It’s been a rough few weeks in America, hasn’t it? News headlines have read like something out of The Hunger Games. There was the Stanford rape case. Suicide bombings in the Middle East. Zika virus threatening the Olympics. A resurgence of hemorrhagic fever in western Africa. The vitriol of this election cycle. And, of course, the atrocity of what happened in Orlando.
Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the things that can go wrong.
It happens late at night, usually, and before I know it I’m lying in bed, exhausted and wide-eyed. Daryl usually notices.
“What’s wrong?” he’ll say. “Were you on the Internet again?”
We have a good life here in southern California. Two healthy kids, a sweet little condo, lots of sun, an incredible church, friends and family. But it often feels like a truly scary world out there.
I used to be brave. I used to believe that terrible things would never, could never happen to me or the ones I loved. I miss my twenty-something invincible self. Now that I’ve lived a little life I know for a fact that sometimes the worst does happen.
Yet fixating on what could happen won’t keep it from happening. But it does rob today of its joy.
In fact, we’re often our own worst enemies when it comes to peace of mind. There are things we can prepare for (earthquakes) and things we can’t (the newest flu bug). There are precautions we can take (locking the doors) and things that signal straight-out paranoia (hoarding canned goods). But feeding the imagination with the endless list of bad things that could possibly happen is never helpful, and it is not what we’re called to do.
Perhaps Paul says it best in his letter to the church in Philippi:
Paul is not telling us to ignore horrific human acts. He’s not telling us to put our heads in the sand when we hear a tornado siren, or to turn away from injustice when we see it.
Yet fixating on horror is not healthy. We must think about good things.
So what are the good things?
Sometimes they’re the simplest things. Ocean waves. Children. A beautifully set table.
Other times they’re incredibly deep and lovingly complex. The doctrine of the Trinity. The depth of God’s love for us. The bonds between mother and baby, husband and wife, grandparent and grandchild.
We find good things abounding in Scripture. Stories of God’s grace, of his love extended to all.
We find good things in our neighborhoods when strangers slowly turn into friends.
We find good things in nature, in the stars and the mountains and the lakes and the trees.
We find good things in art, in the beauty of the written word or a musical score, in a painting or a film.
Find something good to think about before you go to sleep tonight. Turn off the news – it will still be there in the morning, and there’s not much you can do about anything by bedtime anyway. Silence your cell phone for awhile.
Remember that the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, and that Christ has died and risen and will come again.
Think about such things.