This post is the second in a two part series: A Way to Think and a Work to Do; Processing and Responding to Bad News. Click here to read part one: A Way to Think; Processing Bad News.


Promoting and protecting human flourishing

Now, what should we do? How should we as a people, as individuals, as families, as a church be responding to bad news? There are obviously many, many ways to answer this question (one of them would be ardently and enthusiastically confessing the good news of life and salvation in Jesus Christ, bringing our living hope into the midst of our pain!). I want to offer one answer with three parts. My answer will focus on human flourishing. In other words, what can we do to promote human flourishing, to advance and protect wellness and joy?

Building and supporting guardrails

The answer may surprise you. We need to build (or re-build) key cultural, institutional, and familial guardrails. Let me explain. When guardrails on the highway fail, when they are weakened or removed, bad things happen. To be more precise, when guardrails are torn down, accidents that might have otherwise been minor become major. The same holds true for cultural, institutional, and familial guardrails. Having good and solid cultural, institutional, and familial guardrails in place won’t necessarily prevent bad things from happening, but they will go a very long way in preventing bad behavior and in keeping it from escalating.

Scripture highlights at least three key guardrails that God has established: the family (the cradle of culture) (see Genesis 1:26-31), the church (the hub of our life) (see 1 Timothy 3:15, Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:19-22), and the government (the defender of the good) (see Romans 13:1-7). We need to invest in and meaningfully engage in all three.

How? Here are a few concrete suggestions.



Responding to bad news starts at home. Prioritize family. Start by turning off your TV. Put down your phones. Eat meals together. Read Scripture together. Read books aloud to each other. Play games together. Pray together. Make intentional efforts to talk to one another. Ask open ended questions: “What was the best thing that happened in your day? What was the worst?” Get a pile of conversation cards and use them to guide conversations during meals.

Build an identity

Be a family. Build family identity. Make it clear: this is who we are. This is what we stand for. But please, PLEASE, understand: parents must be all in. Parents must prioritize family life. Parents must turn off their TVs (and get them out of their bedrooms and their children’s bedrooms!) and put their phones down. Screens aren’t evil, but they are dangerously powerful. They have the potential to fracture the family and to destroy this guardrail. Don’t let them. Rein them in. If you’re going to watch something, make it a family event. Watch it together. Talk about it together. Incorporate it into the family together. Make it part of the family identity.

Reinforce rather than fracture

The multiplication of screens with individual family members separately watching content not only does nothing to build a family, but it does everything to fracture it, drawing individual family members ever away from each other and into the world of the screen. Save your family from fracturing! Reinforcing family bonds is a way of responding to bad news. Be a family.

Invest in your family

We especially need men to step up here. We need men who will be honorable men and women who will respect them (there’s way too much man bashing today!). It’s not that men don’t or haven’t behaved badly[1], but we won’t get men to step up by beating them down. The statistical evidence is undeniable, when men stand for righteousness, families thrive. When men check out, families falter. We need men to be men. We need men to be pillars of righteousness and honor, and to invest in family.

This way of respondign to bad news will build belonging in and among the family and the guardrails that guide behaviors and make certain behaviors unacceptable. To be as direct as I can: we need men who will commit to women, marry them, raise children with them, and confidently walk the straight line of righteousness as a living example for children. This won’t solve every societal ill, but it will go a long way toward making things better. It will establish necessary guardrails and foster human flourishing.


Engage consistently

Paul, writing to Timothy, writes of, “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). These are astonishing words! God’s church is His household, His family where His presence dwells! And God establishes this Church as a pillar and buttress of the truth. Or, to use our word, a guardrail! Like the family we just discussed, we need the church. It needs to be strong, unwavering, and consistent. And we need to invest in it. We need to participate in it and to hear the Word of truth, of wisdom, of accountability, especially as we are responding to bad news in our world. We need to learn the fear of the Lord.

If we want to flourish as a people, we need to put the Creator before the creature, we need to honor His guardrails. Surprising as it might sound (and in opposition to what the world claims), God’s guardrails are liberating. Take a few moments to appreciate what the psalmist is saying about God’s guardrails for our life (revealed in God’s precepts):

The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
(Psalm 19:7-11)

Engage in conversation

There is great reward – human flourishing! – in honoring God’s guardrails. So, to do this we need to get ourselves and our families into church, into worship, into the life of the church. Sending our children to Sunday school is good; attending worship as a family and everyone studying God’s Word in Sunday school and Bible class is better – way better. Discussing the Bible readings from worship, the sermon, hymns, liturgy, and Sunday school lessons as a family (or with friends) is better still. Get involved in God’s church. Respect His guardrails. Experience human flourishing. 


People love to lampoon and demonize the government, particularly when responding to bad news. And many of our leaders, in response to shootings and tragedies have acted inappropriately, slinging a lot of mud in politically motivated rhetoric. This is shameless. The thing about mudslinging though, is that when you fling mud, you not only get dirty, but you lose a lot of ground.

Mudslinging gains nothing. It must stop, especially by anyone who confesses Christ as Lord. We are called to honorable behavior. We cannot demonize and dishonor God’s governing authorities, no matter how strongly we may disagree with them. If we disagree, we must learn to disagree with grace and to offer what good we believe needs to be defended.

Established by God

Government is not bad. Governing authorities may behave badly, but government has been given by God. Even more, it has been given by God for good, for human flourishing. In fact, Scripture calls the governing authorities God’s servants (Romans 13:4). Our job is to ensure they know what good is. In other words, we must know what God has called good, what God has established for our good and for human flourishing (which we can find, for instance, in the creation narrative and the Ten Commandments).

Then we must tell the governing authorities what is good. We do that both by voting and by contacting our representatives. But to vote wisely, we must pay attention to party platforms. We must learn to consider individual personalities after platforms. Platforms govern the governing authorities.

God’s servants

We may even consider running for office. This is a good and honorable thing to do. Remember, governing authorities are God’s servants. Serving in government is one way to serve the Lord. Serving in a governing office is one way to facilitate human flourishing. Further, governing authorities have the potential to teach what good should be protected by passing and defending laws designed to protect that good.

As we’ve highlighted before, laws not only protect what is good (because you build fences, i.e. laws, around the things you value), they reveal the things we believe are good and in need of protection (the unborn, for instance, which is why we need good life affirming, natural marriage affirming, family affirming laws). No, these laws won’t and don’t change people’s hearts, but that isn’t their purpose. They are the cultural guardrails that we erect to protect us from bad behavior.

Moving toward flourishing

Family. Church. Government. These guardrails are good. They need to be maintained, and in many cases, rebuilt because we have let them crumble. No, these guardrails won’t stop every tragedy, but they are a part of responding to bad news and will go a long way toward lessening their severity, and even further toward facilitating human flourishing.

Rev. Jonathan Conner
Pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Manning, Iowa
LFS Congregational Services Ambassador

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[1]  Space prevents a further treatment of this, but the sexual revolution and its separation of sex from marriage, the one-flesh union, and the blessing of procreation, has essentially given men the moral license to see women as objects of sexual pleasure and children as the unwanted result of the sexual act, the unwanted result that abortion “solves.”

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