When it’s good to get bad news

I used to think that bad news was always bad news. How could it be anything else? But I see things differently now. Sometimes we need to hear bad news to have any chance of hearing good news. My cancer is a case in point.

The bad news: you have cancer.
More bad news: you have a non-small cell lung cancer.
Still more bad news: there is a tumour on the left lung and it has spread.
Even more bad news: you have an ALK+ mutation that is driving the cancer.

No one wants the news they have cancer. It’s always bad news. But the bad news pointed the way to hope. Subsequent bad news provided a specific pathway to hope. It has been indispensable to treating the cancer accurately. My diagnosis and my subsequent prognosis were seriously bad news that I needed to hear.

I know people who have not wanted to know what’s wrong with them. They’ve had cancer, but have not been willing to have it accurately diagnosed. Some have endured the wrong treatment. Others have avoided dealing with it until it’s been too late, and nothing could be done to help them. Some have died from cancer, when an early diagnosis would have saved them.

It’s the same when it comes to God. We don’t want to hear the bad news. We don’t like to hear that we’ve pushed God aside, that we prefer to live independently, that God will hold us to account, and we’re facing God’s judgment. This is bad news, it’s uncomfortable, it’s distasteful, and we’d prefer not to hear it.

I’ve discovered that it’s good to hear this bad news. We need an accurate diagnosis of our rejection of God. We need an accurate prognosis of the consequences of our rejection. The bad news prepares the way for hope. Unless we understand our desperate state before God, then we will not understand what God has done to turn things around. The bad news of our independence and judgment prepares us to hear the good news—the gospel—of hope through Jesus Christ. There’s hope for a renewed relationship with God in this life and beyond. God has the cure. It’s freely available.

Don’t ignore the bad news. It can help you to hear and grasp the good news that God wants you to enjoy.

Bad news
Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us,
Good news
God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.
(Romans 3:23-24 from The Message, my headings)

(first published in macarisms.com on 11/8/13)

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