What do you do when you just can’t take any more bad news? When death comes in threes and screens squawk chaos and the whole world seems to be collapsing? When the most wonderful time of the year collides with the most awful time for some?
Grab hold of the Good News.
Pull it close to your beating chest.
Inhale its promise of resurrection, not just for the next life but for right now.
Like the drummer boy’s pa rum pum pum beat, the promises of God pulse on amidst the whirlwind of our world. This steady truth isn’t cold consolation but cosmic comfort. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow even when our yesterday is regrettable, our today unbearable and our tomorrow uncertain (Hebrews 13:8). God’s faithfulness is undeterred across the generations, the governments, the ghoulish acts of man (Psalm 100:5).
Didn't the angels appear to the shepherds who were keeping watch over their flock on that long, dark night say, "Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (Luke 2:10)?
Because all of God’s promises – for love and peace, hope and healing, joy and freedom, justice and mercy, redemption and reconciliation - are a resounding yes in Christ Jesus the Lord (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Jesus is the Good News, who took on all the bad news when He came in a cradle and when He carried the cross on His back. So instead of being wild-eyed children wrecked over a wicked and washed-up world, our hearts can beat wild for Him when our eyes are fixed on Him. We can let the Word wash over us, center us, calm us and encourage us, because the Word died for us in order to speak life over us (John 17:17).
So when a little girl named Olive stops breathing, remember Jesus, the true vine of heaven, who once took another child by her hand and said, “Get up!” (Mark 5:41). He beckons us to get up, awaken to Him by grabbing hold of Him, so that we will become His hands and feet who go and pray and tell the Good News to raise souls for eternity (John 1:14).
When you’re holding your breath and clinching your teeth, ask God to breathe His breath of life into you once again so that you can live – abundantly! - among the walking dead (Genesis 2:7, John 10:10). Because even when a spirit has left a body, the Holy Spirit is still present, coursing through us, renewing us and quickening us to follow Jesus.
“But I am like a flourishing olive tree in the house of God; I trust in God’s faithful love forever and ever” (Psalm 52:8).
So when the mama of young children is swallowed up by cancer, declare that death has been swallowed up in victory, when Jesus died and went to hell and fought and rose again and won all our bloody battles (I Corinthians 15:54). Because declaring anything less is just too much to bear. And we can bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ by taking those burdens to Christ and remembering that He already carried them on the cross for us (Galatians 6:2).
Jesus is the vine, the source of any power worth having, who hung on a tree so that we can live and thrive and bear fruit of the Holy Spirit. This is why Jesus calls us to remain in Him, for apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).
But when the bad news keeps coming, it can be hard to remember that Jesus came at all. The Good News seems like fake news and the Fall hits us hard.
This fight isn’t just emotional or situational. It is spiritual war. But we can’t fight a war with the flimsy weapons of worry or the “what you should have done's”. We fight by taking up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). We abide in Jesus, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, who fights our battles for us (Psalm 46:7).
So hoist the banner of the gospel high above the bad news. Wave it defiantly, believing that these circumstances, whatever they may be, are temporary. Because this world is not our forever home.
And we can bellow a guttural cry of “where, oh death, is your sting?” when family dies and relationships end and our eyes sting from grief (I Corinthians 15:55). Because the unseen is eternal and an elation of the soul, and we can exhale hope because heaven is real and is coming and came for us (2 Corinthians 4:18).
This is Christmas.
And while we may be gravely disappointed now, we who are in Christ will not be disappointed in the grave. Because the hope of resurrection is real.
“This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5).
Let this Good News transplant your weary heart into a rejoicing one. So the long dark night becomes a holy night, a thrill of hope where the weary world rejoices. Remember - Good News came in the midst of no news at all, for 400 long, somber years.
So when the old man meets his Maker, his body healed from constant aching, from the hard jaunt across the room that squeezed his lungs and pounded his 90-year-old joints, remember that those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will run and not grow weary, not just in this race of life but in the greater one to come (Isaiah 40:31).
“Therefore, we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary and light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Do. Not. Give. Up. Focus on the Good News, the incomparable eternal weight of glory that far outweighs any bad news in the light of here and now.
Declare to the darkness that the never-ending God is working – for us!- to make all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Because Jesus is life, and that life is the light of mankind that dispels the shadows of setbacks and suffering (John 1:4).
Like a cloud by day, the Lord shelters us from the things in this life that try to burn us up (Exodus 13:22). He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1).
So when a teenage girl’s heart beats by machine, her body lying in a hospital ravaged by infection, the children of God lay prostrate before their Father, pleading for her to dance again - for her wounds to be healed. And our own hearts beat strong as we plug into the Spirit of God who prays for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26).
By His wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). This is the very best news.
Fix your eyes on the One who never leaves or turns His back on you (Deuteronomy 31:6). Abide in the One who came for you, not in what is coming at you. Because the flaming arrows of the enemy will always keep coming (Ephesians 6:16). But why wallow in the bad news when the Good News has come? Take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ, because Jesus renews the thoughts of our minds amidst the old wondering ways of this world (2 Corinthians 10:5).
And remember: The Word, who was with God and is God, has the final word (John 1:1).
When those flaming arrows do come, threatening to pierce your faith, remember Jesus is the all-consuming fire who was pierced for our transgressions (Hebrews 12:29, Isaiah 53:5). He leads us as fire in the longest, darkest night, just like He did for the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 13:21). Indeed, He is in the fire with us, holding and keeping us brave, just like He did for Daniel’s friends in the furnace (Daniel 3:17). And when the valley deepens and our hearts sink with it, Jesus is our good shepherd who leads us through the hardship and heart ache.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need. He lets me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; he leads me along the right paths for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:1-3).
Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. He carried the cross and all our weight of worry on His back, like a shepherd carries a lamb across his shoulders, so we can know He will deliver us from the wolves that growl and snarl and threaten us.
Live like you know the Good News came, even though the bad news keeps coming.
“Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger,for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
Cosmic comfort is what we’re offered in the Good News of Jesus Christ. Fear not for what has come or what you dread is coming. He is with you, on the longest, darkest night, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
So when a relationship shatters into a million jagged pieces and the fiancé gives back the ring, rejoice that the Father runs toward us, quick to cover us with His robe of righteousness, and slip the ring of eternity right onto our souls (Luke 15:22).
When bad news seems to outweigh the Good News, press on even as you are being pressed, like olives crushed to create pure anointing oil.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5).
These promises are the true present of Christmas. The crushing precedes the overflowing. So even when bad news comes, we can know it’s a precursor to the Good News. And we can draw near to God, open His gift of covenant, even if we come to Him belly crawling and bloody. Because He is near the broken hearted, and His blood heals and saves and sustains us (James 4:8, Psalm 34:18, Revelation 12:11).
And we rejoice that the Creator of the universe stoops low to hear our prayers, to answer us and tell us great and unsearchable things in the mystery of His salvation (Psalm 86:7, Jeremiah 33:3).
Fight the bad news with the Good News. Drink from the well that never runs dry (John 4:14). Extinguish the enemy’s fiery attacks with the rivers of living water that flow deep from within you (John 7:38).
When things feel more hellish than holy, when you’re weak like the woman bleeding out, drained by what’s been done or undone or will never be done, when you’re just reaching for the hem of Jesus - remember Bethlehem. That nothing special place, the House of Bread that became the birthplace for the Bread of Life. Remember the One who hems us in, behind us and before us, and Who lays His hand of blessing – not condemnation - on us (Psalm 139:5, Romans 8:1).
On these advent days, when we’re rehearsing in our own hearts what or Who we’re waiting for, let's remind ourselves of the Rescuer who came - and who still comes - for us. The God baby came squealing, and I just want to scream for God to come again, to relieve us from this world that caws cruelty like a crow.
But until then, we wait. We watch and we work for Him, abiding in Him. We become Bethlehem, the place where blessing is birthed, and hearts are fed because we’re sharing the Good News and Jesus is working miracles through every morsel and crumb we have to offer.
Jesus will come again, making our darkness like morning (Job 11:17). And even now, His mercies are new every morning because great is Thy faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23). And I wave the white flag to surrender and agree with everything in me when everything else disagrees, “Only goodness and faithful love will pursue meall the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6).
Because Jesus, the Messiah, is the One who came and is the One who does the pursuing, even as the bad news keeps pursuing you. And yeah, the enemy may bruise your heel but remember - Jesus crushed his head (Genesis 3:15). His Good News doesn’t run out.
And, of course the enemy works in the dirt, where pits are made and dirt is slung and issues get muddy. But we fight the bad news with the Good News. How else could we dig our way out? Only by digging deep into His Word, each verse a seed, each promise a step to a ladder lifting us closer and closer to Him - the Root of Jesse, the Good Shepherd, the Good News, the Word who became flesh and made His dwelling among us (Isaiah 11:10, John 1:14).
And I set the Good News before me, again and again and again, letting the gospel go round and round my own broken heart until it is bound to His. And Jesus brings resurrection, raises my heart and mind and soul and strength right up, as sure as the rising sun.
The One who let Mary hold Him while He was holding the whole world, holds and keeps us now. The Good News fights our bad news for us.
He comforts and assures us.
He lingers with us in our laments.
Jesus abides in us as we abide in Him. And I can find rest and peace in His promises.
“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live” (Psalm 23:7).
When you just can’t take another ounce of bad news, fight back in faith, for the good fight of your faith. Jesus, the Lord of Heaven’s Army, is holding the shield of faith for you.
Take hold of the eternal life to which you have been called, when parts of life are spiraling and being snatched away (I Timothy 6:12). Boldly proclaim that even when the little girl dies, the teenager loses a limb, the relationship severs, the mama leaves her babies and the old man’s race is complete, those of us who are in Christ can never be snatched from His nail-scarred hands (John 10:28).
And I press on to take hold of the Good News for which Christ Jesus took hold of me (Philippians 3:12).
And we rejoice, because this is not our home. The best is yet to come. This is the very best news.