What the news won’t tell you
They’re actually live-streaming fear, I thought after skimming the news on my phone. Nine out of the ten top articles were about the coronavirus. Every media outlet was featuring news about the latest statistics, how to protect yourself, who’s in most danger, and on and on and on. I could feel fear starting to wrap its tentacles around my thoughts. What to do? Wash my hands a lot? Stock up on supplies? Stay home?
It’s important to keep up with the current news, because we don’t want to be blindsided. But compulsively checking our devices every other minute can’t be helpful when it instills fear or panic.
We have to decide which path we want to take when it comes to the information we’re letting in.
In fact, one of the pieces I did read related this: “People should … limit their media exposure, experts say. They caution against reading about the outbreak obsessively” (Alia E. Dastagir, “The facts on coronavirus aren’t all scary. So why so much fear?” usatoday.com, Mar. 12, 2020).
Comments like these, and my life experience, have clearly shown me that we have to decide which path we want to take when it comes to the information we’re letting in. We can go down the path of fear, hopelessness, and despair, or we can choose the path of expecting good.
Looking in a more hopeful direction is about more than optimism. I’ve learned in Christian Science that it’s based in a recognition that God is good and also supreme and all-power. So choosing to turn our thoughts toward good is grounded in a foundational spiritual fact.
Sometimes choosing good is hard, because the negative thoughts seem so overwhelming. But in those moments, I’ve found this passage by Mary Baker Eddy helpful: “Know, then, that you possess sovereign power to think and act rightly, and that nothing can dispossess you of this heritage and trespass on Love” (Pulpit and Press, p. 3 ). We have the ability to do this, because this power is not our own but comes from God, divine Love.
Let’s take the example of a negative thought like fear—such as fear for individuals in what’s been labeled as the “high risk” category for the coronavirus. This feeling of fear comes to us unbidden. But we can exercise our right to do something about it. This is where prayer comes in. You can always find your own inspiration, but one thing that helps me is thinking about God’s omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, and omniaction. I spend time recognizing how each of these expressions of God’s being is true and operating. When I’ve done that, and understood it clearly, I realize there really is nothing to fear. And this has a tangible, outward effect.
I realized I could choose to stay fixated on the hypnotic information and all the fear I was feeling, or I could open my thoughts to God’s perspective.
I saw this for myself when there was an out-of-control wildfire that threatened my neighborhood. I was glued to news reports and local updates, which had terrifying visuals of advancing flames. I was also frequently going outside to check the smoke. You might think, Right, of course, that kind of a response makes sense. I needed that information to stay safe, didn’t I?
But I learned something during this experience about the kind of information I really needed to keep me safe. After a few days of living in fear, I suddenly realized I could choose to stay fixated on the hypnotic information and all the fear I was feeling, or I could put my thoughts somewhere else. And opening my thinking to God’s perspective instantly lifted me to an entirely different place—a place of gratitude, a place of absolute conviction that God was taking care of everyone involved.
After that, when I occasionally checked the news over the next few weeks, it was just to get the basic facts of what was happening. But I wasn’t counting on the news to help me feel better, nor did it cause me to feel worse.
I know many others were praying about the fire, too. And here’s what happened. Instead of the loss of potentially thousands of homes, fewer than 20 cabins burned, and they were all weekend cabins in the canyon where the fire started. Everyone was protected.
Dealing with thoughts as they come to us is important and helpful. But there’s something even more powerful that we all can do, and it’s this: Know that God is in control of the universe, God is in control of our lives, God is the actual power, before we even check the news or social media. That’s putting God first, and when we do put God first, it not only helps us feel more peaceful, but also puts us in a position to be part of the solution.