grace-filled message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Like David during his Ziklag experience, Zahnd explains that Jesus cried our tears, shared in our suffering, and defeated our enemies through the cross and the empty tomb. Because of God’s gracious gift of redemption, we can join David in getting a word from God, reorienting our vision, regaining our passion, attacking, and recovering all.

Zahnd uses not only the imagery of “success” and “prosperity,” which can so easily be misunderstood in our culture; he also uses the imagery of “beauty”and “restoration.” He writes:

Beauty is the final objective of God’s gracious work, and ashes seem to be His favorite medium. God is the creator of beauty and a connoisseur of all that is truly beautiful. God is an artist, His canvas is creation, and in our lives tears and ashes are often His oil and clay as a He works relentlessly to make something beautiful. (110)

According to Zahnd, God wants us to fully recover from our worst days, because salvation is “for the restoration of all things to God’s original goodness” (96). We can survive our worst days with the hope of the restoration of God’s original goodness for our lives. We can recover, but God will weave these “worst days” into our lives so we can rightly give to others and be sources of healing and encouragement for those who are suffering.

I highly recommend What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life. Read it before your worst day hits home. Read it on the worst day of your life and then give it to other people who are suffering during hard times.

This book is a glowing beacon of hope in the fog of uncertainty, discontent, and suffering.

[Brian Zahnd, What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life. Christian Life, March 2008. ISBN: 978-1-59979-726-7. Hardcover, $14.99. To order go to]

— Dr. Derek Vreeland

P.S. Here are some of the gems tucked away in this book. These are some of the lines I underlined, lines that stirred my thinking as I read.

“Powerful men wept until weeping had drained their power” (8).

“Yet, the tears of God are not tears of mere commiseration. These are holy tears that lead to our liberation…” (12)

“The leader will always be the one who can encourage himself when everyone else is discouraged. Had someone else encouraged himself instead of David, that man would have become the new leader. The ability to encourage yourself when everyone else is discouraged is an essential attribute of leadership” (34-35).

“We live almost all of our lives in memory and imagination—remembering the past and imagining the future. We encounter the past by memory, and we encounter the future by imagination….In order to be happy, humans need healed memories and hopeful imaginations” (59-60).

“Hope is the God way of imagining the future. A mind that is God-conscious, God-centric, and God-saturated will be full of hope” (60).

“At the Cross:

  • The debt of sin was paid in full.
  • Humanity was elevated from the fall.
  • Satan’s dominion came to an end.
  • The curse of the law was canceled.
  • Alienation became reconciliation.
  • Hatred was swallowed in love.
  • Death was swallowed in victory.
  • The cosmos was reclaimed for God” (89).

“Don’t let your personal tragedy or failure define your identity. Failure and loss are events, but they don’t have to become an identity. Failure and loss are things that happen to you, but failure and loss are not who you are. Your identity is defined in Christ. In your mystical union with Christ you share in His death, burial, and resurrection” (95).

“…prophecy is not for prediction but for hope and glory” (99).

“Through the Cross, God recovered all—for Himself, for humanity, for creation. God will restore all things through the death, burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the great mystery of the Cross” (101).

“Faith needs no other justification than the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection of the Son of God is the cornerstone for every hope of recovery” (104).

“This is the problem of being the center of your own universe but not having enough energy or substance to sustain your function as a star—you collapse in upon yourself and become a black hole” (120).

“Remember, your times are in God’s hand. He is the artist who has promised to weave all things in such a way that in the end your story will truly be a story of beauty, a work of art, God’s masterpiece that can never be marred or touched, His beautiful tapestry of grace” (138).

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Posted by on March 4, 2009 in Life, Theology



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