12 February 2021 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy,
My great-grandparents looked forward to Jesus’ soon coming. My grandparents believed they would be alive to see Jesus come. My parents clung to the Blessed Hope knowing they’d wake up to see Jesus in the clouds.
They are all at rest, and we’re still here.
The world seems to be getting worse everywhere we look. Are we living in the end times?
You are among millions of Seventh-day Adventists who have looked for Jesus’ return for almost 180 years, and have wondered why it hasn’t happened. While we know Jesus will return someday, it seems clear now that the expectations our church gave us about how soon it would happen were misleading.
Let us look at just one claim: that things are worse than they ever were, so Jesus’ return must be imminent. I remember as a young adult looking with despair at the world around me and wondering if things now were as bad as they were in the days of Noah?
While there are many ways we need to improve our society and how we treat one another, it may surprise you to know that it is pretty much universally agreed among the experts that the world isn’t getting worse. It is actually getting better!
Global poverty is decreasing, child mortality is declining. World hunger, child labor, worldwide nuclear weapons, teen pregnancy, and crime are all down. Meanwhile, life expectancy is up, and so is increased leisure time for people in developing countries. More people are going to school and worldwide literacy rates are up.
The experts say that the sense that things are getting worse is a misperception based on how our minds work. “When the ‘signal’ a person is searching for becomes rare, the person naturally responds by broadening his or her definition of the signal—and therefore continues to find it even when it is not there.”
What that means is that because we Adventists were always taught that the world would become increasingly evil and then Jesus would come, we consequently tell ourselves the world is getting worse—even though it is, overall, getting better!
So what does this trend toward positive world change mean? Aunt Sevvy has no answer to this theological problem other than to say that the model passed down to us by our Adventist pioneers might just be wrong.
Unlike some pessimistic Adventists, Aunty takes comfort in knowing that things in this world aren’t quite so dark as we thought. God made us caretakers of this planet, and while we are doing many things desperately wrong, apparently we’re also doing some things right.
Take heart. Jesus will return. But not on our schedule. So it seems to Aunty that we can afford to be a little more optimistic, and a little more involved in improving the world around us until He does return.
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—always without real names. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.