God designed us with the need to be seen, heard, valued, cherished, and respected. While He could abundantly meet these needs Himself, He created us to do life with others. It is not needy to have needs. It is healthy. The enemy does everything in His power to sabotage God’s original intent of connection between Himself and His creation and connection one to another as human beings.
The worldwide pandemic is an obvious example of our enemy’s deviousness. However, even before the pandemic, many people found themselves increasingly isolated.
Thank goodness for the Internet! Social Media has been a godsend for those who find themselves isolated through message apps, texts, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Live feeds, and Zoom.
I, myself, have had an internet presence since the mid-90s and rejoice as I see God increasingly use the Internet to bring healing, hope, restoration, and fellowship to the marginalized and forgotten by society. The Lord continues to advance his Kingdom across the world through technology. Deep friendships are being formed; heart connections are being made, the outcasts are finding places of refuge, people are being sent out into the mission field. We can train Christians in third world nations who could never travel for ministry training to lead and minister to their nation, right from their iPhone! God is on the move.
However, I am also very much aware of the dangers of the Internet. People often compliment me by saying that I am wise in the ways of the ‘net. Perhaps that is true, but I earned that wisdom through graduating with a degree in “Learning Lessons the Hard Way.”
I made some extremely foolish choices in the early 90s, and I got myself involved with a couple of groups where I tried to convince myself that I was there to help others. However, I knew in my heart of hearts that I was looking to escape from some inner pain I was dealing with from my past. One group led me down a pretty dark path. I was close to suicide. I thank God for His redeeming rescue and intervention through local friends and a gifted counsellor and I thank God I have not experienced such darkness since.
Over the decades, I have watched the enemy infiltrate Christian led groups. Please note, I am not speaking of flesh and blood people when I speak of the enemy of our souls. However, it is wise to be aware of some of his tactics and ways you can safeguard your heart and spirit as you navigate the ‘net.’
Learn to listen to the Holy Spirit. The only way to learn to listen to God’s voice is by being obedient to His voice and directions. The more you lean your ear to listen to His voice, the more He will speak to you. Ask Him to search your heart so that you can discern your natural ‘distrust’ from His gentle heads-up about a situation.
After a couple of weeks in a message board, group chat, Facebook Group, Zoom chat, or Live Feed, and you have a growing sense within that something isn’t quite right, take that feeling to the Lord. Is that feeling just because you find it difficult to trust because of past issues? Is the Holy Spirit giving you a head’s up?
Remember, Jesus taught his disciples to pray that God would lead them not into temptation.
Ask God if you are to stay or go. If you have a sense you should go, trust Him. He is well aware of your loneliness and isolation. He is your Good Shepherd and will lead you to a healthier meadow. His staff will gently prod you when you are heading toward trouble, but you must pay attention to that gentle prod. If you feel led to stay, stay with the intention to be a blessing.
Be wary of leadership who flatters. There actually isn’t a fine line between flattery and encouragement. They are polar opposites. Flattery subtly poisons hearts; feeding off their insecurities and their longing to feel important and recognised. Flattery lulls its victims into a false sense of justification for holding onto grudges or unforgiveness. “You are much too good for that so-and-so. Oh, that group you just left, they didn’t deserve you; I think you were totally right in storming off in a huff. I am so glad you joined us, you are amazing, and we all know just how amazing you are. You deserve better. Welcome to my web… I mean our little family.”
Flattery feels good at first, but it falls flat quickly. Flattery divides and builds suspicion.
Encouragement helps you find the gold within yourself and champions you as you take responsibility for your life and take steps to discover your true identity in Christ. It helps you do the hard stuff by cheering you on as you run the race. Encouragement doesn’t presume to run your race for you. It empowers and never controls. Encouragement bolsters your courage to make positive, proactive steps.
An unhealthy group becomes clannish, slipping into an ‘us and them’ mentality. The ‘them’. Quite often the ‘them’ in this equation are those people an insecure leader has a complaint against. God exhorts us to stay away from meaningless controversies. 2 Tim 2:23 – “Avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.”
Stay away from any group that attracts and keeps followers through consistently bringing up speculations, conspiracies, and innuendos thinly disguised as ‘prayer concerns’. Shock Jocks might be entertaining but they can poison your heart over time.
Step back from any group whose leadership does not address gossip firmly and nips it at the bud.
While it’s perfectly healthy for leaders to have intimate friendships with those they can trust, beware of any group whose leadership creates an elite ‘special group’ of insiders and mentions this tight circle at the expense of those who feel like outcasts.
Although Paul wrote the following to a young pastor, his advice is something we all need to take heed of as we navigate the ‘net. 2 Timothy 2:22b-25 – “Pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.”
Look for my weekly scheduled blog this coming Monday!
Photo Credit: Pixabay – Marisa04
©2021 Katherine Walden