Recency Bias (or What Have You Done For Me Lately?)

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

This morning on my way to the gym, a radio advertisement brought up the idea of recency bias with regard to investments.  Many people panicked at the beginning of 2014 when the Dow lost 326 (2.1%) points on February 3rd.  This came after a January which saw the Dow lose 5.3%.  What people forgot, was that the Dow had earned them 27.36% during the previous year–2013.  The point was that people have developed a tendency to only remember the latest overly inflated negatives.  Look at your local newspaper or listen to one of the televised newscasts.  Compare how many uplifting positive reports there are to the number of reports there are regarding things that are illegal, immoral, or simply discouraging.  It will be no contest.  The negative reports will outweigh the positive.  In our globally connected world, tragedies on the other side of the world are broadcast to us nearly as soon as they happen.   As Christians living in a fallen world, we face the same problems and trials as everyone else.  God never promised that we all would be healthy, or wise, or rich, or famous, or even loved by this world.

What He did promise was that He would love us and provide for our needs.  He gave His Son as a sacrifice so that we could get back into fellowship with Him.  And He has promised that we can spend eternity with Him.

God still provides the daily blessings as well.  We just have to take the time to recognize and acknowledge them.  Philippians 4:8 tells us where to start. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

And if you still need more encouragement, read these lyrics to an old hymn, Count Your Blessings (Johnson Oatman, Jr. 1906).

When upon life’s billows, you are tempest-tossed. 

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost.

Count your many blessings.  Name them one by one.

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Chorus: Count your blessings.  Name them one by one.

Count your blessings.  See what God has done.

Count your blessings.  Name them one by one.

Count your many blessings.  See what God has done.

Are you ever burdened With a load of care?

Does the cross seem heavy You are called to bear?

Count your many blessings, Ev’ry doubt will fly,

And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,

Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold.

Count your many blessings, money cannot buy

Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict, whether great or small,

Do not be discouraged, God is over all.

Count your many blessings, angels will attend.

Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

When I think of the times that God has delivered me from near car accidents, or lifted me out of various health issues, or put the right people around me to lift me up when I have been feeling down, or provided the financial means to stay afloat when the jobs just weren’t available–I can’t even begin to tell Him how grateful am.  And those are just a few of the things I’m aware of.  There are many, many more that I can come up with.  Imagine all those circumstances that He took care of without me even knowing–just because He loves me.  It’s simply awe-inspiring.  So keep on counting those blessings.

No News Is Good News

Did you ever notice how the older we get, the worse the news seems?  Whether it’s national or global (witness the 494.23 point this past Thursday/Friday  Dow Jones drop) or personal (realizing I put the wrong year on an art contest poster that already went out via email and internet), all kinds of things seem to be going wrong.

Dean Koontz’s character, Odd Thomas, said it better than I ever could, Usually I spare myself from the news, because if it’s not propaganda, then it’s one threat or another exaggerated to the point of absurdity, or it’s the tragedy of storm-quake-tsunami, of bigotry and oppression misnamed justice, of hatred passed off as righteousness and honor called dishonorable, all jammed in around advertisements in which a gecko sells insurance, a bear sells toilet tissue, a dog sells cars, a gorilla sells investment advisors, a tiger sells cereal, and an elephant sells a drug that will improve your lung capacity, as is no human being in America any longer believes any other human being, but trusts only the recommendations of animals.

Why is all this stuff taking place?  Romans 8:22 reminds us that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  But what about we Christians–shouldn’t we be exempt from all this bad stuff? Matthew 46-14 says, 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. 9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.  This has to happen, so, no, we are not exempt.

T. S. Eliot once wrote,  However you disguise it, this thing does not change: The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.  It will be this way and worse until Jesus comes. Should this fill us with gloom and doom?  32 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone.  Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. 33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world (John 16:32-33).  Moses, in the Old Testament, writes, Be strong and take heart, and have no fear of them: for it is the Lord your God who is going with you; he will not take away his help from you (Deut 31:6). 

So, while the trials and temptations may seem to constantly getting worse, remember, No temptation has seized you that isn’t common for people. But God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it (1st Cor. 10:13).

This world is just a very confused and messy way-station and we’re waiting for our ride home.