If the church does not proclaim the Easter hope, then who will?
“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”
You may not believe this, but there is a secular social media platform dedicated solely to communicating GOOD NEWS. The GoodNewsNetwork.org is promoted as being “an antidote to the barrage of negativity experienced in the mainstream media…it is a daily dose of hope.”1 My favorite stories so far have been: “Stray Cats Saved A Restaurant During The Pandemic” and “Banjo Player Serenades A Fox In Colorado.” I know that right now you are smiling, and maybe even making fun of these headlines, but you’re SMILING and having FUN! Friends, we desperately need and long for things that will brighten our lives, make us smile, laugh, and celebrate. Amen? Amen, indeed.
The Canadian Medical Association Journal posted an article stating that people are consuming a rapidly increasing diet of negative news. This practice, the journal claims is contributing to a worsening of mental health. Many people, writes Dr. Cecille Ahrens are stuck in a pattern of frequently monitoring bad news which in turn leads to elevated moodiness and anxiety. This harmful and habitual pattern of behaviour has been dubbed ‘doomscrolling.’2 Doomscrolling is “the act of obsessively reading bad news despite the onset of anxiety.”3 Distress and depression are a common outcome of doomscrolling. Dr. Graham C.L. Davey writes in Psychology Today that the constant consumption of negative, and often sensationalized bad news, continues to cause significant unhealthy mood changes, most notably exacerbating an individual’s own personal worries.4 The prolonged unhealthy intake of large quantities of bad news also fuels the symptoms and impact of serious physical ailments like arthritis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.5 In sum, an unhealthy diet of bad news is detrimental for mental and physical health. And yet, the world’s consumption of bad and sad news shows no signs of abating. It is no wonder that the emotional and mental well-being of our communities in this country is collapsing at an alarming rate. People ‘bloated’ with dark messaging. They are exhausted from searching, and not finding, a personal peace, joy or hope for a better future.
I am reminded of an Old Testament story about people exactly in the same space. Some 850 years before the birth of Christ: “…Ben-Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria. There was a great famine in the city; the siege lasted so long that a donkey’s head sold for eighty shekels [2 lbs.] of silver, and a quarter of a cab [1/2 pint] of seed pods for five shekels [2 ozs.]” (2 Kings 6:24-25 NIV). The starvation in the city was so horrific that cannibalism took place. On the throne of the besieged city was King Jehoram. Jehoram is so distraught about all the bad news he is encountering that he tears his robes in utter despair! In anger, Jehoram pronounces, “This disaster is from the Lord! (2 Kings 6:33 NIV).” Hearing about Jehoram’s lament, God’s prophet Elisha prophecies that the famine would be lifted – a prophecy of good news. The story continues…
“Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die? If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’–the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.” At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, not a man was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, “Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!” So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives. The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp and entered one of the tents. They ate and drank, and carried away silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also. Then they said to each other, “We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.” So they went and called out to the city gatekeepers and told them, “We went into the Aramean camp and not a man was there–not a sound of anyone–only tethered horses and donkeys, and the tents left just as they were.” The gatekeepers shouted the [good] news, and it was reported within the palace” (2 Kings 7:3-11 NIV).
These four lepers were good news people in bad news times. Today, we as disciples of Jesus are to be good news people in bad news times, not with stories of stray cats or Colorado foxes or even a ‘chicken soup’ like feel-good testimony, but with life-transforming news that brings hope, peace and joy to the present and future. And friends, we can bear witness of such a thing:
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:8-11 NIV
“Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.” 2 Corinthians 15:1-4 NLT
“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved….But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” Romans 10:8b-15 NLT
Reality check. We cannot genuinely bring this good news until our heart truly knows it. Both require the ministry of the Holy Spirit. To be good news bearers and bringers, we must first be super- naturally redeemed by Christ – “born again” (John 3:16), made into a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), possessing minds and eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 3:1; 12:2). From this space, our opportunity in the present bad and sad news culture is boundless and plentiful.
This Easter, are you a good news bearer and bringer? In the spirit of Psalm 139:23-24, ask God to search your heart as you make the following personal inquiries:
1. Does my heart reflect a good news posture?
2. Does my thinking reflect a good news perspective?
3. Do my words reflect a good news spirit?
4. Do my actions reflect a good news motivation?
May the community in which we live say about us as disciples of Jesus: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
2. Protecting the Brain Against Bad News. Canadian Medical Association Journal. Robin Blades. March 22, 2021. 193 (12) E428-E429. https://www.cmaj.ca/content/193/12/E428
3. The Science Behind Doomscrolling. ABC News. Benjamin Plackett. November 2020. https://abcnews.go.com/Technology/science-doomscrolling/story?id=74402415
4. The Psychological Impact of Negative News. Psychology Today. Graham C.L. Davey. September 21, 2020. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/why-we-worry/202009/the-psychological-impact-negative-news
5. You Asked: Is It Bad for You to Read the News Constantly? Time. Markham Heid. May 19, 2020. https://time.com/5125894/is-reading-news-bad-for-you/
Thank you Phil for a Good News perspective this Passion Week.