It feels like every other week there is some horrific tragedy, inexplicable horror, or difficult news story that is hard to stomach. Whether its another mass shooting, another repulsive injustice where an innocent black man is shot, or another high-level corporate leader using his power to sexually victimize women- every day makes you wonder what’s next and where all this is going. Political discord, threats of nuclear war, and fear of terrorism wake us up in the morning and tuck us in at night.
All of this bad news seems to be inviting fear to move in and paralyze us. All this bad news seems to be inviting anxiety and worry to kick out peace and faith. All this bad news is breaking down our trust in humanity- and just not humanity, but trust in our neighbors.
And the bad news isn’t just far away and distant. Tragedy, sickness and desperation are in our own backyards.
I hosted a party recently and sat down at my dining room table next to a wonderful man who volunteers as a chaplain. I asked him how he he was doing. He invited me into the transitional phase he was experiencing in that very moment. He was coming off of his shift as chaplain, where he attends unattended deaths, and walking into a living room full of laughter, good food, and good people.
He began to share of the horrific scenes he gets called into. They are scenes that we don’t even read about in the newspaper- of dads killing moms in front of their children, and children dying in tragic ways and self inflicted deaths- and most of which are not shared publicly. I looked at this man of peace and saw light in his eyes. I am so very grateful for what he does for our community and for each person who never wants to have a chaplain show up at their door. But if you had to have one, you’d want a man like him. I felt moved to remind him that he was now in a place of warmth and safety, goodness and celebration. I hoped he would take as long as he needed to transition in order to walk from dark to light, death to life. He seemed to take a deep breath at the invitation, but the weight he wears can not be put in the coat closet with the others.
A man my husband has worked with for years jumped off an overpass a few weeks ago. I didn’t know him well. We would run into each other at the coffee shop or the mall or the office Christmas parties and every time we did, he was always so friendly, so kind. He ended his life. Something in him felt like he couldn’t escape all the pain. I wish I would have known that he walked around carrying this kind of disparity and depression. I wish we would have known, because if we would have known we would have done something.
Sometimes it’s just all too much. Sometimes all this bad news calluses you. Sometimes it steals your hope and makes you want to go inside of yourself. Sometimes all I want to do is go home, get my sweats on and hide my family in my house and never leave, so I can protect my kids from all this mess. Sometimes I want to turn the tv off and pretend it’s not happening. Sometimes I want to daydream into another world that doesn’t feel hijacked by hurricanes, terrorism, racism, school shootings, and mean girls.
I just got back from a Women in Leadership Conference. I left thinking I might become a leader someday 🙂 No, but for real, here is what struck me… This particular conference was hosted by a foundation that supports non-profits and was drawing together women leaders in order to inspire and equip them in the work God is calling them to do. At one point, I looked around the hotel conference room and it struck me that it was full of good news.
One woman I spoke with is using her life to work with families who are affected by HIV. Their organization is providing camps, classes and community for these families who so desperately need it. Another woman is working for a non-profit called Holla, and their mission is this: Holla mentors stand in a gap to change the story so commonly understood for black and brown children through mentorship. The women working for Holla are seeing major shifts in the trajectory of these kids once they receive mentors who understand their experience and their plight. Another women I talked to works for an organization that invests in post-graduates who, at an increasing rate, are leaving their Christian faith and community and feeling lost. She is working to help these twenty somethings find their way. Another women takes marginalized teens on outdoor adventures for trips that can last as long as 50 days in the wilderness. These teens are coming back transformed and ready to live differently because of the work she does. I sat across from three women who are connected to Medical Teams International. They respond to urgent needs around the world (and God knows we have those right now) from refugees to the survivors of natural disasters. Another woman I talked to works with a Catholic organization that is helping people die with dignity and peace.
Let me try this again….
Somewhere right now someone is dying. They are saying goodbye to their loved ones, their control, their plans and dreams, and their health. And a group of woman is coming alongside them in their final days and providing comfort, peace and hope.
That’s good news.
Somewhere right now there is a black kid who has no male role model, no dad to call his own and is failing in school and on the verge of heading down a destructive road. But there is a mentoring program that is setting him up with a black male role model. This man will walk alongside him and mentor him in life, in school, in his challenges, his pain and even in his dreams, all so that those dreams will become his reality.
That’s good news.
Somewhere right now in Puerto Rico a family has lost everything due to the devastating hurricane. There is a medical team that is there listening to them, to their needs, to their loss. They’re not only listening, but they are actually responding to those needs and bringing some relief.
That’s good news.
Isaiah 52:7 says: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
How beautiful are those who bring good news! They are as hot as they come. And there are people all around us bringing good news. There are people proclaiming peace. There are people who are bringing good tidings. There are people who are proclaiming rescue and not just proclaiming, but actually rescuing people. There are people whose work shouts without words, “God still reigns. God is still alive. And God is still good”
We can talk about the bad guys and the terrorists and the rapists and the sex offenders and the racists and the Klu Klux Klan and the greedy people… But let’s also talk about the feet of those who bring good news! Let’s talk about the people who are building wells to bring water to villages that have no water. Let’s talk about the pastors who are in the heart of their neighborhoods, building bridges to do the hard work of racial reconciliation. Let’s talk about the people who are feeding the homeless and sitting with them over a meal and treating them with the dignity they deserve. This is the only hope and way to get them off the streets, because it’s relationship that walks people toward help and healing. Let’s talk about the people who are putting their own lives at risk to set women being sex-trafficked free. Let’s talk about the people we know who are going to work everyday and loving on people who are just plain hard to love.
Let’s not just talk about the bad news- let’s talk about the good news too. Otherwise you and I are going to drown in our sorrows and give up on what we are called to do. And what are we called to do? The Bible says we are called to do good. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
Instead of getting overwhelmed by all this bad news, we must not give up. We must keep working, keep investing, keep sacrificing, keep pressing on, keep forging new paths, keep standing up for injustice, keep having conversations, keep striving for peace. We must keep doing good.
Galatians 6:9 says: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Let’s not grow tired, friends. Let’s not give up. Let’s not start believing our good is no good. Let’s not get lost in all the bad news but instead press on to bring about good news.
This is what we were made to do.
When John the Baptist was in the slammer, experiencing some not-so-good personal news, he heard about all the good that Jesus was doing. So John sent some of his homies to ask Jesus if He was the One who was to come and make the world better. And here is what Jesus said in Matthew 11:4-5: “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”
Jesus insinuated that you know God is nearby when these kinds of things are happening in people’s lives.
I took a train down to that leadership conference in the midst of a world filled with bad news, and was overwhelmed by good. The blind who have lost their way receive sight. The lame who have been unable to walk, now walk freely. Those no one would touch with a ten-foot-pole are experiencing healing in community. The deaf who felt ignored hear “worthy are you.” The dead dreams of youth are being raised. Good news is being proclaimed by wounded, messy, irreligious girls like me and it’s crazy, but people’s lives are changing.
Our God must be nearby.
Will you, with me, tell stories of the God of good news and the people who live it? Will you not grow weary in doing good, but instead, will we together press in all the more and live into what we were made to do and do it? Together we can tell a different story, one of good news. That’s what God is in the business of doing, bringing good news, and we are His messengers.
If you have a good news story, please share it here. We want to hear it. In fact, we need to. Your good news story might inspire another one!