Red in the facebook?
A lot of us are finding ourselves using social media and electronic communication a lot more these days – and maybe for the first time, some of us are getting to grips with the potential of it! It’s a tremendous tool in a crisis like this, and a real gift to allow us to connect at a strange and isolating time!
But like all gifts – social media can also have a dark side, and there are many pitfalls to avoid. One of the biggest of all is that social media allows us to constantly compare ourselves to others, in what often feels like real time!
The danger of comparing ourselves with others didn’t start with the internet – in some ways comparing was the motivation for the first ever murder, stretching right back to Cain and Abel! – but whereas it didn’t begin with technology, social media can become a kind of microscope that enhances and increases what is already there.
In Psalm 73 Asaph writes this incredibly honest prayer – he begins by describing God’s obvious goodness:
“Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart!” (Psalm 73.1)
But when he began to compare himself and his life to others he confesses it was almost the cause of a very real slip-up in his own journey in God:
“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.
For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (v2)
Why, Asaph wonders, if they have lives just as good as mine – and in some ways better – am I trying so hard to live a holy life? What’s the point of living by the law when those who don’t seem to have it better, easier and happier than me!
At the start a long list of things that he riles against he lets this thought slip out:
“They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.” (v4)
This clearly isn’t true – not of everybody of all time, but it clearly felt like that. And under the social media microscope, living life online can make us feel like that too.
Maybe being on social media has been, or can be, a real source of discontentment for you in your life. It is so easy to look at the lives of others and begin to imagine things through the lenses of comparison and envy: ‘How can they have things so easy?’, ‘Why aren’t they struggling with things like I am?’, ‘What’s wrong with me/Am I doing something wrong?’
We often forget that a photo is just a snapshot in time, that a comment is a crafted quote – not an actual live commentary, and that we are all guilty of wanting others to see the best bits of our lives and work hard to hide the worst. The truth is (though we wouldn’t want to wish it on anyone) that struggle and suffering do touch every life regardless of wealth or status or fame.
Thankfully, Asaph catches the foolishness of his thinking and manages to tame his tongue and keep it to himself:
“If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed Your children.” (v15)
Not every thought we have is worth sharing with the world – and it’s good to remember that just because we have entertained a thought, or journeyed through a time of struggle that those things don’t need to define us, nor form part of our future thinking!
Equally, it’s good for us to consider the good things that we are putting out there too – and whether they are really for the benefit of others or ourselves (Proverbs 27:1-2, Eph 4.29-30).
What God wants to share with you…
Asaph finally reaches the powerful realization that in the end it’s important that view life very differently – that what really has the power to makes this life really good is not the provision or protection of God – but the presence of God! “as for me, it is good to be near God.” (v28)
“Yet I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand.” (v23)
Of all the friends we have on social media – there is one friend who sees it all: not just the photos but all the time and spaces in between, not just the online comments but the deepest thoughts in our minds, not just the things we click like to but the real desires of our hearts. He knows us completely – and knowing it all is yet always with us, promising to never leave us nor forsake us.
It’s so vital that we find our deepest security (the peace in our minds and the contentment in our lives) in something more consistent that keeping up with the latest trend, or constantly checking how many friends or likes or shares or retweets or subscriptions we’ve got. God offers you that today, tomorrow and always:
“You guide me with your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory!
Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (v24-26)
We need to view our lives – not by comparing them to others (whether on or off line) – in the light of eternity and the glory that awaits us with Jesus that really is beyond compare! (1 Corinthians 2:8-10)
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us!” (Romans 8.18)
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal!” (2 Corinthians 4.18)