I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t able to use the internet in one way or another. Growing up, almost everyone I knew had a PC, then a laptop and, eventually, a smartphone. Though my parents were discerning about internet usage in our household, it was still a tool I used for projects and school, and it has always provided answers, information and advice.
While one of the greatest benefits of the internet is that it offers an endless wealth of knowledge to anyone who can access it, the availability of immediate answers also presents a challenge to our spiritual lives.
The questions we ask
If you’re anything like me, you might struggle with anxious thoughts and find yourself asking endless questions as worries roam around your mind unchecked. I find myself wondering, “What if I never find a job I love?” “What if I can’t find any friends in my new town?” “What if my fiancé and I have a huge fight?” “What if something bad happens to a loved one?” And personal worries like this don’t even account for fears of world tragedies or international conflict. These and other questions we ask ourselves when faced with uncertainty of any kind are limitless. If we aren’t careful, they can drive us crazy.
Want more Radiant? Sign up for our weekly newsletter!
To put my mind at rest, I often find myself scouring the internet for articles, posts or discussion boards about the questions that I find myself ruminating on so frequently. Content abounds in response to my questions, big and small. From career to relationships, from politics to tragedy and suffering, if it exists as a human experience in the world, someone has probably written about it online. Knowing this, I often find myself seeking to assuage my fear by reading the words of others who have experienced similar worries, situations and events. I look for their advice and solutions, hoping that it will help me cope with the challenges I face. These commiserations may temporarily put me at ease, but in a few days I’m sure to find myself Googling obsessively again. “What if …” becomes a resident of my search bar all over again.
Jesus spoke clearly to us in Scripture about our human propensity not only to worry but also to demand immediate answers. For anyone with a device and a wifi connection, that’s exactly what the internet offers: an immediate answer to any problem imaginable. Through reflecting on my own habits in comparison with Jesus’ words in Scripture, I realized that I was looking for peace in all the wrong places. He tells us in Matthew 6:33-34 to “seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”
Being fully God and fully man, Jesus knew that we as humans will all face the temptation to give in to worry, allowing our minds to be controlled by an endless stream of “what-ifs.” It’s one of many struggles that threaten to separate us from God’s perfect peace. Jesus’ encouragement to resist worry shows that this isn’t a problem unique to us in the 21st century, where the pace of life is more rapid than ever. The tendency to worry obsessively was present even when our savior walked the earth.
The challenge we face
Over and over again, God invites us to surrender fully to the guidance of his perfect will. As I reflected, I realized that I’d allowed the seemingly all-knowing internet to take the place of God’s direction in my heart. Instead of going to him in prayer first whenever I was faced with a tough situation or decision about my next steps, I began seeking answers from others online. Though there’s nothing wrong with using tools like the internet to gather information, I allowed myself to forget the importance of consulting God first and most frequently whenever I face uncertainty.
Surrendering to God’s timing, and to the quiet ways he often answers our prayers, is challenging in an era that is dominated by the endless availability of information. By relying on him, however, it’s possible to learn to trust him first, before putting our faith in something or someone else. Philippians 4:6 reminds us, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” With this in mind, I began to pray that God would help me break the habit of placing other sources of knowledge ahead of his wisdom and help me trust him more.
I still have anxious thoughts, but as I’ve committed to seeking God’s will first, I’ve noticed that these fears are now answered with reminders of his unshakeable peace. He is truly in control, and his will for my life outweighs any challenge that comes my way. Though the choice to turn to him is one I make moment by moment, and though I don’t always do it perfectly, I’m reminded of his grace for our weaknesses. As I rely on his timing, I’m assured that he will make a way, resolve what I cannot, and walk with me through every uncertainty. Philippians 4:7 goes on to say, “Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” These words aren’t just a suggestion — they’re a promise. If we rely on him through prayer, even in the face of fear, he is faithful to provide a peace that we cannot explain. This peace doesn’t dissipate in the face of a challenge; it is promised to stay and guard our hearts and our minds.
St. Peter reminds us, “Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you” (1 Pt 5:7). This is the heart of why God wants us to rely on him in prayer: He cares for us. He offers us a love that cannot be found anywhere else, and his wisdom for our lives flows from that love. It isn’t found in the search bar on a computer or on social media’s endless scroll, but rather, it’s the quiet voice by which the Holy Spirit leads us. His wisdom will guide us through every question — we only need to ask for it.