Whether it's learning that someone at work has betrayed you, that you're being downsized out of a job, or that strange symptom you've been suffering has yielded a frightening diagnosis from the doctor, we all get bad news. What should you do when you get bad news? Here are five suggestions, gleaned from the Bible.
1. Talk it over with God. As a Christian, I believe that God became human in the person of Jesus Christ in order to take the punishment we deserve for our sins--death--and to rise again in order to open up eternity with God to all who turn from sin and turn to Jesus as their only hope. Jesus says: "Come to Me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).
Whenever we receive bad news, we can churn with frenzy, a sure recipe for making bad decisions. Instead, go to the God we know through Jesus. Tell Him what you're going through. Spend time with Him. The bad news won't go away. But God will give you the peace and power you need to face it.
Talking things over with God when we get bad news isn't just about dumping our woes on Him. Prayer isn't a monologue. To pray also means spending time reading God's Word, letting Him speak to us. In the New Testament we're told: "All scripture [which we now know as the Old and New Testaments] is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God [that happens through faith in Christ] may be proficient, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
2. Seek the advice of faithful Christian friends. Proverbs 15:22 says: "Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed."
God has especially granted to every member of the local church particular spiritual gifts. He does this, we're taught, "To each [Christian believer] is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Corinthians 12:7). So, if you're a Christian, remember that in your local congregation, whatever its size, there's likely to be someone gifted by God to help your or advise you on how best to address your bad news.
But even when there are no ready strategies, God gives the fellowship of the Church to lighten our burdens. Referring to the second portion of Jesus' great command that we love others as we love ourselves, Paul tells Christians: "Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
When we share and bear each other's burdens, those burdens get easier to bear and we draw strength from one another. "Two are better than one...For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help...A threefold cord is not easily broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
3. Make plans, but don't let your planning turn into worry about tomorrow. The Bible tells us that it's wise to make plans (Luke 14:31), but we should be ready for the curve balls that come at us in this imperfect world. We also need to be ready for God's vetoes of our plans.
James writes in the New Testament: "...you do not even know what tomorrow will bring...Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that'" (James 4:14-15).
Jesus says, "...do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today" (Matthew 6:34).
Make plans, but take each day as it comes.
4. In the midst of troubles, let God love you. Jesus' death and resurrection were for you. The good news that Jesus wants to give you life with God, not just after you die and leave this world, but right now, trumps all bad news. You may feel powerless; but when you let God love you, bad news is powerless to destroy your hope, peace, or joy.
When you surrender your life, including all your troubles and your sins, to Jesus and let them be covered by His grace and goodness, you'll live each day in the assurance that nothing can separate you from the love God gives through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:31-39).
5. Remember that God won't let go of you; so, don't you let go of God! Millions of believers in Jesus Christ have endured all sorts of troubles, experiencing what the Bible calls "the peace that passes all understanding" (Philippians 4:7).
You can know that peace too. In Deuteronomy 31:6, God promised His people, and in Hebrews 13:5, He promised again to all people who believe in Him through Jesus Christ, that He will never leave or forsake us.
That promise is like a blank check from God written to be used you whenever you get hit by bad news. Cash it!