This morning, I realized something that was somewhat surprising. As I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, I glanced at things, but found myself internally “rolling my eyes” at some of the posts requesting prayer or writing about personal struggles. The lack of empathy bothered me, but then I realized it is just so much to take in day in and day out. So many needs around the world; so many needs closer to home. Add to that the needs heard weekly at church.
Social media is great at keeping up with the lives of people, but the downside of that is the news is not just every now and then; it is a continual flow and it not only involves people we know well, but also those we barely know or, by reposting, people we don’t know at all.
I will admit that this overload has numbed me to a lot that is going on in my FB friends’ lives—kids’ birthday parties, vacations, selfies, etc. I scroll past them quickly, and, more recently, scroll less and less. Some things do grab my attention, such as the recent updates of a former student who had a 10-hour brain surgery last month, or the baptism of a someone, or news of persecution or revival in the church. For the most part, however, my scrolling is perusing and I’m finding less and less that grabs my attention or interest. It is similar, I think, to being at a party where you are going person to person to catch up with them, and then the next day, you do it all over again. As an introvert, parties wear me out. I can enjoy them, but I choose not to attend them every night. With social media, for me at least, it is like partying seven days a week. It just wears me out. And I think I am currently worn out by social media. At least I am exhibiting the signs.
I really believe we are seeing the signs of overload throughout our culture. There is a clear lack of empathy for others, particularly those with whom we disagree. Our president calls those he considers disloyal “scum,” and shoots out tweets similar to an AK-47 shooting bullets. Social media is filled with coarse discourse between individuals. Imperfect people are shamed because of a certain imperfection. And despite disparate voices calling for civility and kindness, the vast majority now considers it normal and is numb to its corrosive effects. And, sadly, our young people know nothing else. Given the spike in their anxiety, they are clearly overloaded and the only treatment course is usually treating the symptom rather than the cause.
Psalm 46 is a helpful read in dealing with overload:
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the Lord has done, he desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (vss. 1-11)
The picture the Psalmist paints is one of chaos, of overload. The earth is falling apart. Nations are in uproar and kingdoms are meeting their end. Sound familiar?
His response to all of this is to encourage us to focus on God’s power and presence. Rather than getting caught up ourselves in the chaotic world which we are experiencing, instead focus on the God who can bring order and peace, who says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” And do you notice the comma preceding “Be still?” It indicates the need to be still before we can truly know God.
A common refrain I hear from students is, “I’m so busy.” Typically, that is the excuse they use when talking about the amount of their time spent with the Lord. They’re too busy. And they are not alone in using that excuse. Many adults do the same. No wonder we are anxious, spiritually immature and stagnant. We devote very little time to quieting ourselves and spending time getting to know the Lord. In other words, we are suffering overload.
As with me, we don’t intentionally decide to overload ourselves. We just go along with the currents of the culture, the dominion of our enemy, the devil. He wants us busy and overloaded. His only objective is to come between us and the Lord. What better way to do it than to consume our time and mind with things that distract us from being still?
The only remedy is to resist him, and to carve out space in our daily lives to be still so we can know more and more who God is. The more we know him, the more we become like him. The more we know him, the less anxious we will be. The more we know him, the more compassionate we will be. The more we know him, the more influence we will have on others to still their lives and come to know the God we know. However, that will not happen without intention and sacrifice. The current is too strong.
We must decide whether or not we truly want to know the Lord. If so, then we need to intentionally spend time stilling our minds and hearts in order to experience him and get to know him. And if we can’t imagine having the time, then we need to cry out to the Lord for a hunger for him that, similar to the prophet Jeremiah, cannot be diminished any other way.
In the past few years, I have increasingly carved out more time for the Lord, and it has been a transforming experience. This morning’s realization confirmed that I am going in the right direction, but still am vulnerable to the culture’s chaotic effects.
© Jim Musser 2019 All Scripture References from the New International Version.