Humans weren’t designed to know everything that’s happening in the world all the time: the despair, the suffering, the trials, the overwhelming injustices and the immensity of the problems in our modern industrialized, global society, can easily topple us emotionally and even spiritually. The Internet and its various information-pushing innovations over time, have all made it possible to know the massive tragedies in other countries, in real-time, in such a way that it can almost feel like the world is ending. All the time. Man can’t bear the weight of such knowledge.
Watching my Twitter news feed today has been heavy. The assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, all caught on camera; the fighting in Aleppo with images of orphans barely escaping, dead children, father’s holding the lifeless bodies of their daughters. I silently wept. In one sense, it’s so amazing to be able to see the details of major events and know what to pray for. However, at the same time, the destruction and overwhelming brokenness, corrosion and decay brought on by the fall loads us with what can feel like a soul-crushing despair that is completely hopeless, not unlike a quote from the dystopian world of 1984: “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”
It is this soul-sucking despair of social media feeds and the constant barrage of information that we must willingly and intentionally fight against with a counter-liturgy, a counter-message, constantly laying before ourselves the work of Christ and the assured hope of His second advent. With the Internet readily accessible, our ability to pull vast amounts of information at any moment, as children of the Father, we must recognize our inability and helplessness, while at the same time not turning a blind eye. To inordinately crave to be able to act in the ways that only God can act and to try and bear what only God can bear is a lack of resting in His will and sovereignty. Should we pray, weeping with those who weep, trusting and believing God can and will act? Absolutely. If it is within our ability, should we do something about the injustices in our world? Yes! Yet we aren’t God, we weren’t meant to know all that is happening and we can’t fix things in the blink of an eye at a macro level. We can’t possibly bear the weight of the world or be its Savior.
Christ is the only one who can bear this weight, the only one who can omnisciently see all and yet omnipotently uphold it all and know what to do with it. In fact, He did bear the weight of the world and it crushed Him. At the cross, the full penalty of sin toward man and the full weight of human backlash against God was fully realized. The Father in His mercy, punished His own Son that we might be set free from His judgment and called righteous, and at the same time Jesus bore the great back slap from man, that started in the Garden of Eden, bearing the weight of the most massive injustice in history. It brought Him to death.
And yet death didn’t have the final say. He rose in majestic glory and conquered death, defeating injustice and suffering itself. By His Spirit, He is not far off, but, “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.” (Romans 10:8, quoting Deut. 30:14) His Spirit bears with our spirit, suffering with us and for us. We don’t know what to pray as we ought when we see these atrocious acts of horror, but the Spirit Himself intercedes with groaning’s too deep for words. (Romans 8:26) So we rest in His trial-bearing, His sovereignty, not with a throw-our-hands-up mentality, but one that is mobilized to action, if it’s within our power, utilizing His energy that He so powerfully works within us by His Spirit.
How can we practically aid ourselves in resting in Christ and His Spirit bearing the weight of the world and its suffering? Here are some ideas, from experience (precisely because I have struggled with news consumption in the past):
- Don’t ignore the news, but learn to cut it off when you’ve had your fill. Don’t keep indulging the same stories over and over, from a thousand different angles and opinions, real-time videos, images, and commentary. In many ways, constant news consumption can become an addiction, an addiction and thirst for omniscience itself. What’s next? What’s the next shoe to drop? What’s new now? God’s omniscience is one of those incommunicable attributes that He does not share with man and we can’t possess. Rest in not knowing, understanding that He sees it all, none of it catches Him by surprise, and He’s in complete and total control.
- Set aside a certain amount of time to peruse the news. This is important (and frankly something I need to work on) because you can then focus your time with it and not let it get away from you. Find what you’re interested in knowing about instead of letting the headlines barrage you with a deluge of information. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed and wasting massive amounts of time. In other words, use the time in such a way that your emotions don’t get away from you.
- Schedule different points in your day to reflect on scripture, spending time in prayer, even if for brief moments. Create a daily liturgy of sorts that gets you in a rhythm of scripture consumption and reflection and prayer. This is vital to always keeping Christ, His perfect work and His kingdom before our eyes, in order that we don’t become overwhelmed in soul and mind by the woes and injustices of the world.
- Take sabbaticals from news consumption, knowing and resting in God’s good care and providence over the world. This is important, in order that you clear your mind and focus your time on Him and His word to you in scripture, as well as the immediately important things in your life requiring your attention.
All of these points are meant for the end goal of resting in Christ and His good care over the world and not letting your soul become overwhelmed. At the same time, it’s important to note that none of this is meant for us to stick our head in the sand concerning these issues and just act as if it’s all good. Rather, it is through this rest and trust in God’s providence that gives us His energy to act and even begin to attempt to do something about the problems we see, becoming the hands and feet of Christ. The whole point is providing balance in our lives, viewing news to understand the world around us, and yet resting in God’s sovereignty in it, and in this coming to the aid of others, if only by prayer. We can’t bear the weight and suffering of the world, and yet Christ has and does, and we can therefore enter into it with those who are hurting.