Good News/Bad News: It’s No Joke

Good news/bad news jokes have a way of popping up unexpectedly and adding a touch of lightness to our lives. Like this one:

The pastor reports on Sunday morning that the news is both good and bad. Then he tells his flock:

“The wind blew shingles off the roof last night, and the choir room is drenched.

“The good news is that we have the money to repair the damage.”

“However, the bad news is that the money is in your pockets.”

Stories like this may bring a chuckle, but they also reflect the way life often unfolds. Good news and bad news seem to descend on us, often nearly at the same time.

This thought came to me when I read a recent interview with Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback church in California. Not long ago he made news over his runaway best seller, The Purpose-Driven Life. The book had brought him fame and great wealth almost overnight. Great! Wonderful news!

But he is now in the news again, this time because his wife, Kay, is dying from an incurable cancer. After much prayer, the two have come to terms with what they are facing.

In his interview about this he says, “Life is a series of problems: either you are in one now, or you’re just coming out of one, or you’re getting ready to go into another one.” He also says, “I believe that [life] is kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and that at all times you have something good and something bad in your life.”

In saying this, Pastor Warren speaks from poignant experience. One day brings surprising news of great wealth to the family; the next brings notice of a great oncoming loss to the family. Both good and bad news come upon him on the parallel rails of life.

Can we draw lessons from this metaphor on how we should live? We are enabled to face both good and bad that come so startlingly close together with a measure of equilibrium when we see our lives in the context of eternity.

Rick Warren points this out when he says, “In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity….This [brief life] is the warm-up act -– the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity” — which is to let nothing dim our view of him in all his glory.

This is in complete agreement with what the Apostle Peter teaches Christians who apparently had been routed from their homes and “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bythinia” (1 Peter 1:1).

We are born again “into a living hope,” he writes (1Peter 1:3). We have “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). We know that “our salvation will be fully revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). All this is a treasure trove and will sustain us even while we “may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 1:6).

When the bad news comes, we also have God’s word through Paul: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

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