American culture has been fascinated with “doomsday” stories for decades. Science fictions buffs have a variety of end of the world scenarios including nuclear war, giant asteroids, another ice age or alien invasion. New age followers are convinced that we should be paying attention to Nostradamus’s prophecies, which speak frequently about how the world will end. Those prophecies focus on the rise of the three “anti-Christs” who would bring great destruction on the world. Those who believe in Nostradamus think Napoleon Bonaparte was the first anti-Christ and that Adolf Hitler was the second. They are not in agreement who the third anti-Christ will be. Some of the more radical views are that it will be either the Catholic pope or Barack Obama.
In recent months a new wave of “end of the world” fever has began to spread as a result of the publishing of a Mayan prophecy that says the current “cycle” of the world will end on December 21, 2012. This cryptic warning has hit the main stream mostly due to the promotion of an upcoming movie that focuses on a fictionalized account of what might happen if that prophecy were actually true.
Obviously no one knows if the world will end in our lifetimes. If the world does end, no one knows how or when it would happen. Regardless of our inability to predict the end of the world, thoughts about that subject seem to captivate our collective consciousness. I think one reason such thoughts are so prevalent in modern American culture is because we live in a culture that has gone array. Marriages are falling apart, deficit spending has made the long term economic outlook for our nation shaky, and many of the pillars that have traditionally held our society up seem to be on the verge of teetering. These realities lead people to feel like the whole world is falling apart. Those trends produce emotional anxieties that make doomsday scenarios seem more realistic.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume the Mayan prophecy is true and the world as we know it will end on December 21, 2012. What should we be doing to prepare? Should we be building bomb shelters, or stockpiling food, or hoarding gold? If everything is going to fall apart, surely we should be doing something to prepare for such world-wide destruction.
Thinking about how we should prepare for the end of the world might actually be helpful. Don’t misunderstand me; I am not a follower of Nostradamus or of the Mayan prophecies. As a Christian I believe that God will bring about the end of the world in His own time and His own way. My faith in the Sovereignty of God in all things gives me great hope and inner peace. Though I do not know what the future holds, I believe that Christ holds the future. This does not mean that I never think about the end of the world, but it does mean that thinking about it does not keep me up at night. My faith helps me sleep well knowing that no matter what happens my eternity is secure in Christ. If the world falls apart, any bomb shelter I could build would not be adequate. I am not rich enough to stockpile enough food or gold to really make a difference if the economy totally collapsed. The reality is there is little I can do of a physical nature to prepare for the end of the world. Therefore I must focus on being prepared spiritually. As I develop my faith in Christ, it gives me an inner peace and strength that prepares me for the end, whenever and whatever it may be.
Those who feel a high level of anxiety about the end of the world, or perhaps just the end of their own lives, might do well to develop their own relationship with Christ. Young people especially, who have a whole lifetime yet to live in this very messed up world, would do well to develop their Christian faith. That faith will help them sleep well at night and also help them focus daily on the things they can do to make the world we currently live in a better place.