Sleep on This: Good news about bad news (May 14)
Good evening, friend!
“If it bleeds, it leads.” This familiar trope describes the state of the media today. Perhaps it always has, but never more than today. The more spectacular the bad news, the better. And like a rat that is mesmerized by the swaying of the cobra’s head, we find it almost impossible to break away from the diet of the disheartening.
We all have our favorite bad-news channels. I have mine. But I have made a point of turning to those “other” channels just to maintain some semblance of balance. Alas, regardless of whether I’m listening to the “us” channels or the “them” channels, they are unflaggingly gloomy!
It’s not that there is no good news out there. There is! That longed-for, hoped-for “flattening of the curve” is, in fact, happening in many places. The greater caution being demonstrated by the vast majority of sane and responsible Americans is producing some hopeful results. There are some encouraging reports about therapeutics and fast-tracked vaccines that show promise. And experiments in cautious re-opening in some parts of our nation are, at least for now, beginning to breathe new life into our battered economy.
In short, there IS some good news out there. But it is just not sexy…and just not addictive. And so, like the bad-news-junkies that we have become, we return again and again for our fix.
I’m not sure where the balance between reality and optimism lies, but we have not yet found it. And we need to look harder.
When Moses sent 12 spies into the Promised Land (Numbers 13), they all returned with enthusiastic reports of the beauty and bounty of the land. But 10 of them could not help themselves; they focused on the bad news: “The land devours its inhabitants. All the people we saw there are huge. We seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers…and so we seemed to them.”
I’ve always found that last phrase fascinating. How could the spies possibly know what the “giants” in the land thought of them? Clearly, this was a case of projection; they assumed that the low opinion that they had of themselves was shared by their enemies.
Only two men, Caleb and Joshua, managed to see the good news. A land that WAS flowing with milk and honey; a land filled with good fruit. And in the end, only those two were allowed to enter that land of promise. The doom-sayers remained in the safety…and the bleakness… of the wilderness.
I’m not advocating obscurantism. We need to look clearly and courageously at all the facts. But, in a world addicted to bad news, maybe we, the gospel people, should call out the good, too, hopeful for the day when we will enter a new land of promise.
Lord, as I lay me down to sleep, bring to mind the encouraging things I have heard this day. Protect me from the suffocating despair that a diet of bad news can produce. Help me to see the bright spots in the midst of darkness, in my rest and in my day to come. Amen.