Fear-Mongering

Not today!

It’s 9 a.m. The weather prediction for the rest of today reads… “Cloudy. Snow in the afternoon. … Highs 24 to 30. North winds 10 to 20 mph.”

I’m looking out my window at a pure blue sky, the sun is shining, and it’s already 30°. At least today’s forecast is more accurate (they did say 50%, not 100%) than one last summer that confidently proclaimed sunny skies and high temperatures, while outside a chill wind drove the pouring rain horizontally. You’d think the weather folks would look out their window before hitting that “publish” button!

Meteorologists are easy to pick on, but lots of people predict all sorts of things—cataclysms, wars, epidemics, economic disaster or economic recovery—usually with a tremendous amount of self-assurance. In fact we’re so sure we’re right, we invite the media to the show.

Perhaps we’re seeking our moment in the spotlight. It feels good to be thought of as an expert, with others looking to us for the answers. Politicians have good reason to predict a rosy future if they’re elected, gloom and doom if they’re not.

Or maybe it’s just greed. We can make a lot of money by scaring people, especially if we’re selling something. Remember all those non-perishable food supplies people snapped up because Y2K was going to destroy civilization? Besides, if we’re wrong, no one will remember us a year later.

Certainly, many people really believe the message they proclaim. If you’re convinced that manmade global warming is going to destroy the planet, then it makes sense that you’d warn others and strive for change. And if you believe that secondhand smoke could give you lung cancer, you’ll lobby for a ban on smoking in public places.

The question is, what can we be sure of? After all, many predictions are dead wrong (here are some fun examples), and contradictory predictions can’t all be correct. Do we believe whoever is the best at arguing their point? Do we buy into all the fear mongering, just in case they’re right? On what should be base our actions?

We would expect that most people would believe the good news and ignore the warnings. However, human nature can be surprising. We seem to be a race of Chicken Littles, convinced the sky is falling. We run around worried, anxious, consumed with the drama of it all, as if life is so boring even bad news is welcome.

As believers, we get to be salt and light in these situations, modeling an appropriate response. Rather than being full of fear, we can trust in God’s goodness. Of course, if God is sending a warning, we want to pay attention. What if Nineveh had not repented at Jonah’s message, or if Joseph had ignored God’s warning to flee with baby Jesus to Egypt?

As with so many aspects of our walk with God, it all boils down to relationship. How well do we know God’s voice? Will we recognize Him if He speaks to us? Do we know our Bibles well enough to discern if something we hear is compatible with God’s word? Can we distinguish between truth and lies?

Do we trust God to be with us always? Are we convinced that ultimately everything will work together for good, even if we can’t see how that’s possible from our earthly perspective? We have no guarantee that we, or someone we care about, won’t get hurt. We might even die. Rather, we have the assurance that even if we are harmed physically, nothing can snatch us from His hand.

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