Halley’s Comet. Today we do not fully appreciate the apprehension and abject terror this celestial visitor has inspired through the ages. Roughly, every 76 years (since it was first observed in 468 B.C.) Halley’s Comet passes by the earth to spread fear among humanity. One reason people dreaded the comet was that it is often associated with catastrophe. The Roman war against Judea in AD 66 that brought about the destruction of Jerusalem was preceded by the comet’s visit. The same is true for the devastation of Rome by the Huns in AD 373, the Battle of Hastings in 1066 – Halley’s Comet “announced” the death of King Harold in the famous Bayeux Tapestry – and many other tragic events.
Consequently, when the comet’s return in 1910 was announced, panic ensued throughout Europe. Above all people feared the “poisonous gases” of the comet’s tail would poison the earth and bring about famine, disease and death of cataclysmic proportions. However, advancements in science have brought to light some very comforting facts about Halley’s comet.
First, its size – the body Halley’s Comet, described as a “dirty snow ball” of ice, frozen gases, and other solids, measures a mere 10 miles long by 5 miles wide – which is comparable to some of earth’s largest icebergs.
Second, there is the size of its dreaded tail. Although the dust tail of Halley’s Comet can extend 60,000 miles as it nears the sun, the amount of particles in its tail will only fill a small Dixie cup! In the final analysis, Halley’s Comet put on a good light show but is too small to pose any danger to the earth.
The tail of Halley’s Comet reminds us of how those things we fear appear to us – blown way out of proportion from their actual size. The things we fear seem so large that they fill the universe. But upon examination, the “sum of all our fears” will barely fill a Dixie cup.[i]
In the Scripture we find dozens of commands to “Fear not.” It must be for a good reason. Someone said, “Fear knocked on the door. Faith answered. No one was there.” The Scripture says, “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)
PRAYER: Dear Father in heaven, please help me to face those things I fear so that I may unmask them for the tiny midgets they are. Help me to face all my fears with faith in you. Amen.
[i] Information from 2201 Fascinating Facts; “Halley’s Comet,” by Calvin Hamilton; “What we have learned about Halley’s Comet,” Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Fall, 1986