Earlier this year, I took a month off from social media. I signed out of all my accounts, deleted all the apps, blocked the sites on my computer, and stepped back. Some friends thought it was dramatic, others empathized and expressed a desire to do the same thing, but everyone readily acknowledged that it’s true how social media and technology have become obsessions in our culture today.
I took a break not necessarily because I wanted to, but because I knew I needed to. I had been noticing patterns in my life that didn’t feel healthy-- the tendency to grab my phone and mindlessly scroll whenever I had a spare moment, the fixation on the statistics and the followers, the judgment and comparison-- and I knew I didn’t want to keep living that way. I was seeking affirmation from others instead of finding my worth in the Lord. I was filling my mind with the words, thoughts, and lies the world kept throwing at me instead of meditating on God’s Word.
I wasn’t making room for stillness. I wasn’t creating space for solitude. I was crowding every potentially quiet moment with noise, distractions, and things that only distanced me further from my thoughts, my fears, and even my faith.
Molly Rigoloso recently wrote an article for Gospel Taboo called “When Being Alone Makes Us Anxious” and she addresses the heart of the matter here: we are looking for relief from the hard, the uncomfortable, the uncertain, and the scary, and we are searching for it in lesser things.
“I choose easy, quick gratification because I don’t actually believe that at God’s right hand there are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). When I spend time alone, I’m confronted with my fears. When I don’t want to feel afraid, I run to distractions.”
When I removed all the distractions from my life that I was most prone to run to, I realized just how true that was in my life-- I was trying to keep the fears at bay by keeping myself busy and distracted and consumed by other things, and when all of that was gone, I actually had to get real with myself and with God about what was going on in my heart and in my life. It shocked me how easily anxiety crept in as soon as I was truly alone.
So, what can we do to better live our lives and seek relief from the worries of this world in healthy, God-honoring ways?
Here are three great places to start:
- “Run to Jesus, not distraction.” Rigoloso writes that “instead of running from what’s in our hearts, we should run with our whole hearts to the only one who promises rest (Matt. 11:28-29).” This is a major shift, and one that will likely feel vulnerable and intimidating at times, but it’s only through the Lord that we can find true rest, healing, forgiveness, and freedom. “The first step to pursuing the kind of love and faith that drives out fear is to realize that the rest we seek comes from none other (Ps. 62:5). Once we realize it’s Jesus we really need, we can start to confess our need of him through prayer,” says Rigoloso.
- “Pray with a quiet heart.” Our world does not often promote silence or encourage it, and it can feel disorienting to find yourself in a space where noise does not overwhelm your senses. Getting away from the hustle and bustle to be still before the Lord is so crucial for the health of our faith, though. “When we don’t allow for stillness and solitude with the Lord, we’re not allowing our broken, corrupted hearts an audience with the physician who came to heal them (Ps 147:3, Mark 2:7),” says Rigoloso. “It’s like having access to an ER doctor when you have a gaping wound but not sticking around for stitches. We slap bandaids on our wounds without receiving healing care.”
- “Practice prayer.” It can be challenging to be still with our thoughts, especially when we’re in a quiet conversation with the Lord who we can’t see tangibly in front of us. “Like most everything, spending time in prayer takes practice,” Rigoloso writes. “We have to practice regular rhythms of prayer because it doesn’t come naturally to us.” Starting with a prayer guide is a helpful way to create a daily habit of prayer -- we love this 30-day prayer challenge for fighting fear and anxiety with the promises of God, and this one focusing on gratitude.
For me, a drastic overhaul of my habits and actions was necessary to get back to a healthier place of frequent solitude, silence, reflection, and rest with the Lord, but I would encourage you to start with just one small change today. Maybe carve out a few moments during your lunch break to pray, write one page in a journal without distractions, or challenge yourself to leave your phone behind for a chunk of time.
Ask today that the Lord would help you build healthier habits as you seek to embrace being alone with your thoughts and his presence. Ask that he would ease your anxious spirit and calm your worried heart as he reminds you of the truth of his Word. Pray that he would help you “lift our gaze upward to him and outward to others,” as Rigoloso writes.
Like Exodus 14:14 says, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Photo credit: Unsplash
Publication date: July 13, 2017
Rachel Dawson is the design editor for Crosswalk.com.