“What do you want first, the good news or the bad news?”
It’s a question that gets asked often, carrying with it an embedded philosophical premise. Often with philosophical (and other) questions, I like to answer them in turn with a question. Such as …
Q: “What do you want first, the good news or the bad news?”
A: “How do you know the difference?”
Let’s think about it. Isn’t that a fair question? Another response invokes a similar reflection … “It depends”
The thinking on this point came up during my daily reading this week from Mark 5 – 8. In particular, Mark 8:31-33 frame the area of focus. In this passage, Jesus, continues to reveal His mission and purpose to the apostles …
Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
Now this is a relatively well-known passage that when rendered in Matthew’s gospel tends to focus more on Peter’s confession of Jesus as Messiah (which is incredibly important, don’t get me wrong). But here, I want to focus a little more about the implications of Peter’s rebuke to Jesus upon His opening up to them about His mission.
My reason is relatively simple. Note Jesus’s rebuke of Peter … “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” This was after Jesus told the apostles the GOOD NEWS. The problem is, they saw it as the BAD NEWS. And perhaps it was both … but what differentiated the truth of the matter was an issue of perspective, and it’s an issue with which we contend daily. So I guess my hope in this message is to encourage us to carry the proper perspective, and to help us understand what that perspective is.
Just recently, our 17 year-old son shared with Helen and me that he wanted to stop playing football at his high school. We were disappointed for a host of reasons, most of which surrounded our strong belief that football is good for him … in general and in particular. After a lot of conversation, consternation and consideration … and arguing amongst one another … and most importantly, prayer, Helen and I capitulated. But it was provided that he find something else to formally commit some extracurricular time to rather than just going to and from school every day. His gift has always been drumming, so we suggested this as a way to get the creative thinking underway. Fast-forwarding … we’ve seen God’s handiwork and splendor in ways we would never have thought possible. We were sulking, but God was orchestrating. Now, our son’s had a reinvigoration of his love of music, and has been growing in his talent even more than Helen and I would ever have imagined. Bad news. Good news.
In 1998, I was diagnosed with diabetes. A crushing bit of news at the time, though hardly a surprise based on my eating and exercise habits (or in the case of the latter, the lack of habits). The following year, a tumor was found in my hip. Bad news all around. Except, by virtue of those developments and numerous other things in life at the time, I used the issue with my pancreas (the diabetes) and my hip (the tumor) to strengthen my knees … by bending them in prayer to God and accepting Christ as my Savior. The good news.
My point is this. We go through life with innumerable events and circumstances daily. Many of those are legitimately bad things. And they’re bad on the order that anyone would agree. And please don’t misunderstand me … I’m not trying to deny that bad things are bad things.
However, some bad things aren’t always bad things. Sometimes bad things are good things, as I’ve proposed above. It really comes down to a matter of perspective. Peter and the rest of the apostles were rightly upset about Jesus’s disclosure of what was to come. Who can blame them (except perhaps those of us looking back in hindsight)? This was their beloved Leader, Teacher, and Friend telling them He was about to be tortured and killed. Bad news. But they missed the greater good in the news … they saw the news only in human terms, not in terms of the good that God would bring through it. That was Jesus’s admonition, and it’s our lesson. So, what do we take from this lesson?
First, I think we have to trust that God really does have a plan, that He really is sovereign, that He really does love us more than we can imagine, and that He really is constantly at work bringing all these things together out of that love for His glory. That’s a pretty big deal and certainly chunky enough to chew on, on its own. More than that, though, I think it means we have to learn to trust those facts in the day-to-day here-and-now. But we have to have a balance.
We can’t over-spiritualize things that happen. If we’ve been longing for a new car and we happen to get a flat tire, let’s not assume it’s God sending a message that He wants us to buy a new car. Maybe he wants us to buy a new tire.
We can’t under-spiritualize things that happen. If things get hairy, let’s not assume it’s because life just sucks and that’s how it is. Let’s try to push through the pain, trust that there’s a bigger picture and wait (as hard as that might be). Maybe just down the road … in, through, or despite us … God uses the suckiness of life to show us some grander blessing that would have been impossible without the suckiness. Who knows? Only Him.
Good news? Bad news? It’s hard to say. Sure … a murder or a rape or other similar stuff is NEVER a good thing. But God can allow good things to happen through them. So let’s not be so quick to figure out a bucket to put life’s events into. Let’s live by faith and let God figure out the bucket.
Trusting God in the good AND bad,