As you read this, you should know Harold Camping is warning that you have less than four months before Jesus returns.
And the word is, the Lord Jesus Christ ain’t happy.
Before you dismiss Camping as a crackpot, you should know he is no slouch. Well, at 89, he may slouch a bit, but mostly he’s a businessman who owns a chain of 150 conservative Christian radio stations called Family Radio.
With a civil engineering degree from the University of California at Berkeley, Camping has a flair for calculations.
He says the Bible contains a decipherable code that reveals something Jesus categorically called unpredictable, namely the date of Jesus’ return.
He’s put those calculations on hundreds of billboards nationwide stating that Jesus will return on May 21, 2011, to be followed by the catastrophic destruction of Earth on Oct. 21, 2011.
It’s these specific predictions that make Camping an easy target of ridicule from those within and without the Christian faith.
But if we were honest with ourselves, we’d admit Camping’s calamitous predictions remind us of two sides of our lives: one good and the other not so much.
On the better side, there is a way in which we should treat every day as if this was our last day in this world.
And not just because it will be the last day for some of us, but because this moment is the only moment truly promised to us.
I’m not suggesting you max your credit card or quit your job. I’m suggesting you give your full attention to living life now. How will you use your now?
But the flip side is the negative way in which we can make rash predictions about our future. It’s called catastrophizing, and it’s the way we tend to turn small things into catastrophes.
The online Urban Dictionary defines this common psychological term: “to hyper-imagine negative outcomes to a situation that has no basis in reality. To blow problems out of proportion such that you spiral into an emotional catastrophe.”
Simply put, it’s like taking an otherwise manageable problem and imagining how that problem will become the catastrophic end of our world.
The ironic thing about catastrophizing is that it tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Psychological studies done at the University of California, Riverside, indicate: “Males with a tendency to catastrophize were at the highest risk for early death . . . and were 25 percent more likely to die by age 65 . . . by accident or violence.”
Jesus wasn’t a psychiatrist. In a little session he conducted on a hillside, usually referred to as the Sermon on the Mount, he perfectly summarized my column points in the Message translation of the Bible:
1. “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now.”
2. “Don’t get worked up (or catastrophize) about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”
And when Jesus provides my column summary, I can’t think of much more to say, unless it would be to ask him for an interview and preferably before Oct. 21.