Frozen faucet - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Worshiping bad news

How do you handle bad news? There are a couple of different ways you can look at bad news, but when you get right down do it, bad news is bad news. It means sickness. It means difficulty. It means loss, sometimes of a relationship, sometimes of a life. Bad news comes in different forms, from people to messages to experiences. But no matter how it comes, it always comes.

We can’t escape bad news because we live in a broken world. And most of the time we can’t change bad news because it’s outside of our control. What we can change, is how we react to it.

Frozen faucet - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Frozen faucet - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 112:7.

They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.

Whenever I run across a verse like this that starts with an anonymous “they” I always want to find out who the verse is talking about. And doubly so in this instance because “they do not fear bad news” is a “they” I would like to know more about. Because if someone doesn’t have to be afraid of bad news, I would like to know what they are doing to be that way.

To find the answer to that question, you have to go to the beginning of the Psalm. Psalm 112:1 says, “How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands.” That is the “they” from verse 7. Actually the whole Psalm is talking about how the people who fear the Lord are benefited. What their lives are supposed to look like.

Do you know people who are driven by fear? They’re the people who always think the worst. The glass-is-half-empty types who can imagine the worst case scenario for even the best circumstances. Maybe you know someone who lives in a constant state of anxiety. Maybe that’s you. It’s not fun. Not at all. It controls your thoughts. It controls your actions. It keeps you pinned down in terror, projecting your worst nightmares come to life. And maybe you think you’re protecting the people you care about, but in reality you’re just driving them away. Fear is never a quality that makes someone a good friend.

And there is so much to fear in our world.

We live in a dangerous place. Even those of us “safe in the United States” can come up with myriad dangers that can control our lives. Car wrecks. Cancer. School shootings. Some people fear that they will lose their jobs, and in this economic climate it’s not unlikely. I know many people who have lost their jobs, especially most recently with Boeing pulling out of Wichita. Not old people. These are people with families and mortgages, not old enough to retire but probably not young enough to find another career path.

So how can you handle that kind of bad news without anxiety? How can this verse be true? Because at first glance it doesn’t make a lot of sense. You fear the Lord so you don’t have to fear bad news? Is that what it’s saying?

When I first read this, I thought what I usually think. This fearing the Lord isn’t the same as fearing bad news. In this context, fear of the Lord is more like reverence or worship, according to the Amplified Version. But what if it is the same concept? I don’t speak Hebrew, so obviously I don’t know. But what I do know is American culture. And Americans are good at revering bad news. Because it creates drama. It creates action. It shakes us up, and those who are not affected by the bad news get a show. Or they are entertained. As a culture, we worship bad news.

Even some believers worship bad news in a twisted way. They don’t like it when it comes, but they focus on it. Bad news arrives (because it always will in our broken world), and it stops us in our tracks. And we zone in on it and refuse to move on. And even though we hate it and even though we would give anything to make it go away, we stop and build an altar to it and make daily sacrifices to it. We worship our bad news.

Guess what?

You don’t have to.

When bad news inevitably comes, recognize it and keep moving. You don’t have to stop and build a monument to it. It’s okay to recognize it, but don’t stop your forward momentum. God has us all on a path and wants us to move forward. But so many of us get stuck in a rut mulling over our bad news day after day until we don’t even remember what God had planned for us to begin with.

Bad news can only stop you if you let it. The more you fear it–the more you worship it–the weaker you’ll be and the more time you’ll waste.

Fear God. Recognize that God is the one who can get you through your bad news. Focus on Him. Not on your circumstances. Not on your situation. No on your frustrations. Bad news will come. It always does. But don’t fear it and don’t let it throw you.

You don’t have to be afraid of bad news.

Little pink flower on Glen Eyrie hiking trail

How does God want us to live?

I’m not sure people understand what it means to seek God’s will. Seeking God’s will sounds so poetic and so epic. And Christians are forever seeking God’s will for their lives as though it’s some ethereal concept that no one can really understand. But the pure and simple definition of “seeking God’s will” is: how does God want us to live?

The answer is in Scripture. So if you’re not willing to read Scripture and you’re not willing to listen to people who do, you aren’t going to find the answer to that question. No other philosophers know. No other Christians under their own authority know. No experience is going to teach you.

There are many parts to God’s will, many components to how He wants us to live our lives. And I think many of us, even those of us who read Scripture and try to apply it consistently, forget sometimes that God has given us commandments about how to live. It’s not an issue of Him suggesting that we do something and giving us the option of obeying or not. No. There are specific principles in Scripture that we are commanded to obey.

Granted, it doesn’t mean that we’ll go to hell if we don’t obey. If we believe in Christ, we’re saved. Period. But many who have struggles in their lives might not have so many struggles if they were to take God at His word and actually live the way He says.

Little pink flower on Glen Eyrie hiking trail
Little pink flower on Glen Eyrie hiking trail – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s passage is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

I don’t think it can be plainer than that. I know it can’t get simpler, at least in concept. Actual application can be challenging, but if you want to know God’s will, here it is.

Christians are always to be joyful. It doesn’t matter where you came from or where you’re going. Be joyful. Remember that joy is different than happiness. Happiness depends on your situation. Joy supersedes your circumstances. If you have Christ in your life, you have joy. If you follow Christ, then even on your worst day, your joy should be greater than your situation because this world isn’t home. We’re just passing through here and our trials are light and momentary compared to the awesome eternity God has in store for us.

Christians are never to stop praying. It should be constant. Without ceasing. We should live a lifetime of prayer, constant communication with God. And it shouldn’t be the cute little prayers we learn as children. It should be personal, individual, in your own voice talking to your friend God and telling Him about what’s going on in your life. Praying for the people you love. Praying for yourself. Praying for everything, even the requests you think are small and insignificant.

And Christians are to be thankful in all circumstances. Good, bad or indifferent. Why do we think difficult circumstances give us the option to complain? Why do we think a bad day gives us a reason to grumble?

I struggle with this because bad days can really get me down. And it’s not bad to be down. Everyone has bad days, and everyone feels down every now and then. What’s bad is when you stay down. What’s bad is when you get so focused on the bad things in your life that you can’t see what God is doing. If you are at the point where you can’t see God working in your life and in the lives of people around you because all you can see is how bad you have it, stop what you’re doing right now and talk to Him.

Make a list of the things you have. Make a list of the things you’re thankful for. And if you can’t make a list for yourself, ask someone close to you to do it for you. Because I guarantee everyone has a page full of things to be thankful for. Those of us who forget are just so focused on ourselves that we can’t remember. And there’s always something in our own lives that someone else would kill to have–and we take it for granted.

The Message says it this way:

Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.

If we can do this, if we can really grasp these things and really live this way, it will change our perspective. It changes our lives completely. And suddenly the situations and circumstances that are weighing us down become non-issues. Because nothing can steal our joy, because we get to tell God about it and know that He will help, and because something God will always come out of it so we can be thankful even during the worst troubles.