Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Live fearless in the face of bad news

This isn’t what I planned to post today. I had a completely different thought in mind, but after the events of yesterday, I don’t think I could post anything else. How often do you wake up and expect that the day is going to be normal? You go to work or school or you stay home and do household chores. Whatever is normal for you. And then life T-bones you. It hits you so hard you can’t stop spinning. And the bad news keeps coming.

That was my Monday. I can’t go into detail. It’s all still awfully fresh. But I needed a strong reminder today to help me face the day with confident hope, and I hope if anyone else reads this, they find it too.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 112:7-8.

They do not fear bad news;
    they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.
They are confident and fearless
    and can face their foes triumphantly.

I’ve posted on this before. Probably more than once, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt it as strongly as I feel it right now. Our world is full of bad news. You can’t turn on the television or the radio or even read a newspaper or a Tweet without realizing how incredibly screwed up our world is. And as much as I wish Christ-followers could be immune, we’re not. We’re floundering in the midst of it with everyone else.

But do we have to flounder? Does the bad news we get have to shake us to the core of who we are?

No. As much as I don’t feel it today, I still believe that bad news doesn’t have to scare us. The news we don’t want to hear doesn’t have to destroy our lives or our families or our futures.

This Psalm is referencing people who revere or worship the Lord. That’s the they in the Psalm. Notice it doesn’t say that people who fear the Lord won’t ever get bad news. No, we all get bad news, no matter what we believe. But those of us who know God through Christ don’t have to see bad news as an end, because we know God has it under control.

It doesn’t mean we don’t mourn. It doesn’t mean we don’t cry. It doesn’t mean we don’t ache inside for the people who are hurting and the families that are facing such enormous heartache. There’s a time for that. And a time to grieve is good and healthy.

Just realize that you don’t have to be afraid of it. We can all trust that God is going to take care of it all, and we can face the challenges in our lives with confidence, fearlessly. Because the worst news we get on Earth can’t even touch the best news we’ve already gotten, and that is hope through Christ. No matter what we face here, no matter the heartache and the sadness and the pain, this world isn’t our final destination. And the day is coming soon when we’ll get to go home, and we won’t have to hear bad news ever again.

But until then, don’t fear it. God’s bigger and stronger, and even if life doesn’t turn out the way you hope, God won’t leave you to walk it alone.

Little flowers on Bolivar Island, Galveston, TX

Life may not be as bad as you think

I’ve mentioned that I’m in Kansas City at a copywriting seminar. Today is the last day, and I have to say I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve learned a lot and gotten to know some good people in the industry. But I learned something else yesterday, something beyond copywriting: I learned I have an awesome job.

Granted, I knew my job was great, but sometimes it takes really talking to other people in similar situations for me to grasp just what a great company I work for. I’m at this seminar with other people in my station who won’t be reimbursed for their parking, their meals, their gasoline. And I’m here being reimbursed for everything. I even have a company car to drive while I’m here.

It’s not that I’m not thankful for my job. I am. Every single day I’m thankful for it. But I’m not sure it had clicked in my head just how fortunate I am. On the bad days, it’s difficult. I’m not going to lie; this job has put me in tears many times. It’s full of frustrations and full of hard choices and big responsibilities, and I think some part of me had begun to take it for granted.

Many days I looked at my job as though it were something to endure, but what about these other people I’ve met at this seminar? They’re having to endure so much more than I ever have. And it makes me wonder if that’s not true all the time–that what I have to endure really isn’t as bad as I think it is.

Today’s verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Everyone knows we’re supposed to be thankful. Everyone knows that gratitude is essential. And most of the time, we do a pretty good job. I’d like to think I am a grateful person. I try to be. But it’s very difficult to be grateful when the ground is falling out from under you or when you’re doing your best to keep your head above water and more keeps pouring in on you.

When you’re a performance-driven person, it’s hard to truly see an ever-growing list of projects you will never complete as job security.

But the verse doesn’t say be thankful when you feel like it. It doesn’t say be thankful when everything is going right (or when everything is going wrong). It doesn’t put a time limit or a specific season when we’re supposed to be thankful. It just says be thankful and to be thankful in all circumstances.

So what does that mean? Face the day with a fake smile? Thank God half-heartedly and trudge on through the piles of work that would sooner bury you than cooperate?

Being thankful is a perspective. It’s a focus issue. If your default mode is gratitude, it makes a huge difference in how you face a day. And I think that’s where we need to be. I know that’s where I need to be.

We get so wrapped up in our own stories that it’s difficult to remember sometimes that other people’s stories might be full of more disappointments than ours. Other people might struggle more with things than we do, but it’s hard to remember that because sometimes all we can do is see our own trouble.

I’m not saying to stick with a job that you hate or with employers who take advantage of you. I’m not saying to stay at a job when you know God is calling you somewhere else. That’s not the case. But if you have a job where your needs are being met, where you are serving a purpose, where you are appreciated, and where you are being productive–be thankful. A lot of people don’t have that. And if you’re as fortunate as I am? Understand that we are in the minority.

I guess my thought this morning is that we need to have a default attitude of gratitude. Isn’t that cheesy? When we’re struggling and we feel persecuted, it’s easy to slip into endurance mode. And endurance is necessary. We need to keep going, to keep on keeping on no matter what is happening. But we also need to be thankful. And we need to keep our ears open. Because you never know how bad other people have it until you start listening and get your eyes off yourself. And once you understand how difficult life is for other people, your problems won’t seem so huge and you might even be able to see God working in your life in a way you hadn’t before.

So endure, yes. But be thankful first. It will make a huge difference in the way you view life and in the way you handle your troubles.

The simple life

I love the Bible. It’s truly the most amazing book I’ve ever read, full of every sort of story you can imagine. Every story that’s ever been written has roots in the Bible, whether people believe it or not. Today’s verse is so clear, so simple, so wonderful — I’m not even sure what to say about it. . . . .

The verse of the day was actually a single verse, but I went ahead and included the whole paragraph where it’s found. And if you want a truly awesome read, you should look at the whole chapter.

1 Peter 3:13-17

 13 Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way.[c] Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. 17 Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!

Don’t be afraid of threats. Worship God like He’s the only Person who matters to you, and if someone asks you why you are always full of hope, make sure you tell them why. Make sure you tell them that you have hope because of what Christ did for you. But . . . don’t beat them over the head with your salvation. Salvation isn’t a club to bludgeon people into submission. And the Word is a sword, but it’s not to stab unbelievers with. People who don’t believe in Christ aren’t our enemies. They’re just people God made who haven’t come back to Him yet, and usually the reason they left God and won’t come back to Him is because of Christians.

Live your life with a clear conscience. Always do what is right, even if it means that you will suffer for it. Live in a way that you have no regrets. Live a life looking forward and not mulling over things you’ve done that you can’t change. Live the way you’re supposed to — live the way Christ did — and don’t do anything to compromise your witness, and if you do compromise your witness, apologize. Do what you can to make it right.

And then, if people speak out against you, they won’t have any basis for it. Everyone who matters will know why you live the way you live, and everyone who matters will see the kind of life you live, and the people who say mean things about you will simply be branded as people who don’t know what they’re talking about.

We are called to be an unusual, peculiar people. People who love others in spite of what they do to us. People who help others less blessed than us even if we barely have enough to sustain ourselves. And, because of human nature, even if we live the way we’re supposed to, there will always be someone who hates us. The Bible says somewhere else that Christ was hated; so why do we expect to be loved if we live like He did?

I love verse 17. If we do wrong, we’ll suffer. That’s pretty obvious. So is it smart to do wrong and suffer for it when it’s not what God would have us do anyway? If doing wrong ultimately hurts us and hurts the people around us, why do it? Isn’t it better to do what is right, even if we’ll suffer for it? If we do what’s wrong, we have no defense. But if we do what’s right, God will back us up. And even though we might endure a little bit of suffering from people who don’t know what they’re talking about, in the end, we will have maintained our witness. Our consciences will be clear. And the people who are watching us (there are always people watching us) will see that we’re different, that we’re full of hope, and they’ll wonder why. And maybe, if we’re fortunate, they’ll ask us and we can tell them that we live for Christ and Christ alone.

Don’t be afraid. Live like Christ. Worship God. Know what you believe and why. And stick to it. 

It’s simple. It may not feel simple somedays, but it is.