By Tré Goins-Phillips
Social media can be great; it provides a bridge to people with whom we might otherwise rarely — if ever — connect. As believers, it can also give us access to specific details, so that our prayers can be more attuned to the myriad needs that exist in the world. But if ever there was a double-edged sword, this is it.
There is all kinds of research showing social media use is inextricably linked to increases in depression and anxiety. It’s no wonder: we’re trying to force a round peg into a square hole. As image bearers of God, we are designed to be co-creators through communication, but social media is a poor tool for that. Rather than establishing space to create, social media calls upon our worst instincts: to react, repress, and retreat.
We are unendingly assailed by the churn of social media, constantly bombarded with discouraging, complex, and sometimes even scary information, left with only a small arsenal of often unhelpful options: reacting rather than acting, repressing rather than expressing and processing, and retreating or isolating instead of pressing in and adapting.
Human beings weren’t designed to take in so much information, particularly when there is little immediate action we can take to address it. There’s no doubt in social media’s usefulness, but we have to learn to master it so it doesn’t master us, and that starts with setting boundaries, such as taking time away from it all, limiting who we follow, and remembering we don’t always have to engage, and focusing on our purpose, which is to glorify God in all things, to simply do the next right thing in front of us, and take our burdens to the Lord in prayer.
The 20th century pastor and author A.W. Tozer once wrote, “Sometimes, when we get overwhelmed, we forget how big God is.” What a profound truth, particularly in the social media age.
Below are five Bible passages to keep in mind as you use social media:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Main takeaway: We don’t have to carry our concerns, worries, and fears in isolation. The Apostle Paul said that in every single circumstance, we can tell God what we are feeling and, as a result, the Lord will protect our hearts and minds from the weight of this world.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
Main takeaway: More often than not, it seems, the issues before us are too complex and troubling to understand. In this passage, Paul made it clear the Holy Spirit helps us communicate our requests to God. We can rest assured He is advocating for us in our confusion and lack.
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Main takeaway: While we should certainly be informed and engaged, we should not despair as if we have no hope. Ultimately, as Paul wrote, our lives are not determined or controlled by forces on this earth. Our security is in Jesus, and that should guide our thinking.
“If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you — you of little faith?”
Main takeaway: Even if His provision doesn’t look the way we think it should, God can be trusted to meet our greatest needs. If He cares enough about the earth to cover it in brilliant colors that quickly fade, how much more does God care for you, for whom He sent His Son, Jesus, to die?
“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.”
Main takeaway: While we certainly ought to engage in the world, Paul warned against becoming so consumed by its trappings that we begin to mirror it. Instead, we should set boundaries and see the temporary circumstances around us through the lens of our renewed minds, which come through sanctification as a result of salvation through Jesus.
The Lord is eager to meet us in every situation and circumstance, including when we’re overwhelmed by the constant flow of information fed to us by our newsfeeds. Take some time today to turn off your phone and focus on our priority: Jesus.
As long as Peter kept his eyes fixed on Him, he was able to walk on the water.