|When the words "Breaking News" appear on the TV screen,|
many of us are inclined to think, "Oh, no! What now?"
“If it bleeds, it leads.” For decades, this has been the mantra of broadcast news. Have you noticed almost every time we turn on the news, local or national, the first 10-15 minutes are devoted to the latest killings, catastrophes and calamities? If I’m ever having a really good day, so good I can’t stand it, all I have to turn on the news to get over it. Instant gloom, delivered via smiling, talking heads. "No good news, unless there's nothing else!"
Why is this? Why do the news media think it’s so important to focus on what’s wrong today, or what could possibly go wrong tomorrow? There are numerous possible explanations, but the bottom line is, it’s what many of us want. It’s a matter of both fear – and relief.
We hear a report about an escalating tropical storm, or an extended drought, or approaching blizzard, and what follows? Fear. We’re told about a disease outbreak or some other dire situation we could confront, and how do we react? Anxiety. What does the report about an overnight killing, or terrible traffic accident, or devastating earthquake do for us? To be honest, after initial curiosity, and some sympathy, we feel relief. Because it wasn’t us or someone we know that was involved.
There’s a strange quirk of human behavior that causes us to take a vicarious interest in the misfortunes of others. Not that we revel in them. Not at all. But we realize tragedy, at least this time, hasn’t camped on our doorstep.
I remember being an assistant editor on a daily newspaper when a major fire broke out at a manufacturing plant, causing massive destruction. As I recall, no one died or suffered serious injury, but as our managing editor pointed out, it was “a good fire,” meaning readership of the newspaper that day would jump considerably as people sought to learn about what happened.
The reality is, we live in an imperfect, broken world in which bad stuff happens. A lot of it. And sometimes it happens to us, so we can’t help feeling somewhat relieved whenever it doesn’t.
This is one reason I find God’s promises in the Scriptures so comforting. They offer assurance that even in the midst of life’s trials, travails and tragedies, God is there. He’s not distant, and is actively involved in guiding and shaping our lives according to His perfect will.
Isaiah 41:10, for example, says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Then Jeremiah 29:11 offers this promise: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plants to give you hope and a future.’” I don’t know about you, but after listening to 30 minutes or more of gloom and doom on TV, I need that kind of confidence – God’s ultimately in control.
Recently a friend spoke about some personal struggles he’s been confronting, daunting ones with no simple solutions. But in the midst of them, he has reminded himself – as well as anyone who’ll listen – that the Scriptures assert, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).
As Jesus declared to His followers, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:6-7). We live in very troubled times, with great uncertainty. But in the midst of horrendous events, we need not lose hope and despair. Because God is in control.