Fear Is Chasing Us
By JIM NICHOLS
It seems noticeable to many of us that we are living in a fearful world. Perhaps humans have always felt that way, but I believe the amount of information to which we have access today accelerates our fearfulness. When this basic fearfulness combines with the wonderful creativity (for better or worse) of humans, the stage is set for new levels of fear with new expressions.
That is, there have always been misguided and evil political leaders, indescribable violence, hurricanes, dishonest businesspeople, and personal tragedies. Most have been hidden, however, from the public. Now, however, we can watch and listen to these negative situations on a 24-hour basis. They are just a click away; fear can easily get the best of us.
Certainly, there is much to value in the role of technology in the past and present world. Even a technological invention as straightforward as a farm tractor clearly changed the world for the better. More modern illustrations of communication, energy, electrical, mechanical, medical, and transportation technology truly make our world a marvel of efficiency, speed, and accuracy. None of us would desire to remove technology from our lives, even if we could.
For those of us trying to follow God, however, it is worthwhile to consider the role that technology might play in our relationship with the Creator of the world.
To most today, the word “technology” first suggests communication technologies such as television, computers, cell phones, and the internet. How might these technologies affect our relationship with God? My suggestion is it occurs as those technologies participate in making us afraid. Two directions are worth considering.
The first is to note (to no one’s surprise) that the web is full of fear-generating information. Not only are lies, wars, and famine brought to our attention in graphic form, but they are displayed so well and consistently that it is possible for us to believe they are inescapable; we are surrounded by them and trapped. Think about how angry and afraid we get by another school shooting. Think about how angry and afraid we get at misguided and lying politicians who clearly do not have the good of the people in mind but are simply on power trips. The people involved in the January 6 Trump riot were, themselves, afraid because of information they had gathered using technology. Then the riot itself made all the rest of us afraid. Fear upon fear.
One of the clearest teachings of Jesus is “don’t be afraid.” Period. He states it repeatedly. And yet, you and I lead exceedingly fearful lives at least partly because of our commitment to engage communication technology as much as we do.
We do not have to be “tuned in” to our electronic communication devices all the time. It generates in us the evil of fear and God does not want us to be fearful.
A second point involves the acronym FOMO. Although technology enhances our creativity by enlarging our resources, there is a trap here. How many resources do I need as God’s person? How much information do I need to display the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—Galatians 5:22-23) in my life? Is it necessary to click from one topic to another aimlessly? It is as if we have been enticed to believe that things are happening around us that we need to know about. Always. We do not have to try to keep up with everybody and everything. We are trapped in FOMO (fear of missing out).
Throughout history God’s people have cherished the necessity of closing off options sometimes. (“Israelites, you cannot go to that land now; you have to stay here.”) God expects that we are going to miss some opportunities (even good ones), and we need to learn to do that without resentment. We are expected to accept limits and to focus attention. Restricting our choices with trust and humility is an important part of prayer.
The “cloud” may offer a treasure of information and speed, but we all know it often deals with trivia. It has little to do with love. It also can make us fearful, and God does not want us to be afraid.
Jim Nichols is a retired Abilene Christian University biology professor and current hospice chaplain
Dr. Nichols, this is so well thought out, well written, and true. Thank you for being a source of reason.
Love this: We are expected to accept limits … Restricting our choices with trust and humility is an important part of prayer.
I completely agree with you. My problem is that I “fear” not knowing.