Coping in a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad World

Overcoming fear in a bad worldI love books. So often, fiction is more true than truth. I have favorite kids’ books for nearly every occasion. The first cold day of fall, when there is measurable snow on the ground I light a fire, make hot chocolate, and read “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost. When my kids were little I would pull them onto my lap for this tradition. Later I made hot chocolate for my whole class at school on the first snowy day and read Frost to them as they sipped. Now, many times I enjoy my hot chocolate and poem alone.

I have a children’s book for bad days. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a wonderful book about a kid having a bad day. I have not outgrown it. I still have bad days and I still need to remember that “Some days are like that.”

If God is good why is the world so bad?

Some days are worse than that. I watch the news sometimes. Maybe they should call it, “The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad World.”

It isn’t enough to say, “Some worlds are like that.” There was another beheading in Iraq last weekend. Around 2,500 people have died of Ebola so far. Things got worse in Ukraine… and those are just the headlines. Actually, I avoided listening to most of the news.

Which brings me to either asking or suppressing the obvious question: if there is a God and he is good, why do things go on this way?

I wonder, wrestle, ask

I know I am not the first to wonder, to wrestle, to ask. The apostle John sat alone on the island of Patmos. He’d refused to worship the Emperor Domitian. As punishment was taken away from his church just when they desperately needed him and dropped alone onto a miserable piece of rock. Brutal persecution continued. Alone on his island, John was praying one Sunday. The way I read what happened next, the risen, resurrected powerful lord of the universe decided to make a point, and scare John out of his wits at the same time. It reminds me of the games the boys loved to play when I was a teenager.


A boy waited until a friend, preferably a pretty girl, was deeply absorbed in memorizing Spanish vocabulary or reading “The Great Gatsby” or sharing gossip, anything that required complete concentration. He tiptoed up behind her so that she had no idea he was there. Then in one motion he grabbed her in a ticklish spot and yelled loud enough to burst her eardrum, “DON’T JUMP!” My husband still loves to play this kind of trick on me and laugh when I jump halfway out of my skin. The best boys never completely grow up. But I digress…

Coping in a hard world.

Landscape with Saint John on Patmos Nicolas Poussin French, 1594–1665

The way I read Revelation 1, John was deep in conversation with God, so absorbed in fact that he was “in the Spirit”, more aware of the Spirit than he was of his physical surroundings, and Jesus snuck up behind John, and shouted in his ear, so loud it sounded like a trumpet. “Hey John, DON’T JUMP!” His actual words were, “Fear not”, almost the same thing, I think. John’s description of Jesus’ appearance is symbolic. Every feature symbolizes power and sovereignty and the ways he overcomes evil with good in the world and in his beloved people. It is difficult for us to understand the symbols until we understand what these things meant to John. It can be summarized though. Jesus was big, and strong, and scary, and more than a match for the Emperor, and all the evil he could dish out. In addition to reminding John both visually and verbally who he was, he gave John a job to do, a part to play while he waited for the end of time and the credits to roll.


It isn’t a complete answer of course. We want it all fixed and pretty and tied up in a bow now. Last time I checked the news God still hadn’t cured the plague or stopped the brutality, or deposed the evil ruler. We Christians still have a part to play. God is a lot more patient than I am and I wish he would hurry up and fix the world. But, when I remember who he is, I know I can wait, here, far from heaven, and rest, and fear not. I can even almost imagine him sneaking up behind me as I am absorbed in telling him how bad it is and hear him shout like a trumpet in my ear, “FEAR NOT!”

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4 Responses to Coping in a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad World

  1. Lanae September 18, 2014 at 10:57 am #

    I love this one, Beth. It does give hope where there just doesn’t seem to be any.

    • Beth Ratzlaff September 18, 2014 at 11:22 am #

      I hope Jesus sneaks up behind you and yells FEAR NOT in your ear today! 🙂

  2. Merrie Lea September 16, 2014 at 7:03 am #

    So often you put to beautiful word pictures what I am struggling with in my heart. Thank you for reminding me God is so powerful and in control. Fear Not!

    • Beth Ratzlaff September 16, 2014 at 8:17 am #

      Thanks, Merrie!

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