Recalling Joseph of Genesis, and the fact he was wrought many a cruel blow, yet he suffered such indignities stoically, we are reminded of the believer’s response to bad news.
Of course, there are three archetypal responses to bad news; two are negative and damaging if they aren’t arrested, with only one a satisfactory response—the positive one—even out the grip of pain.
Let’s cover these in reverse order—the negative ones first.
1. Bad News Is Taken As a Crushing Blow
Perhaps we might see this response as the submissive one.
We’ve all felt like reacting this way: the unexpected bad news deals us an unchallengeable body blow and we are reeling. The terms which have been dealt cannot be handled right now, if ever.
This is a sinkhole response; with time things don’t get better, they get worse. Such bad news has been the catalyst toward sending us into a self-absorbing bout of anxiety-riddled depression.
2. Bad News Generates Anger and Blame
If the above is seen as the submissive response, this one is the aggressive response—we should know that only assertive responses are ultimately desirable.
Yet, to the reception of bad news comes instinctive anger. What was never expected has now come to pass, and the only way to respond right now is in a fit of rage, whether expressed or not, because from within there is unremitting panic. Fear swarms and the way we battle is to fight.
Like the above reaction, however, this too is a sinkhole response; unless we get over our anger and travel on to the third response (below) the anger will see us bitter and never better for the experience because, quite frankly, we cannot bear the truth right now.
Only when we can bear the truth can we entertain the third option of response.
Before going on to the third response, however, it is important to note that initial reactions in the vein of the first and second responses are completely normal and forgivable; but, we need to turn these responses over to the response below to win our day.
3. Bad News Invites The Question – “Okay, What Now?”
This is the Joseph response.
Whether he was cast into a pit, or rejected by his brothers, or convicted innocently and thrown into jail, or for any other reason, we suspect Joseph had basically the same response each time: “Okay, (Lord) what now?”
This is the healthiest of the three responses because neither is the bad news ultimately a crushing blow nor something to derail life at the quest of blame. No, bad news is simply the revelation that there is a longer, more arduous, way than expected to the goal of finishing the race of life well. This is no doubt disappointing, even heartbreaking in some situations, but the believer in such cases takes a situation like this, affording some despondency and irrationality, and they react with eventual resilience. It proves inspiring.
Despite what they might feel they will act in faith and continue along the path that has been started, not giving up. Very soon they find the temptation to give up was the false veneer of hopelessness in plain view from any bad event.
Only after such an act of faith can this lie be seen for what it is.
The believer keeps going despite their disappointment.
It bears repeating: the believer keeps going despite their disappointment.
They know with gritted teeth and a smile all the crushed expectations in the world mean little if they have the true grit to continue on. They keep their goal firmly in sight and they eventually achieve it, which makes life only more satisfying.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.