English teachers, cross-word puzzle buffs, and anyone who takes notice of words is perplexed, even annoyed, at twists in current language usage. “Cool” means anything but “cold” and “fat chance” and “slim chance” both mean the same thing. Even “bad” now means “good!”
Sometimes I hear my family use words that don’t seem to fit their context but when I ask what they mean, I discover they are “right on” and I am “out-of-date.” I’ve also discovered that dictionary publishers have large research staffs dedicated to the study of current word usage, which in turn dictates the meaning that is put into the next dictionary. Word meanings fluctuate according to time and culture. Just a subtle change in how, when, or why any word is said, can begin a trend leading to a new edition of Websters. Keeping current is a challenge.
This constant flux in meanings is not a new phenomena. In fact, it is as old as the Bible. Words used in Scripture must be studied with some of the above criteria in mind. Bible students sometimes interpret scripture with present word usage, failing to research how the word was used when Scripture was written. Little wonder people differ in their interpretation of the Bible!
For example, sometimes ‘bad” means “good” depending on one’s perspective. More precisely, some things we avoid as ‘bad” may be very important for us to experience, yet some things we think of as “good” might not be “good” according to God. Apply that to the or difficulties in life. The New Testament calls them trials. We call them anything from nuisances to calamities, and we certainly don’t rub our hands in happy anticipation when we see trouble coming. But God says we should. In fact, we are to “consider it pure joy” when we have trials, and the person enduring trials is blessed! (See James, chapter 1). According to God’s definition, trials test our faith and develop our character. They are part of a Christians preparation for eternity. Therefore what we call “bad,” God says can be “good,” especially from an eternal perspective.
One thing to note, “considering the trial pure joy” does not mean putting on a smile and tying to pretend pain does not exist. God acknowledges our pain. However, the Lord may not intervene and remove it. Instead, He may opt to leave it there and use it for His eternal purpose. In any case, He makes the outcome “good.” In other words, we don’t so much re-write the dictionary definition of “bad” or “good” as we re-work our responses according to faith.
Christ set the example. The Bible says that He endured His most severe trial by “entrusting Himself to the Father.” He was more concerned with eternal purpose than temporary comfort. If we are going to be joyful in trials, we also must trust the Lord, no matter what happens. He promises to work all things, even the “bad” together for “good” in our lives (Romans 8:28).
Nearly anyone can display joy when they are comfortable, but when life hands us lemons, what we do with them will reveal what we consider “good” or “bad.” An angry, negative, resentful response is the average view of a lemon. It is a sour thing, but if Jesus is there, we can have the same responses to life’s lemons as He did because His power is available to us. He supplies the sweetener and we can make lemonade!
The anticipation that God will bring good from a tough situation can keep our focus on the promised outcome, not on the painful or unpleasant aspect of that situation. Anticipation comes from sure knowledge of who He is, recognition of His mighty power, and total trust in Him. Words and the way they are used will change with the times, but when we read the Word of God, with faith, “bad” really can be “good.”