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A big bright side

Good news travels slowly, but a lot of it is out there

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Have you heard any good news lately? In the clamor of furious partisans, furious weather, and furious rhetoric, it doesn’t seem like it. Random conversations on the bus or in the checkout line, if they go beyond cute shoes or that book I’m holding, often end with sighs and head-shaking. Prices going up, kids don’t listen, can’t afford my mortgage, worried about my health coverage. Wall Street banksters, rotten Republicans, demon Democrats—the world’s a mess.

A few sunny forecasters, like psychologist Steven Pinker, insist there’s lots of good news just a few clicks away on your browser. They trot out charts and stats to show a dramatic decline worldwide in extreme poverty, HIV deaths, infant mortality rates, unsafe drinking water, and child labor.

On the domestic front, Morris Fiorina of the Hoover Institution counsels against alarm. In spite of partisan noise and disturbing threats, most Americans are going about their business with friendly nods. The “tribes” are on the edges; the center holds. A widely reported study of 8,000 Americans by an organization called More in Common shows that a sizable majority dislike “Political Correctness” and wonder why we can’t just get along.

Even on the global scene, those shrinking poverty rates and improved nutrition are mostly due to small steps and changed attitudes.

That sounds encouraging, but if the cyber landscape still looks gray, click on over to more encouraging fare. Even USA Today and the Huffington Post have Good News sections on their websites. Or go even more positive with Happy News (for a cute-puppy fix), South Africa—The Good News (a beautiful respite in a troubled nation), Sunny Skyz, Gimundo, ZooBorns, or 1000 Awesome Things. Be prepared for animal babies, animal rescues (both for and by), helpful neighbors, and miracle cures.

Sappy as some of those headlines are, they point up an important truth that the funereal drumbeat of an average 24-hour news cycle drowns out. Bad news is wide-screen. It manifests itself in trends, factions, wars, rising rates of … (drug abuse, dropouts, STDs, etc.). It wears big clumsy boots that stomp all over reasonable argument and heartfelt protest. The effects of bad news are immediate and obvious, even if we disagree about causes. Often enough, it hits us in the solar plexus.

Good news is personal, small scale, and easy to overlook. The effects are slow and cumulative. Even on the global scene, those shrinking poverty rates and improved nutrition are mostly due to small steps and changed attitudes. Good news may be lurking under our very noses while the smell of the bad overpowers us. It may take years for the effects of tough love to bear fruit in an out-of-control, screaming teenager. Heavy hearts tread down the first green shoots poking up from a devastated house after a hurricane.

But this is how the Holy Spirit usually works, by quietly stirring individual hearts, one by one. Massive revivals throughout history have brought about changes for the better, but only after years of individual Christians laying the groundwork: teaching, praying, and trimming their lamps in anticipation of the bridegroom. Even in the midst of massive revivals, souls are not awakened en masse but one by one. And after the tide of awakening recedes, as it always does, the beach may look bare and barren. You have to look close to see the life stirring under the sand: little bubbles, the breath of each tiny clam.

Any good news? Philanthropy isn’t dead—check out the candidates for WORLD’s Hope Awards for Effective Compassion every year for just a few examples. Underneath distressing tales of Islamic terrorism, especially now from Africa, mission organizations tell us of unprecedented openness to the gospel throughout the Muslim world. Alongside more young people identifying themselves as atheist or agnostic is a growing hunger for meaning that only Christ can supply. The church is reforming, the truth is refining, and souls are being saved, one by one.

Christian faith doesn’t deny bad news—it’s built on bad news. But from the wreckage of the world rises the cross, with a shout of triumph: Take heart!

“For I have overcome the world.”

Janie B. Cheaney Janie is a senior writer who contributes commentary to WORLD and oversees WORLD's annual Children's Book of the Year awards. She also writes novels for young adults and authored the Wordsmith creative writing curriculum. Janie resides in rural Missouri.


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