I have been thinking lately about a news story I read back in January. A Utah couple were found dead in their home along with three of their four children–a murder-suicide precipitated by fear of the apocalypse.
Although their example is extreme, it highlights a crucial dilemma so prevalent in our world right now, particularly for those of us involved in prepping or the study of the apocalypse:
How do we, as individuals and communities, think about and prepare for our uncertain futures, knowing the suffering, loss, and devastation they may hold, and yet still find a way to live in the present, to embrace and enjoy our lives without being crippled by fear?
Because, really, this isn’t just a question about the apocalypse. Our futures have always been uncertain, except for the simple fact that every one of them will end. And yet, many of us still manage to get out of bed in the morning. To have children. To plant seeds in the garden. To make plans. To fall in love.
There is something ingrained and essential to our nature as human beings that allows us to imagine that we will still be here when those seeds push up from beneath the dark earth. When they unfurl their first leaves. When they burst into blossom. When they finally scatter their own seeds.
That something is called faith–a word that comes from the root “to trust.”
We are not talking about a sunny disposition that makes us believe that things will be better tomorrow. An optimist says, “The war will be over; your wounds will be healed, the depression will go away; all will be better soon.” The optimist may be right, but unfortunately he or she may also be wrong. For none of us can control our circumstances.
— Henri Nouwen, Turn My Mourning into Dancing
Faith is not about thoughtlessly clinging to best possible results. Doing so can be dangerous. It can blind us to unseen threats, to actions we could take to improve our odds, to what the people around us are going through.
And so we must make a choice. To walk through life with our eyes closed, experiencing neither the beauty nor the pain, or to face our fears up front, to look them in the eyes, to call them by name.
Because here’s the thing: When we choose the second path, when we look into out own worst case scenarios, we reclaim our power. And when we take the next step and begin to address them–acknowledge them, talk about them, prepare for them–we may find ways to lessen or avoid them. As we begin to confront the things that scare us, they start to lose their hold. And as one-by-one the shadow each fear has cast over our lives begins to desolve, we will see it isn’t just our future we are liberating. It’s our present.
Knowing a thing, naming it, that gives us power–not power over or against, but power within.
Or better yet, be afraid. But also trust–in your strength, in your capacity for healing and compassion, and, yes, in your preparations, once you make them. We are, as a species, uncannily resilient. Let us embrace that legacy.