News year resolutions
Advice for healthy news consumption in 2022
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’Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions, and without piling on New Year burdens, I’d like to propose three modest resolutions—or at least suggestions—for approaching the news in the coming year:
1) Don’t retreat.
Some news cycles are so overwhelming, it’s tempting to stop paying attention to the news altogether. Breaks from news consumption are crucial to spiritual and mental health, but resolving not to pay attention at all runs the risk of not paying attention to what God is doing in His world beyond us.
I always enjoy the Apostle Paul’s asides in his letters to New Testament churches, and I’m always impressed by how much he wanted scattered Christians to know what was happening beyond them. At the end of his letter to the Colossians, Paul writes: “Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. … I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts.”
We’re right to want to know what’s happening in other parts of the world, including what’s happening with Christians in places often foreign to us or different from what we experience. Seeing redemption in hard places can encourage us, and it can show us how to pray for God’s work in the world.
Indeed, the Apostle Paul often wrote about what God was accomplishing through the prayers of scattered believers. As we stay informed, we have an opportunity to participate in the work God is doing beyond us through our prayers.
2) Don’t obsess.
For some, the temptation may not be to retreat from the news but to creep to the other end of the spectrum: to become obsessed with it—or at least to become preoccupied in unhelpful ways.
If anxiety or agitation or anger are the primary emotions we experience when we interact with the news or social media, it might be wise to recalibrate our intake. A question to ask: Am I consuming content or is content consuming me? Part of analyzing consumption is evaluating our diet: Am I consuming healthy meals (interesting journalism with solid substance) or am I cramming down empty calories that fuel my desire for more junk food?
Christian professor and author Jeffrey Bilbro writes: “It’s easier to get an emotional hit from shallow, sensational news than it is to spend the mental energy required to engage with more serious matters; watching the world blow up is more exciting than studying its treasured wealth.”
3) Memorize Psalm 131.
What’s the link between memorizing a psalm and thinking about news-related resolutions? I’d suggest that Psalm 131 offers a path for avoiding retreat or anxiety over the news. David writes: “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother.”
At first glance, the psalm might look like an argument for news retreat, but David personally dealt with kingdom-altering news for most of his life. He likely isn’t expressing a lack of interest in the highs and lows of God’s kingdom and his own place in it. Instead, David seems to resolve not to fret about what he can’t control or fully understand.
If we try to figure out all of God’s purposes in all the perplexing news we read or hear or experience, we’re occupying ourselves with things too great and too marvelous for us. Psalm 131 commends the quiet trust of a child who doesn’t understand everything in his mother’s mind, but who does fully trust in the care of one who loves him. It’s a good reminder for 2022: Whatever happens, our Father’s own resolve to care for us won’t be broken.