Staying Positive in Negative Times
By Joyce Suttin
I just finished reading an article about the media coverage of Covid-19 in the United States this past year. Using key words, the articles were rated on negativity, and 87% of the articles on all sides of the political spectrum of major news outlets in the US were negative, compared to 51% in international media, 53% in US regional media, and 64% in scientific journals.
On one hand I was shocked, while on the other it was expected. We have been fed extremely negative news since this pandemic began, and it has impacted us in many ways. The article went on to say that the news outlets give people what they want to hear, and the more negative the headlines, the more the articles are read. So they were playing to their audience.1
I began to meditate on the subject of negativity and the craving for bad news, and I remembered having to stop watching the news altogether and pulling back from all kinds of social media at times last year because it was affecting me so deeply. I needed to stop and spend more time reading inspirational material to balance out all that negativity.
Psalm 1 says that we are to be like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth fruit in its season. Sometimes there are floods, and trees along the river are imperiled. Sometimes there are droughts that nearly dry up the river. But the tree has the best chance of surviving along the riverbank when its roots reach deep into the rich soil along the river.
We recently had a “once in a century blizzard” for our location. Snow seldom reaches this far south and we normally have mild winters, but this blizzard was exceptional. We were under extreme freezing temperatures for days and surrounded by ice and deep snow. It was surreal. Then the worst of it was that the power companies were unprepared for such extreme weather, and we had regular power outages along with notices announcing the importance of boiling our water. It was a hardship, and many people whose pipes burst had expensive repairs to deal with.
Pandemics happen. Blizzards occur. And sometimes we aren’t prepared. A study of history is a study of all the terrible newsworthy things that have happened throughout the years, like wars, pandemics, and weather-related crises. The past year will undoubtedly be highlighted in the history books. But what concerns me is how it impacted me and people I care about. Have we come out of this crisis more negative, judgmental, and hardened than when we went into it?
When I was in my early twenties, my parents laughed at me for being a starry-eyed Pollyanna. They felt my husband and I were impractical and looked at the world unrealistically because of our faith. Other people cited all the terrible news in the media as a reason not to bring children into the world. We were often accused of being impractical and ill-prepared for the future.
The truth is that we went through some difficult times in all of our travels and adventures with our large family, but what I learned in retrospect is that those were also some of the most beautiful times. They were the times that brought forth beautiful fruit in our family. My roots of faith dug deeper during those various times and it became easier to withstand whatever storms came along.
This past year I realized what I needed to modify and give up, and what was important to focus on, and I have to say that it has been one of the best years of my life. I have missed family get-togethers, but as we look forward to them now, we realize how much love exists in our family. I haven’t been able to fellowship in person as much with others, but have found deeply rewarding podcasts and devotionals online.
Things have changed and we had some different kinds of challenges, but in spite of all the bad news and terrible losses, the Lord has given me what I needed and taught me a lot about what I don’t need. He has taught me a lot about how to stay positive in such a negative world, by being discerning about what I listen to, by asking Him for the grace to give up some things temporarily, and by appreciating the care and the deeper lessons of faith I learn through the hard times.
1 David Leonhardt, “Bad News Bias,” New York Times, March 24, 2021.