What to do when the news isn’t good
I lived in fear. After a series of phone calls—all announcing bad news—my chest tightened when I heard the phone ring. I didn’t start that way, but when one call came after another turning “bad” into “worse,” my body felt dread long before my mind created worrisome thoughts.
Even though I firmly believe in God’s sovereignty, life includes unpleasant, painful, and, yes, devastating realities. Pain comes with living in a normal world, but my post-phone-call life felt perpetually crushed.
Has life ever felt crushing?
At that time in my life, I didn’t know when the “beating” would stop. I kept telling myself that something good was just around the corner. Surely, something good was coming. Then the phone rang with another disappointment. The news squashed my hope—until hope was hard to find.
Sitting with a crushed spirit, I wrestled with my inner theology. If God loves me . . . (I’d finish the sentence with what made sense to me and not what the Bible already said about God’s love.) If God is sovereign . . . (I’d finish with ideas of how he could have prevented something or, even better, miraculously changed my life for what I determined was a better outcome.) My faith wrestling match put me, and my limited understanding, in judgement over God. I couldn’t win against God, but that’s not what I truly needed anyway.
If you’ve ever felt crushed by the realities of your life, you’re not alone. Even though I’m not in a pit of despair as I was then, I keenly remember my thoughts and feelings. My “just around the corner” something good never materialized—not in anyway I had imagined. But I’ve done better than simply survive my bad news. So can you. You really can.
The fact is that we survived our “news” one day at a time. When I look back, I see God’s hand of provision each step of the way. The biggest hurdle was getting over myself. Life didn’t turn out as I had wanted, and I had to let go of my will. My will and my way were king. This stance is a way to survive but not a way to live.
If you want to stop surviving and start living your life, take these steps when life hurts.
5 Steps to take when the news isn’t good
- Be angry. If you’ve been sinned against, anger is the right response. God is angry at sin too. Yet, being angry doesn’t give you permission to sin. Go to a counselor or godly friend who can help walk with you in your intense feelings of pain. Stuffing disappointment is a choice to explode later. If left unresolved, pain will erupt at an unexpected time when the feelings can no longer be contained. Imagine shaking a big bottle of soda and pointing the open bottle at someone you love. You don’t want to do that, not to someone you love. But if you don’t work through your anger, in a healthy way, it will hurt the people closest to you.
- Grieve. Anger says, “That was wrong! I want justice.” Grief says, “My heart hearts. I need comfort.” God gives both justice and comfort. Justice takes trust. Comfort takes vulnerability. Again, a counselor or godly friend can be an invaluable resource to help walk you through the grief process—grief takes time. Cry. Be sorrowful. Read the Psalms to hear grief freely expressed. The psalmists filled pages with words of grief—those words are there to help us as we grieve.
- Forgive. Whatever happened, forgive. Forgive yourself. Forgive the person (or persons) who hurt you. As a follower of Christ, forgiveness is uniquely knit to our salvation. Forgiveness isn’t optional, and God provides help for us as we work through the process.
- Take note of good. When we’re in the midst of our difficulties, it’s easy to hone in all our attention on the pain. All of life is seen through this lens. After processing anger and grieve, if your heart is ready to start living, take note of what is good. Where do you see God’s provision and goodness? It’s there. Lots of goodness stands waiting for you to discover and declare. Write what is good. This is one way you are speaking truth about your life because your life has not been altogether bad. Gratitude doesn’t erase the truth of genuine hurt, but it acknowledges the missing puzzle pieces of a complete picture of life as it is. Without taking note of good, our perspective is distorted. Complete the picture of your life by including thankful thoughts.
- Submit to God’s will. The wrestling match between our will (the way we wanted life to be) and God’s doesn’t end in our will winning. Moving forward from a place (or season) of pain requires us to submit our lives to his will and choose to trust him, believing he is working for his glory and our good. When I submitted my will, it felt like a death. But my decision to accept life as it was helped me close the painful chapter and start a new one. We choose to either submit to God or stay stuck in our pain.
Again, and again
I’ve walked through these steps more than once—even over the same loop-tape memory. When the memory catches me off-guard, the sting of anger and grief resurfaces. I start the process over. I allow myself to be angry. I grieve and receive the comfort God readily provides. I forgive, again. (For me, a big part of the pain is my own feelings of embarrassment. I forgive myself for being human.) I take stock of my life—I have very good life. I submit to God’s will. Again and again. Every time I revisit, and work my way toward submission, part of my soul opens up and frees me to live fully.
Where are you in your journey?
Are you feeling crushed? Angry? Grieving? Are you wrestling with forgiveness or submission to God’s will? Wherever you are, God working for his glory and for your God. Will you choose to cooperate with him? If you do, you get to experience “life to the full.”
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Imagine an open soul and freedom to live fully
God offers freedom to expand the wings of our soul in exchange for the prison of pain. He doesn’t choose for us, but he provides everything we need to live to the full. Will you take his offer of life today and make the first step? I’m happy I did. You will be too.
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What is Five Minute Friday?
This was originally posted for Five Minute Friday, but I expanded my thoughts from the original. If you want to read more on the word “news,” go here.
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