A Crippling Negativity

With much of the turmoil recently in the world, it’s not uncommon to engage in conversations with individuals who seem to be full of despair. Crimes, rebellions, corruption, poverty, starvation, accidents, disasters, economic collapse, etc. are constantly paraded in front of the public’s eye. But allowing ourselves to become entranced by this cacospectomania builds up a false reality that feeds off of itself. It ignores the many wonderful miracles which surround us every day but to which we have grown accustomed to and assumed their place in our lives. By recognizing the good that surrounds us, both physically and spiritually, we can see past the endless negativity and take control of our own future.

The Global Good News

Dr. Marc Siegel, in his book False Alarm: The truth About the Epidemic of Fear, points out how the modern fear mongering culture simply doesn’t represent reality:

Statistically, the industrialized world has never been safer. Many of us are living longer and more uneventfully. Nevertheless, we live in worst-case fear scenarios. Over the past century we Americans have dramatically reduced our risk in virtually every area of life, resulting in life spans 60 percent longer in 2000 than in 1900. Antibiotics have reduced the likelihood of dying from infections… Public health measures dictate standards for drinkable water and breathable air. Our garbage is removed quickly. We live in temperature-controlled, disease controlled lives. An yet, we worry more than ever before. The natural dangers are no longer there. but the response mechanisms are still in place, and now they are turned on much of the time. We implode, turning our adaptive fear mechanism in to a maladaptive panicked response.

Bono, in a recent TED talk, highlights several statistics the are mind-blowingly positive (to use a technical term):

  • More than 8 million people are on life-saving antiretroviral drugs, compared with only 200,000 a decade ago.
  • In several African countries, malaria deaths have been cut by 75%.
  • Child mortality rate for those under 5 is down by 2.65 million deaths a year since 2000.
  • The percentage of people living in extreme poverty (< $1.25 a day adjusted for inflation) has declined from 43% in 1990 to 33% in 2000–then to 21% in 2010. The human race has halved this form of extreme poverty in one generation. 
  • 10 countries in Africa have, in the last decade, had 100% debt cancellation, a 3 times increase in aid, a ten-fold increase in foreign domestic investment, a 4-times increase in domestic resources, cut child mortality by a third, doubled education completion rates, and also halved extreme poverty.

Matt Ridley, author of the book The Rational Optimist, helps put things in perspective:

… the vast majority of people are much better fed, much better sheltered, much better entertained, much better protected against disease and much more likely to live to old age than their ancestors have ever been. The availability of almost everything a person could want has been going rapidly upward for two hundred years and erratically upward for ten thousand years before that: years of life span, mouthfuls of clean water, lungfuls of clean air, hours of privacy, means of traveling faster than you can run, ways of communicating farther than you can shout. Even allowing for the hundreds of millions who still live in abject poverty, disease and want, this generation of human beings has access to more calories, watts, lumen-hours, square-feet, gigabytes, megahertz, light-years, nanometers, bushels per acre, miles per gallon, food miles, and, of course, dollars than any that went before.

What all of this data points towards is a story of unprecedented human progress despite the very real challenges we have faced and still face today. There certainly have been and will continue to be setbacks and bumps in the road. But the human story is a story of hope. And it is through the compassionate use of the gifts and talents God has blessed mankind that we will be able to overcome the physical challenges we face in this world.

The Spiritual Good News

This story of a miraculous triumph over trials, is echoed in the scriptures in the place that, ironically enough, comes from the very book that people often quote when citing despair or fear. A quick read through the Book of Revelation and we read of poverty, blasphemy, suffering, imprisonment, death, martyrdom, fornication, idols, false prophets, murders, lightnings, earthquakes, hail storms, fire, deforestation, environmental disasters, volcanoes, oceanic and water pollution, darkness, locusts, people seeking death, sorcery, thefts, droughts, plagues, wars, fire from heaven, pride, excessiveness, collapses of civilizations, economic collapse, disease, islands washed away, mountains overturned, crops destroyed, fear, and anger.

Certainly, we can read these prophesies, observe the tragedies and destruction currently occurring, and fall immediately into despair and fear. However, much like the debilitating negativity described above, this perspective misses the main message of the book. Told through several wonderful gems of hope placed throughout by the phrase “he that overcometh”, the narrative of the Book of Revelation culminates in a detailed description of a celestial city. The phrase “he that overcometh” is repeatedly used prior to wonderful promised blessings describing those who manage to retain hope, despite also experiencing and witnessing the same calamities as those who lose hope.

An interesting prelude to these gems in the book of Revelation is a statement made by Christ in the gospel of John. As his betrayal and sacrifice drew near, the Savior, aware of the events that would transpire, ministered to His disciples by teaching them of the Holy Spirit that would attend them in His absence and assuring them that He (Christ) has overcome the world:

  1. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
  1. Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
  2. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

John 16:13,32–33 (emphasis added)

As The One who has overcome all the pains and evils in this world, Christ’s statements to John in the book of Revelation on the blessings that will come to those who overcome carry eternal authority. Christ’s promises to “those that overcome” in the Book of Revelation, therefore, aren’t mere platitudes but authoritative promises from Someone who has experienced and understands them first-hand.

“To Him Who Overcometh”

In the Book of Revelation, the following promises are given to those “who overcometh”:

  1. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
  1. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
  1. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.
  1. And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
  2. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
  3. And I will give him the morning star.

Rev. 2: 7, 11, 17, 26–28 (emphasis added)

  1. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
  1. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
  1. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

Rev. 3: 5, 12, 21 (emphasis added)

  1. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

Rev. 21: 7 (emphasis added)

There is a richness to the blessings made to those that overcome. These blessings are deeply interconnected to blessings made throughout the scriptures regarding eternal life:

However, the question remains, “How can we overcome?”

The Power to Overcome

The Doctrine and Covenants speaks about those who overcome:

  1. He that receiveth of God, let him account it of God; and let him rejoice that he is accounted of God worthy to receive.
  2. And by giving heed and doing these things which ye have received, and which ye shall hereafter receive—and the kingdom is given you of the Father, and power to overcome all things which are not ordained of him

D&C 50:34–35 (emphasis added)

  1. And again we bear record—for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just—
  2. They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—
  3. That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
  4. And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.
  5. They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.
  6. They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—
  7. They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;
  8. And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.
  9. Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—
  10. Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
  11. And they shall overcome all things.

D&C 76:50–60 (emphasis added; notice also the same kinds of promises being made here)

From these scriptures we learn that the power to overcome comes from:

  • Receiving the Word of God
  • Receiving a testimony of Jesus
  • Obeying His commandments and ordinances
  • Receiving and living by the Holy Ghost

The Book of Revelation itself also gives some indication of how people can overcome these evils. InRevelation 12:7–9, it talks about the great war in heaven prior to God’s children here on earth. As Satan is cast out of heaven, John is told how this was done:

  1. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.
  2. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.

Rev. 12:10–11 (emphasis added)

We know how to overcome Satan and the misery and evil he seeks to inflict on this earth becausewe have done it once before. Through the power of the atonement and our faith and testimony in it, we are able to overcome all things.

 

By looking at the Book of Revelation through the lens of how to overcome trials and the wonderful promises for those who do overcome, it is transformed from an obligatory “doom and gloom” reference guide to a book full of rich promises and a guide on how to overcome trials in life. This ability, to see through the bad to find the good, is an ability that will anchor our souls to Christ and allow us to see the many spiritual and physical miracles, and people, we are surrounded with every day. And by doing this, we will have the power to overcome.