Rising Above the Din

I wish my counselees could hear the word of God above the din of the 21st century.  I mourn for them.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ Romans 10:14-15

The Gospel

Thanks be to God, there are many saints who have taken the mantra of these verses and hit the streets sharing the gospel.  We want to make sure it is preached, heard, and believed.  The Bible describes it as beautiful to behold.  Though many have not yet encountered the beautiful feet of those who are sharing the gospel, it is not solely because the saints are not preaching.  The world is also not hearing.  John Gresham Machen, the founder of the Westminster Theological Seminary, describes another hearing problem in this quote:

“The vast majority of those who reject the gospel do so simply because they know nothing about it.  But whence comes this indifference?  It is due to the intellectual atmosphere in which men are living.  The modern world is dominated by ideas which ignore the gospel.  Modern culture is not altogether opposed to the gospel.  But it is out of all connection with it.  It not only prevents the acceptance of Christianity.  It prevents Christianity from getting a hearing.”

I’d like to key in on the phrase, “the modern world is dominated by ideas which ignore the gospel.”  He suggests here that Christianity is not being accepted because the saints don’t get a voice. We’re over-powered.  You could say, we come to the podium, but our microphone is never turned on. We’re talking but there is a voice-over. It is discouraging to preach your message when your voice is constantly muted.

I’d like to posit a thesis of extension to Machen’s idea.  Christianity does get air time but the world is loud.  What is shared about the gospel is deafeningly diluted by the psychological atmosphere in which we are living.  It is as if we are not speaking at all.  Let me share further.

Not accustomed to silence

I’ve recognized a sobering reality with my counselees of late.  During their time away from a given counseling session, they often complete the assigned homework while simultaneously still listening to many other voices.  Their lives, for the most part, are spent in the clouds, listening to music, enjoying memes, finding input from others, and trying to keep up with acquaintances near and far.  It is never-ending.  They are not accustomed to silence.  They are not accustomed to managing nor wrestling with their own thoughts, not to mention the thoughts of Christ.  So, they quickly complete the homework and return to their other, non-gospel world.

I’ve had to humble myself and work to fully understand my sister-counselees with this problem.  I am the opposite of what I described above.  I love silence.  I look forward to the moment in the day when I can contemplate a new idea, solve a logistical problem, ponder a bible passage, or write my next book, all in my head!  I actually enjoy the challenge of managing and wrestling with my own thoughts.  Fighting to live out 2 Corinthians 10:5 is a worthy and exciting goal for me.  Sadly, this is not the case for many counselees, especially the younger set.

As I was speaking with a counselee recently who had committed to a media fast of sorts, I leaned heavily into her story to get beyond the presenting problem.  The abstinence from voices was an absolute nightmare experience for her!  Why?  Because usually, when she is sad it is her wont to find the right song, when she is bored she finds the exciting meme, when she is happy she finds the accompanying image, when she wants to make a meal, try something new—you name it, there is an endless source from the bottomless internet bag.  In short, there is no thinking necessary in this new world!  Someone else is eagerly willing and waiting to manage your thoughts for you.  Unfortunately, all my counselee has to do is submit to the online world.  Fascinating, facile, and frightening!

Struggles with human engagement

This surrender to the “air” also causes my counselees to struggles with human engagement.  Talking to the screen prevents them from practicing conversation with real people.  As a result, figuring out how to navigate face-to-face communication today is awkward and therefore avoided by many.  We have literally forgotten how to be around real humans and how to think about what to say to one another.  Consider some of the ways in which we no longer need to talk to others:

  1. You have no reason to visit me because you can just text me.
  2. You have no reason to ask me how to bake a turkey because you can just google it.
  3. You have no reason to ask your elders how to care for your babies because you just go to the latest YouTube video.
  4. You have no reason to ask mom what to do about sickness today because you can just do a search on your symptoms and there are at least a thousand other people feeling what you feel and they have already named your disorder before you can fully describe it yourself.
  5. You have no reason to get along with me because you don’t have to spend time with me.
  6. You don’t have to practice kindness with the store clerk because you don’t have to enter the store anymore.
  7. You definitely don’t have to practice patience in checkout lines because everybody can check out online at the same time!

Human contact is no longer necessary.  And you may not know it yet, but it’s a lonely existence. And we have all kinds of mental challenges because of it.

Conclusion

What’s the greatest danger here? Let’s review and conclude.  We cannot manage thoughts, we cannot navigate conversations, and in turn we cannot discern God’s voice, because we live in a world that is dominated by ideas that muffle the goodness of the gospel.

We must force counselees to settle down and read the word of God for a significant amount of time, read the same passage multiple times, and do it all in silence.  Lately I have been having them read and journal the same short passages for six to seven days in a row, until they see me again.  Due to the din, it is taking that long to digest the simplest of passages.  What a great amount of time it takes to wade through the counselee’s accumulated mental garbage, shut off the source, and clear a path for the word of God!

We must continue to fight to help counselees confront their own thoughts, read diligently and then think biblically about everything.  They cannot take intrusive thoughts captives when there are continual invasive thoughts from digital devices.  Thoughts that are continuously masked by music, memes, or other media can never be properly addressed and/or replaced.  This is an aggressive yet sometimes subtle enemy attack.  Let’s work hard to break this interference at every opportunity.


Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash

Candace Dunston
Candace is the homeschooling mom of five children and has been married to Phillip for 25 years. She is a certified biblical counselor and serves in the counseling ministry at Faith Church. She enjoys teaching parenting classes and marriage ministry with Phillip and speaking at various women’s events.