Posted by: Philip Rushton | August 20, 2012

Giving Voice To The Other Side Of Bad News

“For you, O God, tested us . . . we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.” Psalm 66
“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap” Psalm 113

Last week I talked about how we are inundated with bad news. Sometimes the bad news is overstated. I looked at Barry Glassner’s thesis that journalists, politicians, and advertisers have sought to leverage influence over the public by overstating fear, and dwelling on the negative. However, many times our fear and depression is legitimate. The bad news we have to process can weigh heavily on our hearts. What is more it can cause us to have a spiritual crisis. When we are inundated with the reality of poverty, famine, and crime it can seem as if God is absent.

The psalms do not deny this reality. Over half of them are laments. Biblical spirituality models for us a raw honesty about pain. We are not called to deny pain.

However, one of the things that stood out to me today when reading Psalm 113, is that the psalmists continue the conversation after the bad news has passed. The psalms are full of lament, but they are also full of retrospection about how God brought his people through pain to redemption. I think this is an important step that we often leave out. Pain often drives us close to God; but then, when things get better, we have a tendency to act as if we do not need him anymore. What is more, our culture often dwells so much on pain and tragedy, but we rarely give voice to the stories of hope.

A friend of mine spent a year in Rawanda a couple of years after the major crisis in that country. From a distance I felt such a heavy weight when I heard about the violence and the fear that the people of that country had to undergo. And that was the appropriate response. However, my friend said that when he got to know some of the people and hear their stories there were also many stories of hope and redemption that never made the news cycle. Of course there were many without a happy ending to their stories. Yet, there were glimpses of hope to be found even in a difficult situation.

I think it is important for us to give voice to the hopeful things that are on the other side of bad news. Dealing with theodicy (the theological problem of pain) can feel overwhelming when we try to carry the weight of all the tragedy that is out there. However, our theodicy needs to take into consideration the many unspoken stories of hope that emerge from crisis.

I do not desire to trivialize pain. I would never advocate that we suppress reality. I simply want to give voice to the full spectrum of human experience while seeking to make sense of God’s presence in our world.

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