How to Take Bad News

It’s not a matter of if, but when. At one point or another, we all get faced with bad news. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to break us. In fact, how less-than-ideal news affects us is completely up to us—and in light of bad news, this simple truth can be a very good thing!

Here are six simple ways to take bad news so that it doesn’t take you down, too:

Resist the urge to react immediately. Instead, opt for patience and pause.
Our reactions don’t just affect others. They affect us, too. A knee-jerk reaction could very well set the stage for even greater emotional stress later. In other words, don’t do something in the moment that you might regret later. Instead, give yourself the opportunity and time needed to carefully think things over before you respond.

Remember Who’s in control. (Hint: It’s not you!)
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Proverbs 19:21
No matter how bad the news is, the (good) news you already know trumps it all. We already know how the story ends. While we may face frustration, pain and hardship now, our future is secure (John 16:33, Revelation 21:1-27). Remember this. Rest on this. Then, let this eternally good news shed light on any temporal shadows cast by bad news.

Go to and give it to God.
You’re not alone, so don’t act like it. Give your worries, doubts and uncertainty to the Father in prayer. Then, dig into His Word for wise counsel on your specific situation. Don’t know what to say or how to pray? Let Scripture speak for you by reading the Psalms. Turn to the Proverbs for quick nuggets of wisdom. Look to other people in God’s Word who faced similar struggles and bad news. Then, consider how you can apply these truths and experiences to your own personal situation.

Unpack the news completely.
Bad news has a way of knocking the wind out of us, and then masquerading as something it’s not. Don’t let it. Strip it down and carefully think about each piece separately. Things could very well not be as bad as they initially seem. And even if they are, there are likely hidden blessings waiting in the midst of what only appeared negative to begin with. Have you taken the time to adequately unwrap the present to find the gifts that could await you in the future? It’s incredibly easy to completely miss what we’re not looking for. Take the time and steps not to.

Keep it in the proper perspective.
Will this really matter tomorrow, next week or next year? Make an effort to accurately gauge the situation at hand. Then, only allow it to demand your attention and energy accordingly. Simply put, protect yourself by refusing to treat molehills as if they were mountains. Refuse to be fooled.

Consider what you (really) can affect and at what cost.
Take inventory of what—and to what degree—you can have an affect on a situation. Then, consider what it will cost you. Is it worth it your energy, time and effort? What will the ultimate impact be compared to what it will require from you personally? Write it down if it helps. Consider all your options and be honest about your current resources—emotional, mental, physical and financial—before you take any kind of action.

Tuning Out the Noise

We can learn a lot from the story of Noah—including how to quiet the noise around and inside of us.

Take a moment to imagine the sights, smells, sounds and stress that Noah must have experienced during all that time spent on the ark. With all the rain, the sky must have been very dark. With so many animals on board, there must have been quite a heavy stench in the air. And surely all those animals weren’t silent, not to mention the sounds that were likely made as huge drops of rain pelted against the wooden ship. The only thing that got Noah through it all was his strong walk with God—a walk that ironically enough meant a whole lot of sitting around and waiting.

Yep, I’ll bet you have even more in common with Noah than you thought!

You’re likely inundated with similarly strong distractions, too. Maybe you juggle a job and taking care of your family. Maybe you struggle with worry. Maybe you’re overwhelmed with trying to make ends meet. Maybe it’s all of the above. No matter what the noise is, we can choose to give it our attention or develop ways to tune it out.

Here are a few ideas for just how to do that:

Squash molehills before they become mountains.
Worry is adept at snowballing. So, as soon as you feel it creeping in, stop it.
Jesus told us not worry. And while this may be easier said than done—like anything else—we can get better with practice.
So, intentionally choose to accept His gracious gift of peace (John 14:27). And make room for His peace by giving Him your worries (Psalm 55:22).

Don’t ignore the noise.
Keep it contained—with the right perspective.
Sure, stress may be screaming for your attention. In fact, it may be absolutely demanding it. But keep it in its place by framing it in the proper perspective. God created us as human beings, not human doings. Our first and foremost job is to focus on, worship and bring glory to God (Isaiah 43:7, 43:21, Ecclesiastes 12:13, 1 Samuel 12:24). Everything else is secondary. Can’t seem to catch your breath? Close your eyes. Then, don’t just count to 10. Count on Him.

Get it out by writing it down.
Sometimes we truly can’t let things go or quiet our inner rumblings until we get it out somehow. This can meaning sharing with a trusted friend or spouse. But sometimes, things may be so private, fear-filled or shame-inducing, that even the idea of sharing with another person creates even more stress. So, write it down. Share it only with God. No shame or fear need be felt because He already knows (1 John 3:20) and still loves and wants to hear from us (Psalm 50:15). The act of putting our troubles (or anything, for that matter) down on paper actually helps us better process them, too. Instead of just noise, suddenly problems—and possible insights and solutions—can become much more clear. Worried about someone finding your private confessions and thoughts? Make a commitment to yourself to shred it afterward. It’s the process that’s important to quieting the noise, not necessarily the notes that remain afterward.