Why Watching TV News Is Bad for Your Health

by Richard Doebler

Little wonder that a story about a scary virus goes viral.

Sensationalism sells advertising. So it’s easy to understand why media outlets are motivated to tell the most compelling, even shocking stories. Routine stories cannot compete for attention — not in the crowded arena filled with alarming reports and frightening, disturbing events. 

Most reporters (tabloid writers excluded) pride themselves on being “objective, neutral and unbiased,” but it’s no surprise they are inclined to tell stories that grab attention — stories that sell. And if a story “goes viral,” so much the better. 

We might have expected as much. News hounds thrive on the sensational. Just as “rubbernecking” drivers steal a glance at a freeway crash, we can’t help being curious. We want to see what “crashed.”

It turns out a lot has crashed — not because of the virus itself, but because of society’s reaction to it. One observer speculates there will be more bankruptcies in America caused by COVID-19 than deaths. And the resulting frenzy feeds a cycle: reports lead to reactions, leading to more reports. News of cancelled classes, tournaments, churches, and sporting events send a message: “Be afraid! Be very afraid!” 

Public service announcements to stock up on groceries and sanitizer send a message: “This is bad! This is very bad!” The stock market tanks and we get the message: “We tried to tell you. This is the new normal in America.” Every report (people under quarantine; test kits unavailable; overwhelmed hospitals; government inertia) generates more alarm. The growing angst leads to more of the same.

This public fascination with tragic, shocking stories helps news outlets sell their broadcasts and publications. It’s almost addictive: terrible news creates a desire for more — a “snowball” effect. Incessant news of the sensational increases alarm and anxiety, so readers and listeners want more. 

But not everyone. Some people, quite understandably, choose to break the cycle. They opt out of news entirely; they refuse to ingest the negativity. Others find refuge in a caricature of news, relying on late-night talk show monologues as their primary source of information. What they typically get is specious or, at the least, misleading. 

In an old English folk tale, an acorn falls on the head of Chicken Little who jumps to a conclusion and then announces to all who will listen that “The sky is falling.” He easily convinces his barnyard friends to believe the news, and they all suffer the consequences of being misled.

Amid all the hysteria, it would be good to pause for a moment and reflect about the consequences: What is true? What is exaggerated? What is a balanced perspective? How should we then live?

As Christians, we can process the flow of information with a biblical view in place. We can do this for any alarming news, including pandemics. How can we do this? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Maintain perspective. Even when global catastrophes or evil tyrants come, events of the day should not determine your well-being. God is still on the throne. Evil comes and evil goes; things improve, things get worse. “The sun comes up, the sun goes down…. The wind blows south, the wind blows north…” (Ecc. 1:5-6, CEV). To everything there is a season (Eccl. 3:1). In times of trouble, remember that better times will come.

Exercise discernment. Learn to separate fact from fiction. Don’t believe everything you hear. Examine everything carefully and only hold on to the good things (1 Thess. 5:21). We need more than a reality check; we need a spirituality check! We need to practice seeing the difference between good and bad (Heb. 5:14). It’s the truth that will “set you free” (John 8:32).

Focus on the good. As you maintain perspective and exercise discernment, you’ll be able to focus more on things that can build you up. Since God is good (all the time), your thoughts and prayers can center on God and his purposes. You’ll be able to take captive (lock up) the thoughts attempting to remove God from his throne (2 Cor. 10:5). You can learn to think straight — guarding your heart (Prov. 4:23) — or as one version puts it: “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts” (GNT).

Give your worries to God. Reduce your anxieties through prayer, petitions, and giving thanks to God for all he has done (Phil. 4:6). The result? The incomprehensible peace of God will guard your heart (so you’ll feel better) and your mind (so you’ll think more clearly) (Phil. 4:7).

Reshape your mental habits. As God takes your worries and your thought life is redeemed, you’ll be more able to overrule fears, negative thinking, and the lies that would normally confuse and disturb. Get rid of negative and destructive thinking even more by filling your head with noble, pure, and praise-worthy ideas (Phil. 4:8).

Be transformed. Work constantly to be thoroughly transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23). It’s not enough merely to think the right thing. What’s important is that you do the right thing. Follow through from healthy thoughts to positive action! Allow your renewed mind to reshape your behavior, indeed, your entire life! 

With these steps in mind, how might we process the news about COVID-19? Is there anything we can say that will diminish fear and anxiety?

Start by maintaining perspective. Let’s track down the fuller story. What if we asked ourselves how the severity of the Coronavirus compares to other health threats and diseases. Do we (or did we) react to other threats the same way? Did we panic over measles, for instance? Did we shut down the NBA because of whooping cough?

Consider influenza, for instance. In the five months from October, 2019, through February, 2020, over 34 million Americans contracted the flu (despite a massive 174.5 million immunizations [see here]). More than 350,000 have been hospitalized, and over 20,000 have died (see the CDC website). That’s more than an average 130 deaths per day with about 0.56% of those infected dying. See note below.

Early statistics on the Coronavirus indicate it is more virulent than Influenza A and B. Worldwide numbers (as of March 12, 2020) report 134,488 sickened by the disease. Of those, 4,970 have died [see here]. That means about 3.7% of those who get it have died from it — more than the flu, but still not nearly as dangerous or fatal as other diseases. 

Every day around the world nearly four times as many people die from measles as are dying from COVID-19, according to the Information Is Beautiful website. Differences are even more dramatic when comparing deaths due to tuberculosis: 48 times more people die from TB (3,014 each day compared to 62 from Coronavirus). Keep in mind also that 99% of those under 60 who catch Coronavirus will recover. (Of course, numbers and comparisons may change as more data becomes available.)

We should take normal precautions in dealing with Coronavirus, of course. Like we would for any contagious disease. Practicing good hygiene, washing our hands, using disinfectant, covering our cough or sneeze — all of that. The saying, “cleanliness is next to godliness,” though not in Scripture, is still a good maxim to follow.

For the believer, however, our trust is ultimately in God. We focus on his goodness and give him our worries. Whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Rom 14:8). Paul said, “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” (Phil. 1:21, NLT).

First-century Roman citizens were impressed by the early believers’ actions when plagues and pestilence ravaged Rome. While senators and aristocrats fled the city with their families to avoid sickness and death, believers waded into the chaos, caring for the sick and dying. Their fearless response to human suffering caused many to rethink their own world views. [See Christian History magazine, Issue #101.] Mother Teresa made a similar impression on the world with her compassionate care for the poor and dying in the gutters of Calcutta. 

The question remains: what can the church today do to help in the current epidemic of fear?

As Christians we can live each day for Christ, looking for ways to be light to the world (Matt. 5:14). We can dare to stay in our place, steady and confident, helping others in need, fulfilling our call, and trusting God with the outcome. 

As citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), we need not fear sickness or death. Our goal and destiny is to one day live eternally in God’s presence where tears are wiped away and death is no more.

Richard Doebler is FCA Media editor. He was formerly an FCA pastor in several churches and an associate editor of Leadership published by Christianity Today.

Other resources:
Dealing with a Virus by John Sprecher, US FCA Lead Elder. Click HERE.
NW FCA — and Coronavirus by Dan Eide, FCA pastor. Click HERE.

Note: Because many cases of influenza go unreported, the CDC reports an estimated range of impact. Numbers cited reflect the low end. The upper end numbers are: 49 million cases; 23 million medical visits; 620,000 hospitalizations; 52,000 deaths.

Heal Our Land, O Lord!

by Roger Armbruster

[Editor’s note: This plea from Canadian pastor and elder, Roger Armbruster, speaks not only to Canadian concerns but also to matters pertaining to all people—wherever reconciliation and healing of relationships are needed.]

I think it is time for me to speak up. I do not pretend to have the final word on what is the way forward for the pathway to reconciliation between the First Peoples of the Land and other People Groups in Canada, but it is clear to me that the present-day crisis requires that Canadians can no longer ignore the First Nations issues. The issues revolve squarely around the entitlement to land and its development or non-development of natural resources in either a responsible or an irresponsible manner.

Where is the prophetic voice of the church in all of this? Sadly, too many in the church have been waiting to go to heaven and meanwhile have little to nothing to say now about land issues, about who owns the land, or about the healing of the land from a biblical perspective. The one empirically proven fact is that the world of Nature is incapable of being God and is in need of healing. Hence the need to look beyond the natural and into the supernatural realm for answers.

My perspective is that no man or woman has ownership of the land. Rather, the Creator of heaven and earth is the Owner and Possessor of heaven and earth and has placed human beings in different parts of the earth as stewards and managers of his property, his good earth, and his natural resources. (Genesis 1:1; 14:19; Leviticus 25:23; 1 Chronicles 29:11, 12; Psalm 24:1; 1 Corinthians 10:26, 28.)

Deuteronomy 32:8 and Acts 17:24-29 make clear that the Creator of heaven and earth placed different nations in different parts of the earth. He established their boundaries so men and women would seek his face from within those boundaries and find him, because he is not far from each and every one of us, and because it is in him that we live and move and have our breath.

Therefore, the Indigenous peoples of every piece of land and property on planet earth were entrusted with the task of stewarding the earth on his behalf and finding him within their own territory so that (after the Tower of Babel), they would also reconnect with other nations from whom they had become alienated and estranged and find God, so that true reconciliation between all people groups could take place.

This coming together of the nations who had been confused and scattered at Babel was reversed at Pentecost (Acts 2:7-12) and will culminate at the end of time when the people of every tribe and nation will be of one accord, each worshiping the Creator in their own ethnicity and their own heart language. (Revelation 5:9, 10; 7:9, 10.)

Healing the Land in Salluit

Within the context of the nation-state of Canada (now comprised of many nations, languages, and ethnicities), the Inuit, First Nations, and Metis have a critical role to play in the healing of the land. They have giftings and graces we all need in order to be healed, but before the reconciliation can happen, there needs to be unity between indigenous churches to speak with one prophetic voice. That voice will draw a clear distinction between the biblical healing of the land with the worship of the Creator and the promotion of environmentalism as a religion, and the worship of the creation.

The early missionaries taught us to receive Christ in order to go to heaven after we die, but they did not teach us to redeem the land or to see the healing of the land, rooted in the healing of human relationships. People and land are inseparably connected.

If you wonder how to differentiate between the biblical healing of the land vs. environmentalism as a religion, please take a look at the comparison below which I prepared some 10 years ago after doing a number of “healing the land” processes in Canada’s far North.

I would appreciate any comment or feedback you might have, whether you are Inuit, First Nations, Metis, or Caucasion—or any other people group. This is the time for the Church, the Ekklesia, the House of Prayer for all nations to arise!

Roger Armbruster is pastor of Maranatha in Niverville, Manitoba.

NOTE: An academic analysis of Armbruster’s “Canada Awakening Ministries” was done in 2010 by two university professors (Frédéric Laugrand and Jarich Oosten) recognized the relevance of healing the land as it relates much better to indigenous peoples than secular scientists lacking a spiritual dimension. You may review the study HERE.

A Living Sacrifice

“Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)

By Thomas Yerman

Meditating on these two dynamic verses of Scripture caused me to reflect on Abraham  when God tested his faith and asked him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, whom he loved. This Old Testament story from Genesis 22 gives us a picture of Abraham’s faith and obedience — and to some extent, Isaac’s trust and willingness to submit to his father’s instructions.

Testing Faith

Scripture does not specifically reveal any type of resistance or struggle from either Abraham, asked to sacrifice his only son, or from Isaac, who was bound and put upon the wood on the altar. Yet the first two verses of the chapter reveal a surprising and shocking request. I believe they were meant to help us understand the inward struggle Abraham must have been fighting, despite his faith in God to provide.

Isaac carried the wood on his back while Abraham carried the fire and the knife. In the end, God intervened, interrupting the action and stopping the test. Abraham’s faith shone along with God’s faithful provision.

After reflecting on this, you cannot help but be reminded of another Father/Son sacrificial story. The New Testament tells the story of God the Father sending his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to die upon the cross of Calvary. The story of Abraham and Isaac truly points us to this future event.

A Sacrificed Life

With Jesus Christ, we see the ultimate sacrifice. We see the willing sacrifice of an obedient and trusting Son who carried his stack of wood (the cross) to the place where he sacrificially gave his life for the sake of others. Jesus died to provide the forgiveness of sin to those who put their trust in him, believing that his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension back into heaven made their salvation possible.

Jesus’ death paid the price of our sin. He died so we would not only escape death eternally, but he also died for us so we would live for him. In the end, God honors Christ’s intercession for our lives forever. Believers are relationally heaven-bound, but until then, we are called to be living sacrifices.

This is where Romans 12:1-2 comes in.

Uncommon Life

As Paul finished speaking doctrinally in the previous chapters of Romans, he now appeals to doctrinal application. It’s where the truth being taught is applied to life — where the rubber meets the road. Those who believe, putting their faith and trust in Jesus, are strongly encouraged to become a “living sacrifice.” Believers are to live an uncommon life. We are called to offer up a life that is alive, holy, and pleasing to God.

With Jesus conquering death, defeating Satan, and overcoming the world, believers are, however, left with a problem — basically only one problem. Living sacrifices can crawl off the altar. Because we are faced with that temptation every day, we must stay focused on keeping the proper mindset to win that battle. We are no ordinary people. We have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit helping us be transformed to become a pure spiritual offering to God, knowing and enjoying his perfect will. We are a chosen people called to worship God. Becoming a living sacrifice is both at the heart of worshiping God and obedience.

History tells of a deepening understanding of sacrifices. The Dead Sea Scrolls community believed their holy way of life was a substitution for the temple sacrifices, which they believed to have been corrupted. And in an early church document called, A Plea for the Christians, Athenagoras argued that Christians should not participate in pagan sacrifices but instead “present a bloodless sacrifice, to offer ‘spiritual worship.’”

Just as God led people in earlier centuries to be living sacrifices and to know his will, may his Spirit continue to move forward — in and through us! When believers yet to come look back at us, may they also be encouraged — and see the power of the gospel in our living sacrifice.

History is watching. Stay focused. Keep the proper mindset. You are fully equipped to win!

Tom Yerman is an FCA pastor ministering at Living Hope Church in Elk Grove Village.

Come Apart…or Go to Pieces

By Marco Bianco

As a corporate chaplain I spend a good deal of my time visiting with my corporate employee constituents week in and week out. Personal weekly interactions highlight a plethora of situational and circumstantial challenges, which often intertwine with the perpetual work-and-life balancing act.

Sadly, I meet and speak with many workers who are so often immersed in their present predicaments that they lose sight of the need to step back and displace themselves from ‘the issue.’

An impromptu segue between dialogue provides me the opportunity to ask them, “What about your ‘Me time’?” I’m amazed that many of these sincere and conscientious employees are so spread thin in their commitments with family, work, and social events that they often sacrifice their personal well-being to keep everything else all together.

To a large extent, a healthy corporate culture is dependent on the personal and emotional well-being of each and every employee within the enterprise. “Me time” is a critical component to establishing an essential balance for one’s well-being.

I always encourage my employee constituents to be intentional in their pursuit of personal time as a critical element of dealing with the stressors in life. I want them to connect with and engage their ‘sweet spot’ activity to give them an outlet where they can de-stress and dis-engage from the treadmill of the work-and-life balance.

Ministers and missionaries have the same needs as the employees I work with. To maintain emotional and spiritual balance, you must schedule an intentional “Me time” appointment with yourself! What activities do you enjoy? What helps you unwind? Make it happen.

Is it reading a good book? Taking a walk or jog? Perhaps a hot salt water bath? Whatever it is, make an intentional decision to make that appointment with yourself — at least twice a week. You will be amazed at how it will help your outlook and disposition.

Refuel your passion for life and gain an upper hand in working through your toughest challenges. Be intentional and make some time with yourself this week.

—Marco Bianco works as a
chaplain through Outreach Canada
and serves at a trucking company
in Kitchener, Ontario.

The Power of One

Thomas Yerman sent this passionate call to unity just before the recent elections in the U.S. Now with a divided Congress, his plea is perhaps even more poignant. What can believers do in such a climate? Read on.


We have become a divided nation, In this divided atmosphere, the call for transparency and freedom of speech have now become tools of destruction.

Why should transparency and freedom of speech give a person the right to hurt others? Yet even good things can be abused when used without boundaries. Even God gives freedom with a “fence” around it.

Boundary fences provide us with the freedom to run and play—but also to protect us. Rules of law or guidelines in relationships are so important. Small compromises here can lead to bigger problems down the road. True freedom is not being able to do whatever you want without restrictions. Rather, to be truly free means a freedom to do what you ought—to do things you were unable to do before being set free.

We can clearly see the battles being fought around us. Our nation’s diversity has been used to divide us, blinding us to the commonality and core of our unity. We must step back and see the unseen battle. The fight is not so much Democrat versus Republican, or left versus right, or liberal versus conservative. The ultimate battle is between darkness and light. It’s called Spiritual Warfare. We are all in it, and we can all see the casualties. But we don’t all recognize the bigger picture.

Our national unity is being threatened! We’ve become a nation where people choose not to stand with their hands on their hearts honoring our flag and nation. We allow protesters with covered faces to destroy other people’s properties and assault those with different ideas and beliefs. We have officials influencing acts of incivility toward other leaders. We have teachers training our children to reject and oppose the foundational truths our nation was built on—or viewpoints that don’t agree with their own. We permit and advertise so-called “witches” to put hexes on Justices and leaders. We have a national media and “entertainment shows” unashamed about showing disrespect to the Office of Presidency. And we see justice used as a tool for favoritism.

Whenever we move away from truth, the moral lines of life begin to smear, the character of righteousness fades, and the distinction between right and wrong blur. Truth and its absolutes are overrun and replaced with subjective feelings. Everybody’s sense of what’s right stands opposed to any other views that might disagree with them. Open hearts close and become hardened.

We no longer are teachable and open to truth We are unable to imagine the progress and possibility of moving forward together. We are experiencing what happens to a nation when that nation moves away from the foundation of truth on which it was established. We ignore the influence of our Constitution and Absolute Authority to define what is right and wrong. We have wasted so much time and energy being distracted by our feelings, our pride, and our moral relativism that we became prey to the enemy’s tactics to divide, putting us in danger of forgetting our true identity of being united as One Nation under God!

Though many walk in the spirit of rebellion and denial, we have all been made in the image of God. And God invites his us into a relationship with himself. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” (John 14:6-7). Jesus, who revealed God the Father to us, was a model for our humanity, and points the way back to the God.  Truth can divide, but remember that truth must be held above our relationships for the sake of those relationships. It is more than possible that we can celebrate our diversity and yet stand in unity.

It’s time for people to make the right choices and stand united as One Nation under God. God has given his people a message along with the Holy Spirit, who stands behind that message to keep us unified. The Gospel keeps Jesus in the center of our lives so we who believe can be a letter from Christ to the world.

Begin to see yourselves as God sees you:

“…we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).

“…you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).

Jesus prayed for unity, that all of us may be one!

“[I pray] for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you…so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:20-23).

If we step back to see the bigger picture and get back to our roots in God, as well as our Constitution as a Nation, we will find a place of unity to move forward together. We are all responsible for our choices and actions.

It is time to stand up! As “Believers of God” in Christ, we are especially equipped and born for such a time as this. We are more than we know. We were made by God and for God. Unless we come to grips with that, life will not make sense, and we will not reach our “together potential.”

There is but one God and one Lord. Unity takes effort, but we have his promise, his power, and his presence. There is power in One. Let’s make it happen!

Tom Yerman is an FCA Pastor ministering at Living Hope Church in Elk Grove Village.