May 16, 2017

Cyberattacks and the Things to Come

“This is almost like the atom bomb of ransomware,” noted Rohyt Belani, chief executive of PhishMe, an email security company, in an interview about the May 12 “WannaCry” cyberattack, that continues to affect thousands of computers in over 70 countries. “[It] may be a sign of things to come.”

For Seventh-day Adventists, a people born and thriving under the shadow of things to come, Belani’s choice of words sounds astonishingly familiar.

“We are now upon the very borders of the eternal world and stand in a more solemn relation to time and eternity than ever before,” wrote Ellen G. White before any of us or our parents had been born. “To us who are standing on the very verge of their fulfillment, of what deep moment, what living interest, are
these delineations of the things to come—events for which…God’s children have watched and waited, longed and prayed!” (Adventist Home, p. 549, emphasis added).

Indeed, there is nothing that strengthens our belief in prophecy more than witnessing its fulfillment before our very own eyes. Confirmation engenders confidence. And events like this—or the most recent natural disaster, or the last round of ecumenical pronouncements, or the newest encyclical letter—are often a temptation too difficult to resist.

As in other things in life, however, it is not
what happens but our reaction to what happens that in the end makes a world of a difference. Please allow me to illustrate this point with an easy-to-follow analogy.

The Tsunami Analogy

Imagine one day you find out that a massive tsunami is coming your way. Since you want to be ready to deal with it, you instantly decide there is no time to lose. Right away, you start watching the Weather Channel, 24/7. You visit every weather forecast website, and jot down every emergency hotline number available. Seeing you still have some time left, you run to buy and read some books on the history and science of tsunamis.

“It is by serving God that…higher ground will be gained”

The truth is, you hate tsunamis. You always have. And it’s your lifelong passion and firm intention to spend your life denouncing tsunamis to everyone who would care to listen.

As the tsunami approaches your town, you keep ravenously searching and researching, trying to find the latest discoveries and expert insights about the phenomenon. Soon you become an expert. Wishing to know more about tsunamis, interested neighbors, relatives, and colleagues start calling you. You answer their inquiries and doubts confidently—after all, by now you are positive you know what you’re talking about.

The time finally comes when the tsunami—you find out—is around the corner. There are just a few minutes left. Even then, you find out there is always something new to learn, something novel to hypothesize on, a new estimation, a new projection, a new speculation to linger over.

You never stop. You are incessantly active. Untiringly, you keep doing an impressive lot of things to let every person know how despicable and evil tsunamis are. You do many, many things—but one.

You never reach for higher ground.

When the big wave finally gets to you, you barely have time to realize that it is too late to run. Full of “wisdom” but desperately hopeless, you are swept away and you drown. You and your knowledge. You and your expertise. Gone. Forever.

Higher Ground

It’s true that ignoring a coming disaster won’t save you. Doubting the reports about the reality of it won’t do it either. Enduring sleepless nights, however, to come up with possible scenarios and guesswork about the impending doom—well, you know how it ends, don’t you?

The only effective path to tsunami salvation is to start running to higher ground. Right away. As soon as possible.

Easy to say, but often not easily done. Writing about the history of tsunamis sells books. Lecturing on the science of tsunamis gets you thousands of likes and pageviews. It pays—literally—to show off how much you know about tsunamis. Becoming a “tsunami prophet” can make you respected, valued, and needed. But unless you start trudging up the hill without further ado, your speculations won’t help you by the time you are forced to breathe underwater.

How to reach, then, that
spiritual higher ground?

First, not by enlarging your network of tsunami-haters but by befriending the One with the power to unravel the storm. He is the One who knows the path that leads up the hill, well beyond the tsunami’s reach. Second, by giving Him your full commitment, your unflinching support. For “it is by serving God that…higher ground will be gained” (Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 397).

Putting the tsunami analogy to rest, there is one point every cyber security expert seems to agree on: The ongoing attack won’t be the last. It may not be the biggest or the worst, either. The key question, then, is not to determine if another attack will come, or when, or how. The key question is
what our end-of-times-minded Adventist reaction will be when it does.

I don’t know about you, but as for me, when the time comes, I would like to be found on higher ground.