Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice! —Philippians 4:4
“Respond to bad news in great ways.” That’s how pastor Ray Johnston describes the intentional joyful response to a difficult circumstance. As I see it, the potential for generating a great response to a bad-news event is exponentially greater when our expectations are realistic. No matter who you are, where you are, or what you do—you can expect to receive some bad news this week. For most, it will not be that bad—more of a “My team lost a playoff game!” level bad news. For others, the bad news will be far worse news. But don’t make the mistake of miscalculating your situation—look at it through the lens of statistical analysis.
The world is a convoluted combination of imperfections. Things happen and, as they say, those things can really add up! The problem is, they don’t add up, they compound one another. It’s a simple matter of mathematics. You take an already imperfect day and multiply it times your limitations, and then times the statistical limitations of everyone else who has the potential to affect that particular day.
For example, what are the chances that everything is going to go great for you tomorrow (excluding the people who will be involved)? The weather will be perfect, you’ll feel great, the tire won’t go flat and the cheeseburger will have just the right amount of ketchup. (You can insert any other elements that make any day an all-good-news day for you.) For the sake of this discussion, let’s say that you might enjoy those conditions once every three days.
Then insert five of your friends who each come through for you a third of the time. (Remember, lifetime .333 hitters get into the Hall of Fame.) Then add yourself to the mix, whom we’ll say also bats .333, that is, you make all the right decisions and do all the right things a third of the time.
What’s the bottom line? It’s actually a fairly simple formula:
.33 (the day)
X .33 X .33 X .33 X .33 X .33 (your friends)
X .33 (you)
= .000426 (the chance you’re going to have a no-bad-news kind of day tomorrow)
That means that things in your world will work our perfectly for you on 4.26 out of every 10,000 opportunities, or once in every 2,500 days—that’s one good day every 6.84 years. The numbers don’t lie! No wonder we’re so easily discouraged.
Never confuse where you live on earth with where you’ll spend eternity. Victorville is not Heaven. But these are not the words of a pessimist—the fact that it might be a bad-news day doesn’t mean it has to be a bad day.
There’s an old parable about a mule that had to step up. One day an old mule fell into a ditch and couldn’t get out. Too old to be any good to the farmer anyway, the farmer decided the best way to deal with the situation was to simply bury him right then and there in the ditch. This, of course, didn’t please the mule. But after a few shovel-fulls of dirt were thrown on his back, he realized something. He could get out of the ditch by simply shaking the dirt off his back each time another shovel-full came down and then take a step up.
Some people respond to great news in bad ways. They pour cold water on other people’s parades. They have the gift of discouragement! They believe that their primary purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others.
Most people respond to great news in great ways and bad news in bad ways. That’s pretty typical.
Few people respond to bad news in great ways. But those who do are inspirational. And that’s what your oikos needs today—someone to inspire them.