Think the Unthinkable

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Think the Unthinkable

From the May 2015 Trumpet Print Edition

I never thought this would happen to me. This is what we often say when an intensely painful experience strikes, like the discovery of a terminal illness, a family crisis, a devastating loss.

Being blindsided by catastrophe is unpleasant and agonizing. Yet the chances are high that all of us at some point will be struck suddenly by tragedy.

Although inexplicable and unforeseen disasters do happen, most tragedies are predictable. We can avoid being blindsided. But this requires being prepared to humbly and honestly think on unpleasant realities. It requires a willingness to ponder the negative consequences of behavior, actions and trends, whether in your personal life or globally. Anticipating disaster means being prepared to think on the unthinkable.

Most people are unwilling to do this. The Prophet Isaiah described this condition perfectly. He wrote that in the end time, people would tell their leaders, “Speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isaiah 30:10). Most people simply don’t want to contemplate the negative.

There are many reasons for this. In many instances the incentive to consider consequences has been eliminated. Why should the man whose appetite is satisfied, even if it’s on Coke and Skittles paid for with food stamps, think about the threats to his food supply—issues like soil and water pollution, drought, his nation’s fragile economy? What motivation does the lazy man have to think seriously on the consequences of his inaction as long as the government is paying his rent and feeding his children? What’s the incentive to think on the consequences of promiscuous sex when there’s no longer a negative cultural stigma attached to it, and when there’s the morning-after pill and drugs for stds?

Today, entire industries—health care and pharmaceuticals, for example—exist primarily to eliminate the negative consequences of wrong decisions. People are thoughtless about diet, exercise and lifestyle because there is a pill, operation or therapist to treat the negative results of their actions. That is, until disaster inevitably strikes.

More broadly, what incentive is there for the individual whose private backyard is secure to think seriously on Vladimir Putin’s effort to redefine Russia’s border with Europe? What need is there for the ordinary American, Australian or Austrian to think soberly on the ramifications of Iran getting nuclear weapons? What incentive is there for Beth in Muskogee, Oklahoma, to dwell on the euro crisis? These are serious, consequential issues with real potential for terrible tragedy. But most of us feel little need to think seriously about them.

Part of the problem also revolves around the confidence we put in our own intelligence. Whatever the problem, we think we have the policy, procedure, equation, gadget or drug to fix it. Who cares about cholesterol when you can have a quadruple bypass—and a government program to pay for it? Who cares about soil degradation when there’s synthetic fertilizer? Who cares about the tough issues when we have smart, educated, sophisticated people to take care of them? Most people are happy to leave the hard problems to the scientists, engineers, analysts, doctors and politicians—ignoring the reality that these people created many of the problems in the first place.

Our modern world has deceived us into thinking our decisions and behavior have no negative consequences. Higher education, sociology and philosophy, and, above all, Hollywood tell us that our choices are, should be or will be free of negative ramifications. We are all James Bond—we can engage in every dangerous activity and never get hurt, get in trouble, be punished, or have to feel bad. Horrible things happen in movies, but they only happen to the extras.

Our resultant inability or unwillingness to think on the unthinkable has left us individually and collectively terrifyingly vulnerable. People are not prepared physically, mentally and emotionally for trial and hardship. But look at the world: Great hardship is coming!

What if Russia further invades Europe? What if the Islamic State makes it to Europe and America? What if Iran gets the nuclear bomb? What if Russia and China undermine the American economy? What if the global economy really does collapse? What if racial tensions explode? What if our polluted oceans, rivers, soil and air finally reach the tipping point? Think too: We are facing all of these possibilities—likelihoods, in fact—at once!

How seriously are you thinking about the unthinkable ramifications of these issues?

You must avoid this trap. Don’t casually assume man is intelligent enough to solve these issues. Don’t leave the serious thinking and problem solving to someone society says is smarter than you. Reject the notion that there are no consequences for action. Be serious. Be sober. Evaluate the facts, humbly, carefully and honestly. Think on the many problems this world, your community and your family face. Then think of just how many major problems are converging all at once.

How beautiful to be able to face the truth! God wants you to face the truth, and He will help you. That’s why He works so hard and tirelessly to warn you! In fact, to those who respond to this call and turn their lives over to Him, God says He will provide a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Before anything though, you need to be willing to humbly, honestly and seriously think on these issues. Try it. Dare to go where so few go. Think on the unthinkable. Do this, and with God’s blessing, you will never have to utter those debilitating words: I never imagined this would happen to me.