A couple of months ago on a Friday afternoon I got an ominous email from my church. Well, not just me—everyone in our church got the email. As soon as I read it, I knew it was bad news.
This Sunday, July 17, we invite you to attend an important Church-wide Family Meeting at 6pm. There will be no childcare provided, but please know that the topic is serious in nature so we ask that children do not attend. The meeting will go until at least 7:30pm, though we encourage our family to plan to be there until 8pm. We appreciate you making this meeting a priority.
My heart dropped somewhere around my knees and a pretty un-Christian word popped out of my mouth. Texts flew between my church friends and me. I alerted my husband. We all agreed on one thing: It was going to be bad news.
And it was. Two days later on that Sunday night, I sat there, tears streaming down my face, looking up at the high ceiling on our church sanctuary and I begged Jesus to rip the roof off the building and come back, come back, NOW, please come and get us so we don’t have to go through this.
Obviously, despite my best pleading, we’re still here. And together as a church family, we’ve spent the last two months walking through the fallout of bad news. And God? He’s being so gracious and faithful to walk us through it.
As I write, I sit and think “This article might sound more credible if I had more experience with bad news.” Though not without its bumps, my life has been relatively bad-news-free. And yet, I often find myself afraid of its next visit. Six years ago this week I was the receiver and bearer of bad news, and to be honest, I can trace the anxiety I still get every time the phone rings to the exact instant I received the call that October day that said, “I’m sorry, the test results show your daughter’s speech language development is over two years behind. Her delays are significant. She will need at least 3-4 years of therapy.” Not two days earlier, I’d had to pick up the phone and hear the words “Grandpa died,” then dial my cousin and repeat those words to her.
It was quite a week, and it shaped my relationship with bad news.
But back to that church meeting. A couple of weeks after that pain-filled night, the grief still fresh (it was always grief, never anger in my case), I opened my Bible and—PLOP!—just like a cliché from a Christian young adult novel, its pages parted at the exact passage I needed to read. I am sure that at some point in my decades of Bible-reading and Christian school, I must’ve read it before, but I never recall reading Psalm 112 before that moment, when I read:
6 For the righteous will never be moved;
he will be remembered forever.
7 He is not afraid of bad news;
his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
8 His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,
until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.
Few words have shot straight into my heart like those in verse 7. They lodged and burned there as tears rolled down my cheeks and onto the concrete floor of my front porch. I felt at once comforted and convicted, joyful and ashamed, heartbroken and healed.
The truth ran through me and would not be denied: I am afraid of bad news.
I have chosen to be afraid of bad news.
And then the joy:
I DON’T HAVE TO BE AFRAID OF BAD NEWS!
I don’t have to be afraid of bad news because I already know the good news.
When I sat in that church pew begging God to rip the roof off, I was on the right track. I KNOW how it ends. The good news is that the bad news telegram has already been intercepted and rewritten by Christ’s death on the cross. The bad news—that I deserve to spend my life here and in the hereafter separated from God— has been nullified by a Savior who took. my. place.
Isn’t that the MOST AMAZING GOOD NEWS?
But wait…there’s more!
There will be more bad news. And that’s also good news. I have seen first-hand that this is true:
2 Count it all joy, my brothers,2 when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1: 2-4
And this! A verse I have carried in my heart for so long and never truly understood until the aftermath of that bad news phone call six years ago this week:
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that lthe power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
II Corinthians 12: 9-10
That phone call about my daughter six years ago wrecked me, but it also made me. I was totally unprepared to give her what she needed to overcome her delays and succeed, but God…God was sufficient. He took my fear and my pain and my ineptness and He made me STRONG. He equipped me to handle the demands of a newborn, a 7-year-old, and a million therapy appointments, phone calls, and evaluations for a preschooler. He made me a semi-professional speech language pathologist and an occupational therapist. Within 18 months, not 3-4 years, my child was fully caught up with her peers…and I was a different mother. A better mother. One who had been completely emptied of herself, filled with God’s strength, and emptied out again.
I wouldn’t take back that bad news for anything.
Not every story will have a shiny ending here on earth. I know that. My church’s story is still ongoing, but there have been incredible, joyful moments of beauty in the midst of darkness and tears.
And this I know: No matter what, my story will end in heaven, despite the bad news I endure here on earth.
I’m not afraid anymore.
Because I’ve already heard the good news, and I know how this ends.