The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea—the Lord on high is mighty!
The Power of Bad?
As this unprecedented pandemic unfolds, one thing has become painfully clear: it’s almost impossible not to focus on all the things that are bad, disappointing, frightening and upsetting. Last week I mentioned the John Krasinski YouTube phenomenon called Some Good News. And even though such programs might relieve the heaviness for a moment, it still feels like some good news always seems to succumb to some bad news!
It’s actually true…and there is even a name for it. It’s called the “negativity effect.”
Researcher and Social Psychologist Roy Baumeister was one of the first to identify the negativity effect (or negativity bias), whereby negative things (unpleasant thoughts, emotions, events or social interactions) have a much greater effect on our psychological state than positive things. In fact, it takes about four pieces of “good news” just to neutralize one piece of “bad news.” The same is true of our behaviors and social interactions. If I treat someone badly, for example, it takes at least four acts of kindness just to bring the scale back to zero.
In his book, The Power of Bad, Baumeister describes the negativity effect this way:
“We’re devastated by a word of criticism but unmoved by a shower of praise. We see the hostile face in the crowd and miss all the friendly smiles. The negativity effect sounds depressing—and it often is—but it doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Bad appears stronger, but good can prevail if we know what we’re up against.”
Sounds like good advice for anyone trying to follow Jesus in this world today!
Psalm 93 offers us a strong dose of positivity to confront life’s negativity effect. Short and to the point, the songwriter begins by acknowledging the majesty, strength and permanence of Almighty God (vs. 1-2); he ends by professing that God’s word (statutes) is firm, and God’s way (holiness) endures forever (vs. 5); and between those strong declarations, the psalmist compares God’s power to the awesome power of the stormy seas, and concludes there is no comparison:
Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea—the Lord on high is mighty! (Psalm 93:4)
Yes, bad comes at us strong and loud—and we should never diminish what we’re up against—but God is mightier! Our good God always prevails…and He will prevail to the end!
From the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation you could sum up the story of human history this way: GOD WINS! We celebrate it as a fact when it is evident, and we claim it as a promise whenever it’s not evident. We declare that GOD WINS! not because it’s obvious, but because it’s true. As followers of Jesus today, we might want to call it our positivity effect. Our faith positively proclaims that God is mightier than the storm…ultimately GOD WINS!
Near the end of his time on earth, as Jesus was preparing himself and his disciples for the darkest days they had ever known, he assured them that even when it looks like the storm is mightier—even in the midst of hardship and persecution and death—ultimately GOD WINS!
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
GOD WINS! Even when it’s not obvious, it’s still true. That knowledge would be the heartbeat of their faith, confidence, and peace in the troubled times to come. And that is our promise and peace as well. Trusting Jesus can be and will be your positivity effect as you continue to put your hope in him. He is the way, the truth, and the life…he is our Living Water…always stay thirsty for him!