The headline stories of the past month have been child abuse, college athletics, and murder in a theater complex. During the same period but relegated to the bottom of the front page have been the Syrian civil war, the American presidential race, and the ongoing global financial crisis.

Now the lead stories are from London. The Queen of England does a cameo role with cinema’s James Bond, and Paul McCartney sings rock’s quintessential nah, nah, nah, nahs of "Hey Jude." Some 10,500 athletes are competing in the official events. Favorites fail; unknowns triumph. Heart-warming stories emerge — like that of a legally blind South Korean archer winning the gold medal and setting a world record in the process or an American cancer survivor.

So which is it? Murder or games? Syrian shelling or spectacular fireworks? Royalty and superstars or executioners and monsters? Should you and I fall on our faces in tears or stand up to cheer? Do the contrasts confuse you?

This is life! Reality follows no script. There is — and always will be — a random mix of good and evil, fine fortune and unwarranted grief. We could wish for happy endings to every story, but life just doesn’t work that way. Maybe the worst thing of all is that some people think that there is a script and that people are either “getting what they deserve” or “living out the will of God.”

The truth of the matter is very, very different. Most of what happens in this world is not the will of God, but our goal must be to react to everything in a way that honors his will for humanity. People aren’t always getting what they deserve, or we can’t make sense of Joseph in an Egyptian prison or Jesus on a Roman cross. History is replete with pious martyrs in graves and evil tyrants on thrones.

It must be this way. Life now is a probationary and testing time; heaven comes at the end and as the reward for faith. If everything “worked right” for those who are Christians, we’d all be Christians just to avoid the hassle and stress. If suffering were always and only one’s “just desserts,” why should we feel sympathy or show kindness rather than kicking her while she’s already down?

If you’re into the Olympic Games or long walks or family dinners, enjoy. Be grateful, and share the delight. If you are walking through a dark valley of illness or bankruptcy or loneliness, mourn. Be humble, and ask God for strength.

So which is it?
Life is a mysterious mix that refuses to yield to bumper-sticker solutions. Your situation today neither tells God’s opinion of you nor reveals your worth as a man or woman in his image. It is simply what it is. How you choose to deal with it translates your faith into deeds and defines your relationship with God.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him (James 1:12 NIV).

Photo is of legally blind South Korean archer Im Dong-hyun taken by Marcio Jose Sanchez. See AP article here: