Good news/bad news jokes add a touch of humor to our lives. Like this one:
A pastor reports to his congregation on Sunday morning that he has both good news and bad news for them.
He tells them: “The bad news is that last night’s storm blew a hole in the roof and there is a lot of water damage in the choir room.” The people respond with a concerned murmur.
The pastor goes on: “But there’s good news. The good news is that we have all the money we need to repair the damage.” The people brighten.
“However,” the pastor adds, “the bad news is that the money is in your pockets.” Spontaneous laughter erupts but sounds a little nervous.
Stories like this may bring a chuckle, but they also reflect the way life often unfolds. Good and bad news both descend on us, sometimes too close to each other for our liking.
This thought came to me some time back when I read an interview with Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback church in California. You recall that he made news over his runaway bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life. The book had brought him fame and great wealth almost overnight. Great! Wonderful news!
But shortly thereafter he was in the news again, this time because cancer had struck in his family. After much prayer, he and his wife came to terms with what they were facing.
Shortly after receiving the news, in an interview he said, “Life is a series of problems: either you are now in one, or you’re just coming out of one, or you’re getting ready to go into another one.”
He also said, “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 running in your life.”
A decade has passed, but in saying this, Pastor Warren spoke from his own poignant experience. One day had brought surprising news of great wealth to the family; the next brought the threat of great loss. So it is for all of us.
Can we draw lessons from his two-rail metaphor for how we should live? We are enabled to face both good and bad that come so startlingly close together with a measure of equanimity when we see our lives in the context of eternity.
Rick Warren pointed this out when he said, “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 ripped from their homes and scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia (1 Peter 1:1).
We are born again into a living hope, he writes (1 Peter 1:3). We have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you (1:4). We know that our salvation will be fully revealed in the last time (1:5). All this is a treasure trove of reassurance and will sustain us even while we may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials (1:6).
When the bad news comes, we also have God’s word through the Apostle 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, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
Photo credit: Jon S (via flickr.com)