“That day will be a day of wrath,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness….”
Zephaniah 1:15 (NRSV)
Wendy and I start most mornings with coffee, breakfast and the newspaper. We read through the news and discuss world events. We talk about the elections and the latest prognostications from modern-day prophets on the editorial pages. More often than not we chuckle at the horror, the doom, and the gloom that we find there.
There is something innately human about the way we flock to bad news. News outlets know that we, like lemmings, will be drawn and to blood (10 Dead in Latest Rampage) and fear (Study Shows Water Will Kill You). Publications on the left know that their readers are motivated by fear of the right (Ted Cruz Wants to Arm Babies!) and publications on the right know that readers are motivated by fear of the left (Hillary’s Secret E-mails Gave ISIS Our Nuclear Protocols!). What’s more, fear sells papers and draws viewers which generate advertising dollars. And fear creates lucrative financial opportunities (Do Cell Phones Breed Brain Worms? Congress Earmarks Funds for Research).
Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.
The ancient prophets were also doom and gloom-ers. Read today’s chapter and it’s enough to motivate a call to your physician for a prescription of Zoloft. The scenes of devastation that Zephaniah pictures are horrific, much like the scenes of devastation described by CBS Sunday Morning this past Sunday in their predictions of the earthquake, “The Big One,” that will someday hit the Pacific northwest.
The thing is, there is truth in the doom and gloom. Read the historic accounts of Judah’s siege and devastating defeat to the Babylonians and all of a sudden Zephaniah seems fairly prescient. When you think about 15,000 dead in the Japanese earthquake and tsunami five years ago, the predictive doom and gloom for Seattle and Portland become more than mere yellow journalism.
History is full of tragedy, destruction, war, famine, suffering, and death. It has always been part of the human experience and it always will. The question is not whether bad things will happen but how I will respond when they do. I can obsess in fear about what might happen in the future, or I can be wise in how I walk life’s journey on this day. I can choose to focus on anxiety-producing “what ifs” regarding tomorrow, or I can choose to focus on being a person of love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness today.
This morning, on this day, I am focused on Jesus’ words:
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:34 (MSG)