Think back to the last time you had some tough news and consider how it affected you. How did you take it? We can adopt various coping strategies consciously or unconsciously – glib denial, rejection with anger or accepting it with faith. People talk about ‘taking it on the chin’, but does that mean with or without trusting God? Can you think of someone you know who has accepted bad news well? How about being told that you were like a mighty tree that blessed many people but that you were going to be cut down to a mere stump, bound with iron and bronze? Not a pleasant thing to be told but this is what happened to Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon 605-562 BC. None of us likes being ‘cut down to size’ let alone the idea of our recovery being prevented for seven years but it was the precursor to great things for the man who is famed for the ‘hanging gardens of Babylon’. You can read about this in Daniel 4. Perhaps you are facing hard news now – could this be a ‘tree stump moment’?
- ‘Never give up. Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine’ – Jack Ma
- ‘Acceptance doesn't mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there's got to be a way through it’ – Michael J Fox
- ‘Just like medicine anywhere else, I get to walk through life with people in the midst sometimes of their most difficult and challenging circumstances they've faced - a terminal diagnosis, bad news, poor prognosis - and also the most joyful times with people, like the birth of a new baby’ – Kent Brantly
- ‘Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend’ – Melody Beattie
Receiving bad news about your health, discovering that your house sale has fallen through or being bereaved are all events that have the potential to be devastating. There are many things we will have to face in life that could stress or destabilise us. No wonder that the top stressful events include bereavement, conflict, relationship breakdown, moving home and changing jobs. The way we deal with these things says much about us as people. A mature Christian has God as his refuge through the harshest storms. A person without faith in God has no safe place for it is only with Christ alongside us that we find grace within our situation. Don't expect a magic wand but do expect his companionship and the peace it brings. Peter Scazzero makes this interesting observation: ‘You can’t be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature’. The Bible records many people going through hardship but the majority of them come through because they learn that God is good, faithful and dependable.
- ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ – Romans 8:28
- ‘As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today’ – Genesis 50:20
- ‘But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold’ – Job 23:10
- ‘In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?’ – Psalm 56:11
If anyone should be shaken to the core by bad news, Job is the man.With one piece of bad news after another, Job’s conviction was of God’s unfailing goodness even if he were to die. That kind of trust and acceptance can take a life time. The Apostle Paul was content to live or die, knowing full well that God was for him and not against him. Another measure of God’s love is that he cares enough not only to give us good gifts but also to train us up through discipline. The ancient Psalmist knew what it was to trust God alone and the modern Psalmist Matt Redman wrote his song about doing just that even in the toughest of times after personal tragedy and the devastation of 911:
‘And blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name
Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
And when the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say, blessed be the name of the Lord’
Habakkuk shared such a confidence when facing hard news and it’s one that we can have too.These are not glib words or some kind of denial but words to impart strength and faith from those who have gone before:
‘Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!’ – Habakkuk 3:17-18
Consider the tough news that you face now or in the future and know that you don’t need to face it alone. Certainly you will need time for wounds to heal, hurts to ease and grace to see the hope of heaven beyond the immediate crisis. Moreover, you can face hard news knowing that God is with you, He will always be with you and will never fail you … even when you are stumped!
TAGS – beaten, defeated, empty, broken, hopeless, helpless, doubting, eternity, matter, priorities