More and more in our daily lives, we’re constantly being bombarded with information. Author, teacher and councillor John Eldredge believes we’re facing so much media that we can hardly hear ourselves, let alone let God nurture our souls. It’s no wonder that at such a frantic pace, some people feel numb, and risk being burnt out.
Though some have argued that lockdown would give us a chance to pause and reflect, many of us have only felt overwhelmed by an endless barrage of numbers, rules, warnings, and tragic stories from around the world. Stuck at home, our sense of powerlessness has become even more overpowering.
Eldredge wrote his new book before the pandemic, but it may be just what we need right now. ‘Get Your Life Back’ offers simple, ready-to-implement practices, designed to help people like you and I to regain control, and find healing for our souls. 20Twenty’s Neil Johnson caught up with him for some insight into the ‘spiritual crisis’ the world is enduring.
More and more research shows that the way we consume media today is changing the structure of our brains. As we grapple with omnipresent distractions, our attention span for a single task is growing shorter. Eldredge started to see the problem when he realized that he could only play with his grandson for five minutes at a time without checking his phone.
If I can’t even pay attention to the people in the room, the people that I love, how much harder for me to give my attention to God?
“The ability to give God our attention has always been at the centre of Christian life, and Christian joy, Christian healing of the soul. Like in Psalm 1, where it says there are these people who are so filled with the life of God, they’re like trees planted by a river, whose leaves never whither, and in everything they do they prosper.”
“Well what makes the difference there is they’re able to give God their attention. And I think we have had our attention assaulted for years now, but especially during this pandemic, it’s very hard to just sit and be still and give God our heart’s devotion.”
After the September 11 terrorist attacks, psychologists found that people who watched the news on TV were just as likely to suffer PTSD as people on the scene. What we’re coming to understand is that exposure to global traumatic news on a daily basis is really actually very harmful to the human soul,” Eldredge said.
God designed us to live within a community of people, to live within a Church community, but not to carry the heartache of the world.
Eldredge believes many of us have become more anxious during this period because any extra free time we have has been filled with trauma and confusion. But the good news is that we can do something about that. “We can choose to unplug. We can choose not to stay online more than we absolutely need to.”
Eldredge encourages us to only consume the news that’s directly relevant to us. “You need to know what the policies are. You need to know what the new guidelines are. But then get back out. Don’t spend your day feeling about the new death toll, what’s happening in China, etc. etc. You’ve really got to take care of your soul in a very difficult time like this.”
In Psalm 23, better-known as The Lord is My Shepherd, David describes the ways God took care of him. “David was a remarkable man, with an incredible life – the King of Israel. And he understood the need to have the restoring Word of God in his soul. And not just once in his life, but on a daily basis.”
C.S. Lewis said that “your soul is the vessel that God fills”. Eldredge was living a fast, exciting life, full of noise and action, and he wasn’t happy. “I finally realised that what was happening was that my soul was really worn out, really dry. And like the desert that can’t receive the rain it desperately needs because the ground is too hard, our souls get dry, when we become that frantic, that spun up in this world, we have a very difficult time receiving the very gifts that God’s trying to give us.”
Eldredge says this world is perfectly designed to constantly distract our attention from what’s important. But in his book, he wanted to remind us of the invitation in Psalm 23 to let God care for our soul. Now, more than ever, we need to resist the spiritual assault, and as the Book of Hebrews says, fix our eyes on Jesus. Because as we are able to look at him, especially during the pandemic, that is the only place of security, of perspective. That’s the only place of assurance in a time of great uncertainty like this.”
There’s lots more wisdom in Neil Johnson’s conversation with John Eldredge. Listen to the podcast of their discussion below. Or check out John’s new book, ‘Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices for a World Gone Mad’, available now from Koorong and other retailers.
Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times.