Powerful Illusions

When I was growing up, I knew to be quiet while in the lounge when the news was on TV. At six in the evening and later for the news at ten I kept my mouth zippered so Dad could hear of the day’s events. My parents also received the Daily Mirror newspaper, satisfying my Dad’s political leanings.

Consequently, the BBC, ITN and Daily Mirror were my family’s windows to the world and shaped their view of it. Fifteen minutes at six pm, thirty minutes at ten and however long it took to read the Mirror which, as anyone who has ever read that rag can tell you, was never very long at all.

My formative years were the sixties and seventies. Amidst the trials and tribulations of global politics at that time, not once did my parents – or anyone else in my family – become agitated by the issues of the day.

Threats of annihilation – and life went on.

Current affairs at that time included the so-called ‘Cold War’ with its threat of nuclear annihilation. We had a continuous chain of union-led industrial disputes that featured the miners’ strike, power outages and the consequential three-day week. On top of this we also had the Vietnam War and, of course, the Northern Ireland ‘troubles’.

Despite all these and more, life just went on. As it should, of course.

My, how things have changed.

Now we’re bombarded twenty-four seven, through TV screens, newspaper headlines, computers, tablets and more. We even have constant access close at hand through Smartphones, which for many are never far from ever-twitchy fingertips.

We’re now receiving up-to-the-minute updates on events occurring thousands of miles away within moments of them happening. We’re so used to this pace of delivery that, for today’s news corporations, speed has taken precedence over accuracy.

First with the news is more important than being correct with it.

It’s also a sad fact that bad news sells better than good. Media executives may ask ‘who wants to hear uplifting or heart-warming stories nowadays?’ The answer to that is ‘we do.’ But sadly these accounts are rare, and are never given top-billing. No, that’s reserved for the ‘bad stuff’.

‘Bad stuff’ assailing us constantly from all sides can be overwhelming and unhealthy.

Worse still, it can be dangerous to some. It’s therefore vital that we pause and reflect on the impact so much distressing news may be having on us.

Is the news helping us? Or is it having a detrimental effect on our life quality?

The following questions may help you arrive at an answer:

  • What is your mood after watching the news, or hearing of world events?
  • Are you afraid?
  • Do your resulting views lead to arguments or division among family or friends?
  • Does social media leave you anxious?
  • Does the news influence your opinion of other people – people you don’t know anything about, aside from what has been revealed in a short, often deeply prejudicial broadcast?
  • On hearing negative information about someone, be it politician or celebrity, do you then feel an urge to express your anger on social media, without taking time to check the accuracy of the story? And does this anger lead to you submitting posts laced with bitterness and spite? If so, do your actions leave you satisfied or more anxious than before?
  • Do you rely on the news for comfort in an ever-changing and increasingly turbulent world?
  • Do you tune-in hoping for the best only to be dismayed upon hearing the worst?

It’s hardly surprising that many of us are stressed to the limit, living lives that are lacking in joy, and devoid of hope.

Polish-American diplomat and political scientist, Zbigniew Brzezinski, stated:

‘Shortly the public will be unable to reason or think for themselves. They’ll only be able to parrot the information they’ve been given on the previous night’s news.’

We see this happening today. It’s therefore vital that our sources are trusted and are proven to be reliable.

Are your sources widespread or narrow?

We often have our go-to news outlets, but to gain a balanced view it’s helpful to expand our sources. This allows us to weigh information and arrive at a well-considered viewpoint. Exercising freedom of thought often helps us to rationalise details, and to arrive at a more educated perspective.

The mere process of researching truth for ourselves imparts a degree of control. We become our own journalists – citizen journalists. Once we demonstrate freedom to employ critical thinking we may even find that real truth is often contrary to what we’re being told through the mainstream echo-chamber.

One such undeniable truth that flies in the face of mainstream assertions is that God does exist.

Another profound reality is that our own existence is no accident of physics. This leads us to yet another significant truth:

We are all loved by the very God who created heaven and earth. In fact, we feature in His plans and He eagerly awaits every one of us to accept Him and turn to Him.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I taking in more information about events happening around the world than I am in understanding who God is?
  • Am I spending more time scrolling through Facebook or Twitter than I am in reading God’s Word?
  • Have I processed the news with Jesus?

If the answers to these questions is ‘no’, is it any wonder that many of us struggle to find peace?

In a world beset by lies, another awesome truth is that Jesus is standing by your side right now, waiting for you to share your burdens with him. A problem shared is a problem halved, as the saying goes.

Furthermore, it is also true that a load will get heavier when the only person carrying it is you. That’s why it’s so important to not only regulate the amount of so-called news we’re consuming every day but to also ask Jesus to help us process it.

Each day, it’s critical that we tell Jesus in prayer how we’re feeling, before asking for his wisdom. Looking up Scripture is a crucial way to ease our minds and hearts when we need to know the Lord is in control.

Once we learn to interpret the news through the lens of what God’s Word says we find that, like most things in life, the news isn’t all bad or all good.

When the news begins to impact our joy, our relationship with Jesus and others, and begins to jeopardise our overall mental health, it’s time to take a step back and assess whether being informed is helping or harming us.

It is vital that we balance our desire for information against our absolute need for a close relationship with God.

Our overall health – mental, physical, emotional and spiritual – depends on it.