It seems to be the theme of the week for me. Just about every conversation over the past few days has eventually gotten around to the topic of the miserable condition of the world. It's almost as if everybody is reciting the same script. "These sure are dark days," they sadly say.
I've heard the line repeatedly this week.
Often, it then goes even further than that. "These are dark days" quickly morphs into "This is the darkest it has ever been; I don't think things have ever been this bad before."
While I have some suspicions about the cause of the concern, I am not precisely sure what's behind the apocalyptic tone.
My first reaction to those grim pronouncements is to think of other times in history that have been pretty bad. I'm not sure, for example, that I would trade places with followers of Jesus who were living under the oppression of the Roman Empire. I'm not sure that things were all that good in certain seasons of the Middle Ages. Even more, I suspect that lots of people alive right now are in far worse situations than the people I've been talking with lately.
I enjoyed reading an article this week written by Bill Wilson, a church consultant. He referred to a therapist friend of his who says that most of us have a habit of "awfulizing" everything. What a great word! Something hard that we encounter, we tend to believe, is surely the worst thing that has ever happened. It's just awful!
So these are the worst political candidates ever. That was the worst sermon. This is the worst weather. That was the worst experience of my life. Things have never been this bad. Everything is just . . . awful.
I think the therapist is right. We do tend to awfulize things. And that's not a small matter; there is something very unattractive - and even dangerous - about this nasty habit of awfulization.
Concluding that everything is awful prevents us from seeing the wonder of possibility and potential. As followers of Jesus, this is a great time to be alive! Just like Esther in the Old Testament, God has called us for such a time as this.
Dark days? I think not. The worst days? Hardly. Hopeless? Not on your life!
In fact, God is doing amazing things in our time. During these interesting days, we are the people who get to tell the story and cling to faith and maintain our hope. We are the people who get to extend grace and offer life and embrace the future. We are the people who have the opportunity to point people to Jesus.
Of course, we don't need to pretend that everything is perfect. In fact, things aren't perfect.
But things are not nearly as awful as some people say.
Despite all appearances, these days belong to God.