Sometimes, the best news is that bad news didn’t become news.
Earlier this week, the body of a spent Chinese rocket became the largest piece of space junk to fall uncontrolled toward our planet in decades. According to the US Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron, the core passed directly over New York City before scattering debris on the west coast of Africa, though no injuries have been reported as of this morning.
If re-entry had been just a few minutes earlier, debris could reportedly have showered the Big Apple.
In other bad news that has not become news, the Asian “murder hornets” making headlines these days are apparently not as dangerous as their nickname suggests. An entomologist writing in the Conversation states that Asian giant hornets will defend their nests, but “in most cases they will not do anything if people aren’t aggressive toward them.” They are fairly common in Japan, where wasp and hornet stings kill less than 0.00001 percent of the national population.
In other bad news, a Red Sox reporter named Chris Cotillo found himself with a lot of spare time when the baseball season was suspended. Here’s the good news: he began auctioning sports merchandise to help charities in the area. He has raised $57,000 so far; others on the Boston sports scene have joined him, bringing the total close to $100,000.
And the website Travel Trivia lists “7 ways travel will change for the better in a post-pandemic world.” Among them: more travel close to home will cut carbon emissions; wildlife will thrive, and we’ll see it more often; and airplanes and hotels will be “cleaner than we could have ever imagined.”
When God’s call feels like bad news
Bad news that doesn’t become news is good news. Challenges can often be reframed as opportunities.
What is true in our culture is also true in our souls.
In my personal Bible study, I have been impressed recently with how often God calls us to complete, unconditional obedience to his word and will. For example, I noted this week that Caleb followed God “fully” (Numbers 14:24) and thus was able to enter the Promised Land.
I am reading Psalm 119 these days, where I found this testimony: “I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word” (Psalm 119:101, my italics). And this: “I consider all your precepts to be right; I hate every false way” (v. 128, my italics). Then I noted King Hezekiah’s statement to God: “I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight” (Isaiah 38:3).
Clearly, the Lord wants us to be unreservedly surrendered to his word and will. He wants us to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Romans 12:1), to be “crucified with Christ” so we can say, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
No matter how much we submit to God, he wants even more. If you’re like most of us, this call feels like bad news. That’s because we don’t see that this bad news is actually very good news.
Monks have a name for difficult people
Call to mind the last temptation you faced. At the time, resisting felt like a loss, did it not? To refuse this sin, you were required to give up something you wanted to do, say, have, or feel, without being able to see the reward on the other side of such obedience.
Whatever is tempting us is tangible and available; what we will gain by refusing it is not. It’s like investing money in a company with no idea of the eventual return, if any.
It’s not a lack of faith to struggle in such times. We all do. Faith enters the story when we choose to believe that God’s word and will are best for us even when we cannot see how or why.
To make this commitment, remember all the times your Father has been faithful to you in the past. For example, in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses recounted the miracles that brought the Jewish people to the edge of Canaan to encourage them as they prepared to enter their Promised Land. Because God’s nature does not change (Malachi 3:6), all he has done, he can still do.
And see the temptations and challenges you face as opportunities to grow in your faith and character. Br. Curtis Almquist of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Boston writes: “In many circumstances of life, we end up sharing life with people we would not have chosen, some of whom we inevitably find quite challenging. The monastic tradition has a name for these sometimes-quite-difficult people: ‘teachers.’ They teach us about ourselves; they expose us to what otherwise we may not see in ourselves or show to others.”
Tolstoy on when “life is life”
The greater your challenges, the greater your need for the God who transcends them. As Kierkegaard noted, “The works of God are such that only God can perform them.”
In these pandemic days, if you’re struggling to trust God with your future, remember the times he led you faithfully in the past. If you’re worried about your needs, remember the times your Father met them before. If you’re dealing with temptation, remember the times he blessed your obedience.
Now thank him for the opportunity to demonstrate faith in him. If you don’t have such faith, ask him for the faith to have faith (cf. Mark 9:24). Pray for the strength to choose his word and will.
Mozart testified: “Let us trust God and comfort ourselves with the thought that all is well if it be God’s will, since he best knows what is requisite and necessary to our temporal and to our eternal happiness.”
The more you trust your Father, the more you will receive what he can give only to those who trust him. Tolstoy observed that “life is life, only when it is the carrying out of God’s purpose.”
Will you experience “life” today?