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Preliminary Thoughts on Bad News

Twenty-eight million newspapers published every day. No matter the stories, each contains a coin. A local sports victory brought for one a night of celebration, and another a period of mourning. Each life celebrated in the obituaries was written by a trembling hand. Every time a stock was altered a family went on a vacation while another goes back to the drawing board for how they will make it through. Stories of crime bring a distrust in the world, and stories of hope will motivate people to go make a change. Even the cartoons and puzzles help remind us of how complex the world is-how many people are receiving news.

Greater than twenty-eight million is the number of people that receive news of a different kind: the kind of news that makes you wish you could reverse your senses to never have registered the information. It is the moment that feels more real than any of the previous ones.


I have written already about grief, and I am not describing this response. I am describing the moment. The moment where a combination of sounds or symbols alters your heart so deeply that your body shuts down. Some faint at the hearing of this news, some vomit, some release a cry or sob. It is as if our mind is a child about to wander into an adult store and our body is the parent, desperately trying to get our attention in other ways to get us to forget what it saw.


Your eyes dart around, or your mouth utters pointless questions. Maybe if you speak the thoughts won’t resonate. Maybe if you see something distracting, your heart will become occupied with that.


I find it interesting how after losing someone, or being diagnosed with an illness, or getting fired, we think about how that loss affects other parts of our lives. Maybe after injuring a leg we get angry over not being able to play in the game next week, because the reality of not being able to walk tomorrow is too tough to handle.


Then there is another part that really intrigues me: the part that feels happy. I have never talked to anyone about this so I don’t know if I am alone on this thought, but sometimes when I receive bad news, I feel a deep sense of happiness and peace. Maybe it is because by losing something, I am really being drawn towards the thing: Christ. I am not saying that God creates the bad news, but I am saying that He is capable of taking the place of what was once there, and as your body vomits, or your mind races, He comes behind like a fellow snowboarder on a hill right before you are about to fall, and guides you down the mountain. He shows you how to keep living.


Maybe in a world of news, I forget that I have received the news: that there is a saviour that died for me and loves me more than I can fathom. That is true whether my phone screen is full of updates and my mailbox is full, or whether I have cancelled all subscriptions. What would it look like if I read the news as much as the other news?


This will not ensure the wind will never be knocked out of me. However, it will ensure that I will breathe again. And if that breath returns, then like the declaration of Spartacus, the rest of me will follow suit.


Because whether we are the beggar, handicapped for decades, or we are Jairus trying to save a dying daughter, there is a constant choice to bring our news before God and say “this is what I have seen and heard. You have the power to change it, and the love to sit with me in it. Let me cling to the news of your Son more than I cling to the news I come to you with. Show me how to breathe again.”


And perhaps miraculous things will occur and the bleeding woman will recover, or Lazarus will rize. Or maybe, like Ezekiel, who lived and died in exile with His people, was able to look back at his life and say, “The Lord is There” (Ezekiel 48:35); not because God changed his news, but because he was apart of a greater story that would be the news need for the salvation of the world.


I think that is the true beauty of the news: whether we find pain or joy in what we read and see, we are reminded that the world is bigger than us. We are reminded that we are not the hero of the story. We can either fight for this like a kid punching the waves, or we can surrender to the current and cry out, “In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:10), “Kingship belongs to the Lord, He rules over the Nations” (Psalm 22:28).


I have received news that my knee is torn for the third time and I will need a fourth surgery. I finally got a prominent acting role I will now have to turn down. I was supposed to take my guys to camp in a couple months and cannot take part in the activities. I was supposed to take on a physical internship this summer. I was supposed to hike a 22,000 ft mountain in December. I was supposed to be able to play basketball with my kids one day. “I was supposed to..” What a silly phrase. It is as if I believe I lived my past years so well that I earned these things. I did not earn the capability to type these thoughts, much less think them. Yet, the human in me wishes to dwell in the “supposed to;” the “what could be” rather than “what is.”


The moment that I come back from trying to fight the ocean is the moment that peace is found. Not necessarily in an understanding of my situation, but in an understanding of God is. That is enough. Even if I do not acknowledge the ocean’s power, the ocean still has power. If I do not acknowledge that God will bring me peace, He still is the only one that can do it. I cannot let what I read and hear distract me from who gave me the capability to read and hear.


If there are twenty eight million people receiving news of one kind right now and even more receiving other pieces of news, my heart rests well knowing that God is guiding every one of them down the slope. His hands are better than mine.


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