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Deadly Beirut explosion one year later: How to find joy despite bad news

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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A soldier stands at the devastated site of the explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020.
A soldier stands at the devastated site of the explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, Pool)

A year ago today, a massive blast in the port at Beirut, Lebanon, killed more than two hundred people.

In other news, a fast train from Munich collided with a commuter passenger train in the Czech Republic today, killing three people and injuring more than forty others.

On this day in 2019, a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, killed nine people and injured twenty-seven. It followed a shooting the day before in El Paso, Texas, that killed twenty-two and injured twenty-four. 

Chinese officials have sealed the city of Zhangjiajie in response to the country’s worst coronavirus outbreak since the start of the pandemic a year and a half ago.

Wildfires are blazing in the outskirts of Athens as Greece battles its worst heatwave in thirty years.

A lifeguard was attacked by a shark yesterday while on duty on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina. 

The ice wall at a Titanic museum exhibit in Tennessee collapsed, injuring three people.

Over a thousand earthquakes rattled Yellowstone last month.

A black bear ran into a Tennessee restaurant last Friday, then knocked a patron to the ground on the way out.

And the National Hurricane Center is watching two disturbances in the far eastern Atlantic while reminding us that “the peak of hurricane season is coming, and now is a good time to get prepared!” 

Where is joy to be found?

If by now you are feeling a bit overwhelmed with all the bad news in the news, that was my purpose. I apologize if you are feeling discouraged, but I wanted to make this simple point: our joy is not to be found in the events of our day. 

I could write an article like this tomorrow and the day after and every day after that. As you know, we live in a fallen world (Romans 8:22) where sin, failure, and pain are part of our lives every day. The 24/7 news cycle and constant media focus on bad news only exacerbate things. It’s not surprising that mental health challenges continue to escalate and to make headlines nearly every day. 

But here’s the very good news: the joy of Jesus is in no way dependent on the news of the day. 

Paul encouraged the Philippian Christians to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). He set the example for them by singing hymns at midnight in one of their jails (Acts 16:25). He taught the Galatians that joy is one of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22), a product of the Spirit’s power and work in our lives when we are yielded to him (Ephesians 5:18). 

Happiness depends on happenings, but joy comes from Jesus. 

Our role is to stay close enough to our Lord to receive all he intends to give us. Prayer, Bible study, worship, and other spiritual disciplines do not earn his favor—they position us to receive his grace. 

This is why Oswald Chambers’ observation in today’s My Utmost For His Highest is so relevant: “The main thing about Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain and the atmosphere produced by that relationship. That is all God asks us to look after, and it is the one thing that is being continually assailed.” 

Are you focusing on “the main thing about Christianity” today? 

Asked differently, are you experiencing the joy of Jesus? 

If not, why not?