This is not how it is supposed to be.
We can feel it. It shouldn’t be this hard. Sometimes it’s fine. And sometimes, it’s just not. Things seem so finely balanced sometimes that it only takes one more thing…..one more knock….one more straw to break the camel’s back…..
And as we turn to our Bibles to seek God’s presence and comfort, we read that surely the righteous will never be shaken and that they will have no fear of bad news (Psalm 112:6-7). But there are times when we are shaken. There are times when our backs are breaking under the mental load and our emotional resources are at zero. And bad news terrifies us when we are teetering on the edge. Not one more thing out of the blue. No….not one more thing….
It can even make us feel worse. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. So if it isn’t that way for me, I must be doing it wrong.
But there’s a wonderful way that Wisdom Literature in the Bible works. It shows us what we aspire to, it shows us what the ideal is. We see this picture in many psalms and Proverbs. Proverbs 2:7-8 says that God “holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.” and we see this mirrored in Job when Eliphaz naively argues “Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed?” (Job 4:7). Demonstrably we know that bad things happen to good people. We see this clearly in Job who is upright and is innocent. Psalms and Proverbs shows us how it should be, what we aspire to, but Job allows us to understand that God sees the nuance of life. It allows us to see that God knows we will be shaken, and there will be bad news. But Job shows us that faithfulness is the key.
So no, it’s not supposed to be this way.
But we all know that it can be – or is.
So how do we not fear the bad news? For me, the moment of hearing bad news is not when the hard work is done. The work is done beforehand so that if the bad news comes our faith instincts are strong enough to provide a foundation for our resilience.
However, we can fear bad news when times are bad or when times are good. When times are bad, I fear bad news would be the straw that finally breaks me. So is it the bad news I fear, or my ability to deal with it? I might fear loss, tragedy and grief, but I’m also fearing the load I will need to bear. There is work to do here. Being honest about what it is that I fear gives me the specifics of what I can be praying for in the long term. Again – not “silver bullet” prayers in the moment – but doing the work before hand, speaking in open honesty to God about what I am scared of. I can be specific about what I am frightened about with God my father.
When times are good, I fear bad news that will take away the things I have – my job, my money, my health, my family. Right now, I am comfortable. I can cope. But I am scared of things being taken away.
In both cases, I need to be honest about my fears. In both cases I need to acknowledge that what I fear the most, is the area where I trust God the least. In both cases I need to talk to God – a lot – about my fears. I need to honestly open up to God that I am scared of my life getting harder, that I am scared of buckling under the pressure, that I am just not going to be able to bear it.
And then there’s another step. Psalm 112 says “They will have no fear of bad news”. We are looking to do the work to be honest about our fears and shore ourselves up against the bad news when and if it comes. We also need to do the work to get ourselves to the point where we are so sure of our trust in God, that the thought of bad news holds no fear for us. That is the development of a quiet confidence that if it does come, God will have us securely, and we will be able to weather it.
That takes more work and it takes time. That’s a daily practice – a short daily routine working through the psalms or the gospel of Luke, and meditating on what they say about God’s faithfulness, his sovereignty and his compassion. Being reminded and re-reminded of God’s great love and mercy shores up our faith and breathes strength into our souls such that when we think of the bad things that might happen, our fear diminishes and our trust in God increases.
It won’t always be this way. In the new heaven and the new earth, we are assured that there will be no pain or mourning. But while we wait, it is like this now. But God has not left us defenceless. We have his word where we can remember, and take comfort in, his character every day. We have prayer where we can meet him immediately, with no barriers. We are indwelt by the God’s Spirit who guides and guards us, and Jesus himself intercedes for us.
He did not leave us defenceless. He is with us and all around us. Grasp him with both hands.
When I said, “My foot is slipping,” Your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought be joy. (Ps. 94:18-19)
Our God is a God who saves. (Ps. 68:20)