By: Rev. David Wilson Rogers
When tragedy strikes in our modern world it is easy to turn to media to find out what is happening. The news tries to report the most updated and presumably accurate information. Social media attempts to communicate what is happening. The temptation to tune in and learn the latest is so large that we all have desired to follow that path. It is not, however, the best approach for either health or Christian faith.
There is nothing inherently wrong with knowing the news and understanding current events. In fact, it is an aspect of healthy Christian faith to take the time to know what is happening in our world. Prayer can be enhanced when Christians have tangible needs throughout the world for which they may pray. Knowing of physical needs also helps Christians mobilize with actions of faith that can quickly make a tremendous difference in areas ravaged by disaster and tragedy.
Yet, for many Christians (and I must confess, I often times find myself among this number) the temptation to know takes priority over the call to faithful prayer and action. What results is a feeding frenzy of news and social media reports dolling out information to people with an overwhelming desire to know more, know it now, and know it so they can tell others about it.
One must ask this question, “Am I spending more energy trying to learn more about an event that I personally cannot change, or am I spending more energy on my knees in prayer for the incident?” The reality is, when we find ourselves glued to the TV, our preferred internet news source, or to various expressions of social media in a relentless quest to know—and potentially share—the latest news, we are not necessarily responding in faith. In many cases, the action does little to contribute to helping the situation. Moreover, the behavior can have powerful physiological consequences. Studies have shown that when people are glued to TV, internet, and social media news for prolonged periods of time, they are less happy and more prone to physical ailments from stomach disorders to heart disease. (Ever noticed the prevalence of pharmaceutical ads that permeate TV news content?)
The problem is that pervasive media content focusing on horrific events, catastrophes, and tragedies focuses our faith, our hearts, and our minds on the absolute negative. It actually enculturates us to be more driven by fear, more susceptible to anger, and more prone to rage, resentment, and violence. It turns our heart against God’s love and creates more cynical believers.
When violent catastrophe dominates the news feed perhaps we would do better to completely turn off the news and faithfully turn to prayer. This is an essential act of faith that actually makes a difference for the good! The news will still be there tomorrow. Moreover, in cases of so-called “Breaking News,” the details are going to change as new reports come in and more information is learned. Yet, by turning off the TV, turning off the internet, turning off the radio, and intentionally investing time to quiet prayer, meditation, scripture reading, and trusting in God’s Holy Spirit to bring healing into the situation, every Christian can make a positive and powerful difference.
When horrible things happen in our world, unless they have direct implications for one’s immediate safety, there is nothing to be gained by knowing every detail as it breaks but there is everything to be gained by prayer!