No New News

(Caution: discretion advised; may not be suitable for younger readers.)

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. --Ecc. 1:9

Every morning CNN.com sends me a list of their "Top 10" stories for the day. The stories are typical of our generation's news media; today's was no exception. The six Bulgarian nurses who are accused of intentionally spreading an AIDS virus to 436 children have been commuted to life sentences rather than the death penalty. Today the father of a girl who was raped, tortured and buried alive will face his daughter's murderer in court. A 48-year-old woman is on trial for hiring her 26-year-old boyfriend to kill her 65-year-old husband. They have found steroids and other such items in the home of a man who killed his wife and young handicapped son, laid Bibles next to their dead bodies and hanged himself on a weight machine after sending text messages to several friends explaining where they would find the food to feed the family dogs after his departure. A manhunt in Wyoming continues after a former soldier described by some as "a good Christian" fatally shot his estranged wife while she was performing a song onstage in a restaurant. And analysts are saying that they believe Al-Queda is planning a new attack on the States using resources gathered during the war in Iraq. Those are eight of the top-10 stories from today's email update.

I usually vary between two radically different responses when I read such news. The first reaction that I have is to gloss over it, and to read the stories as if they are old news. After all, I am so desensitized to hearing about brutal murders and heinous crimes that I am not shocked to read about soldiers killing their wives or professional wrestlers strangling their children or men raping little girls and burying them alive. These things happen every day in our world, and to take the time to personally mourn over each one seems futile, as if I would never be able to process the grief of them all. And so I read the details, try to block out the graphic images of the scenes from my mind, and shoot up a silent prayer, God, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

The other reaction that I have sometimes is to allow the stories to cripple me spiritually. I read the accounts, I internalize them, and I ask, God, how could you let a little girl be tortured and asphyxiated by her own neighbor? God, will there be no vengeance for a man who kills his own wife, or his handicapped son?  God, do you see what is happening? Do you care? It is so easy to distrust a God who allows evil to happen, I think to myself, and I beg Him to answer me--- why?

Neither response is correct, God has been showing me, so I am seeking to balance both responses. As I do, God is bringing His word to my mind, which helps me to cope in a world where black is white and white is black. First, He reminds me that only what will eventually bring glory to Him does He allow.

Psalm 76:10 "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain."

As hard as it is to believe, the things we see are not as bad as they could be. God actually allows evil based on eventual glory to His name, and whatever does not fit that criteria, He does not allow. We think, in our finite understandings, that nothing could possibly be worse than the things we see and read about in our newspapers every morning. But He asks us to trust Him that the evil we see is only that evil which will eventually bring His name glory. How could evil bring You glory, Lord? It is not our prerogative to know in most cases, yet. He asks us to trust Him that the wrath of man praises Him, and that the remainder of wrath, He restrains. Imagine the amount of evil that He restrains!

Next, He assures me that I am not facing a situation so dark that it can find no parallel in human history. My generation does not experience evil that has been amped up beyond any sins of times past. When I tend to think, God, this evil is too great for You not to intervene, I remember that He has been dealing with unspeakable evil since the dawn of time. Biblical references abound, and when I read them they sound alarmingly similar to what we deal with today; a man who allowed his wife to be raped by a mob of sodomite men and then cut her body into pieces after they had killed her. Barbarians who smashed innocent children to pieces and kept harems full of women who were kept alive only for the periodic pleasure they would bring to a ruler. Bestiality and rage-driven murders and destructive behavior. Those are just a sampling of Biblical examples, not to mention the historical atrocities in the centuries since then, of humans cheering as other humans were being eaten alive by animals, of those who sacrificed their own flesh and blood to demonic gods, of men and women of God being burned alive or tortured beyond recognition. We do not live in an era that surpasses any before it for wickedness.

So, He has taught me that the wrath He allows is already wrath that will someday bring glory to His Name. He has taught me that as evil as the world around me may seem, He has seen its kind repeated again and again in the history of mankind, and nothing that I read about in my email from CNN will surprise Him or catch Him off guard. And finally, He has taught me to rest in the fact that He is already living in tomorrow, and He already sees the outcome of the evil I see today. My dad helped me to realize this point as I was telling him about the 436 AIDS-infected children; he responded only with, "Nicole, just think. Someday we'll go to heaven."

It was that simple. Yes, there is evil around us. Yes, we ought to grieve at a dying world without Christ. Yes, we ought to be compassionate to others who are facing unspeakable horrors. We ought to be shocked and repulsed by the stories we hear, for they are the products of a fallen world. But we ought also to hope, and to remember that someday the deeds of man will be recompensed before a righteous God. He will avenge innocent blood, and He will pardon sanctified saints, and I can rejoice that, in that day, I will "know, as also I am known".

Meanwhile, as we wait for the glorious appearing of Christ, we read the words of Solomon and we know that he spoke well when he said that there is nothing new under the sun.

Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.