Life + Culture

Beauty Is Born in Bad News

Beauty Is Born in Bad News

We live in a world of bad news.

It sweeps you away like a landslide: the middle-of-the-night call, the dire prognosis, the sudden job loss. Or it might just erode your sanity like a million raindrops in subtle rejections, disappointed hopes, and failed goals. Either way, we all know bad news. It comes to us as surely as the world is cursed.

If you receive enough of it, you may start to take self-protective measures. You look for refuge in cynicism, preparing yourself for the worst by only expecting the worst. Or you slide into apathy, telling yourself and others that you don’t really care what news comes. Or you hide away in isolation, avoiding any relationship or situation that might harm you.

You begin to dismiss risky opportunities out of hand. You don’t adopt a child, give to a missionary, cultivate deep friendships, or even ask someone out on a date — all for fear of potential bad news.

But there’s a better way.

Born into Bad News

Consider Psalm 112, a ten-verse portrait of “the man who fears the Lord” (Psalm 112:1). Bad news doesn’t harden this man into cynicism, numb him into apathy, or frighten him into isolation. No, his response to this world’s trouble is as surprising as it is unique: “He is not afraid of bad news” (Psalm 112:7).

Not afraid of bad news.

It’s not because bad news doesn’t come. The man of Psalm 112 knows the oppressive weight of darkness and the plots of enemies (Psalm 112:4, 8). He even makes decisions that all but guarantee bad news: fighting for justice in a corrupt culture, giving his money to the poor (Psalm 112:5, 9). Apparently, the prosperity-gospel promise of no bad news failed for this righteous man.

Bad news burdens all of God’s people, no matter how righteous. Joseph tasted the pain of hope deferred, from a pit in the wilderness to an Egyptian prison. Job felt bad news fall on his head like breakers: his cattle, then his kids, then even his own skin. John the Baptist heard whispers of a beheading as the guards approached his cell. And Jesus himself listened to his own people shout, “Crucify him!”

“Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7) — which means we are born into a world of bad news. But the man of Psalm 112 remains unafraid. “His heart is steady; he will not be afraid” (Psalm 112:8). How? Why?

Dead Wheat, Living Fruit

The author of the psalm gives us the answer: “his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7). He is unafraid of bad news because he trusts in the Lord. It’s a good answer, but we could use some handles. What about the Lord did he see that steadied his shaking heart?

The righteous man simply knew that his Lord would not let bad news have the final say. Jet-black clouds of bad news might be rolling toward him, but he knows the sunshine of God’s good news is in tow. “Light dawns in the darkness for the upright” (Psalm 112:4); he will look “in triumph on his adversaries” (Psalm 112:8). As this man traced God’s providence in the stories of Scripture, he saw a pattern emerge: God brings good news to his burdened people as surely as he brings sunshine after rain.

So Joseph’s painful imprisonment gives way to an appointment as prime minister. Job’s misery simmers for thirty-some chapters, then breaks forth into a new family and fortune. The Baptist’s beheading transfers him from prison to paradise. And the bad news of Good Friday entombs the Son of God, only to have the stone roll away on Easter morning. Jesus himself was cast down dead in the dirt like a grain of wheat — and the world still cannot restrain the fruit from that death (John 12:24). Our good-news God gives “a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit” (Isaiah 61:3).

It’s not that the ashes, mourning, and faint spirit aren’t real. They are — as real as Jesus’s tomb. But like the tomb, they’re also temporary. You may lie battered in a tomb of bad news for three days, or for a stretch of miserable months, or even for many sorrowful years. But Sunday is always coming, and God will exchange your death for resurrection.

Set it down as a theological axiom: for all who are in Christ, bad news prepares the way for good news.

Sing in the Rain

Our reflex may be to raise our self-protective walls, choosing cynicism, apathy, isolation, and a host of other building materials to shield us from the pain. But anyone who has sought refuge that way knows it’s no escape. The raindrops of bad news fall with enough regularity to wear through any shelter.

Our other option is to link arms with the man of Psalm 112, standing with him as he overlooks the vista of biblical history and sees God pierce the clouds of his people’s anguish. We will own his realism, on the one hand, and affirm that bad news is coming. But we also will share his trust in the Lord — the same Lord who turned a cross into good news of great joy (Luke 2:10).

When that sort of God is for you, you can see the storm approaching and stand unafraid.

More than that, you can sing even in the driving rain.

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