In a week filled with bad news, let’s look at some good news.
Actor Danny Trejo helped rescue a baby trapped in an overturned car in Los Angeles last Wednesday. Video shows him at the scene where two cars crashed. He says he crawled into the wrecked vehicle from one side but couldn’t unbuckle the child’s car seat from that angle.
Another bystander, a young woman, was able to undo the buckle. Together, they pulled the baby safely from the wreckage.
The same day, a man who became wedged between rocks in the Cambodian jungle was rescued after being trapped for nearly four days. He slipped Sunday while trying to retrieve his flashlight, which had fallen into the small rocky hollow. His family began searching for him when he didn’t return after three days.
After his brother found him, about two hundred rescue workers spent ten hours chipping away the rock that pinned him. He was freed and taken to a local hospital.
The story behind the stories
Why did these stories make the news?
People help people all the time. If the unnamed woman in Los Angeles had rescued the baby without the actor’s help, I doubt her story would have made headlines. If the man in Cambodia had been lost in a jungle rather than wedged between rocks, his rescue would probably not have been reported globally.
I also wonder if these stories would have received so much attention during a week not dominated by mass shootings and their aftermath. We’re attracted to celebrities and unusual events, of course. But when they bring us good news during hard days, they’re especially powerful.
A motorcycle in Times Square
Anxiety continues to escalate in America, especially among young people. According to recent data, nearly half of college students surveyed “felt overwhelming anxiety over the previous year.” A third “had problems functioning because of depression.”
Multiple false reports and hoaxes about active shooters have spread around the country following last weekend’s tragedies, sparking widespread fear for personal safety in public places. Crowds panicked in Times Square after a motorcycle backfired, igniting fears of another shooting. USA Today‘s headquarters were evacuated after reports of a person with a gun that turned out to be false. A mall in Utah was evacuated for the same reason.
But fear and anxiety are more pervasive than this week’s news and not confined to tragedies such as last weekend’s shootings.
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore was asked by Newsweek to explain the distress of our days. He replied: “I think fear is a universal human condition. So in that sense, I don’t think it’s new. . . . I think right now there’s perhaps a different kind of fear as it relates to a fear of disconnection.
“I think the loneliness that we see around us is amping up a sense of being under siege. And I think that’s one of the reasons why we see this drive toward herd mentalities on social media. People are finding a sense of belonging digitally because they can’t find it personally. And that tends to manifest itself in terms of outrage rather than in terms of intimacy.”
“No one will take your joy from you”
The darker the room, the more obvious the light.
When Paul and Silas sang hymns to God in a jail cell, the other prisoners “were listening to them” and the jailer himself later came to faith (Acts 16:25–34). When the apostles were beaten and ordered to stop preaching, they were “overjoyed because they had been given the honor of being dishonored on account of the Name” (Acts 5:41 Message).
True joy transcends circumstances. While happiness is a product of happenings, joy is the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22).
Jesus promised his followers that, after his resurrection, “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). The closer we are to Jesus, the more we will manifest his joy.
The key is to focus more on Christ than on circumstances. It is to live vertically in a horizontal culture, bringing every challenge to Jesus and finding in him the courage and hope he alone provides.
Here is one of my favorite statements by Oswald Chambers: “God does not give us overcoming life: He gives us life as we overcome. The strain is the strength. If there is no strain, there is no strength. . . . God never gives strength for tomorrow, or for the next hour, but only for the strain of the minute.”
The psalmist noted: “The righteous will rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in him” (Psalm 64:10 NIV). When we do the latter, we will always do the former.
Joy in a jail cell
What do you wish were different about your life? If Paul could find joy in a jail cell, you can find joy where you are this morning.
When we are submitted to the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), no matter our circumstances, we will “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4, my italics). And others will take note.
Craig Denison: “Pursue heavenly joy today that you might demonstrate the surpassing kindness of your heavenly Father to a world that is desperately seeking what can only be found in restored relationship with him.”
Will those who see you today see the joy of Jesus in you?