Praying in the Church of Google

Looking for answers where there are none to be found. 

This article is by Colette Eaton:

I have recently found myself running to Google to ease even the slightest tension. With ever-expanding technology and the convenient computer I hold in my hand each day, searching to solve just about any problem is all too easy. From “how to design a dog-friendly backyard?” To “top benefits of childlessness,” it’s the fastest thing I can think of (other than a nap) that’ll offer me relief within seconds. The moment I begin to type, my anxiety begins to fade then subsequently spikes when a thousand different options appear on the screen. I scroll through my findings, searching for what will offer my anxious soul relief.

Whenever we find ourselves experiencing pain or confusion, Google offers to swoop in and discover a solution. Having information at our fingertips is helpful for finding directions to an Airbnb, but when we attempt to apply this same strategy to our souls’ deepest needs, it becomes a convenient distraction. I am baffled at how many times I seek answers through search engines more than I do through prayer. I might wholeheartedly believe God is always with me and yet Google has been the omnipresence I turn to for comfort and direction, the church to whom my queries are directed.

I became keenly aware of this one morning when I attempted to pray and all I had done for the thirty minutes was read reviews on the best wrinkle cream. The reality of my own aging had driven me to find solace, to regain some control.

This habit of approaching the altar of answers can reinforce more of a desire for information than connection with God. Instead of turning to the God who offers comfort and purpose in our pain, the phone offers an abundance of consolations. It may not always be information we seek, as much as the ability to comprehend the reasons behind our pain. We want to know why and, more importantly, how to fix it. Is there some unknown life hack? What about personalized vitamins? Maybe that wellness influencer knows what to do.

I am not entirely sure how the early Christians survived without being able to search “top verses to ease anxiety” or “where is Macedonia?”.

***

This past Lent, I spent a weekend at Mount Angel Abbey to try to unplug a bit (and hopefully pray!). My husband and I had just recently lost a ten-year battle with infertility and were grappling with the reality of being childless.

Leading up to the retreat, I had attempted to control my grief through information gathering, keeping me distracted by the constant treasure hunt search engines offer. I was unwittingly starving my soul of true nourishment that information and Five-Step Plans couldn’t satisfy. After my epic search for the best wrinkle cream, I resolved it was time to push aside the convenient distraction of the World-Wide Web and spend some quality time with my grief. But this somehow led me to an Amazon cart full of Frownies and watercolor kits (and I don’t even paint).

Grief is a sneaky bitch. It manifests itself in the strangest ways.

God rarely gives me the answers I want. God is riskier than Google. Yet, God graciously reminded me that it isn’t the removal of pain that is most needed but the turning to him for strength.

The apostle Paul was deeply acquainted with suffering. He pleaded for God to remove a “thorn” from his side to no avail. He googled “God” and got the answer he didn’t want. We don’t know what this particular ailment was, but it was severe enough for Paul to describe it as a “messenger of Satan.” I can relate. Childlessness doesn’t have me walking with a limp; it is hidden and has delivered messages of unworthiness.

These hidden experiences of pain, even as small as a thorn, can be lodged in the most tender spot. No matter how you sit or turn or walk, you feel it every single time. The thorn of my grief was like this and no matter what I did to alleviate the discomfort, it was always present. I, too, asked God to heal it, and like Paul, received a gracious no, but grace can feel offensive when pain remains (especially when what we are asking for isn’t ridiculous.) Praying for healing seems reasonable enough to me. Yet, God reminded Paul that his grace is sufficient, enabling Paul to be content in his suffering because God’s power is ultimately accomplished in weakness. So Paul boasted of his weakness, knowing that is where God can do his best work.

On my prayer retreat, unplugged and unable to reach for my phone, I was reminded that that God does his best work through suffering. But it doesn’t come in the form of answers or information; it comes through a grace that sustains and offers comfort. Googling kept me increasingly distracted and disconnected from the true source of comfort. Grace was my soul’s relational salve, not the quick transactional Band-Aid.

I understand we live in a search engine world and it can be a useful tool. Even still, we need God more than Google. While search engines can lead to rabbit trails, God unreservedly offers his grace all the same. He patiently waits for us to exhaust ourselves until we realize we cannot heal our pain with self-made bandages. His voice is the only answer we need in the midst of suffering. His power is made perfect in weakness.

COMMENTS


One response to “Praying in the Church of Google”

  1. Dave says:

    Loved this…thank you

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