The Solidarity Of Social Media (@JamesPrescott77)

imgres

Have you ever been a difficult situation, and all the people you usually turn to are for some reason unavailable? Or you speak to people, and many offer wise and comforting words, but you still feel alone?

In my periods of mild depression, I’ve felt low in ways very few of even my closest friends understand. And many times I’ve had periods which late at night, when most of my immediate friends are in bed asleep. Times I’ve needed encouragement. A friendly voice. Prayer. Love.

But been totally alone.

Which brings me to Joel. A book of hope. Yes, I said that. 

Like any prophetic book, there are warnings about dark times ahead. Talk of how we need to turn back towards the way of God, and the potential consequences if we don’t.

Not punishment from God. But consequences of our actions. Because disaster is what happens when you choose the way of selfishness, violence and greed. We all know this – we’ve seen the consequences of these actions for ourselves.

Joel gives hope.

Hope of rescue, refuge and sanctuary. Acknowledging the reality that the world we live in is dark, but offering the hope that God can bring safety and salvation. And showing us if we choose God’s way – love, grace mercy, justice, forgiveness, non-violence – the consequences are far better for us. The life God designed for us.

We all find places of refuge from the darkness of the world, in all sorts of places – many of them damaging. Addictions. Career. Status. Sports. Exercise. Family. Even church. All can be places we go to hide from the pain.

Healthy Christian church, of course, is place all can be safe. No matter who they are, what their past, who they are running from, whatever the darkness in the world. Not to avoid the pain, but confront it. Walk through it. And receive the healing and restoration God has for us, and the world, in the context of healthy, loving Christian community.

Now back to my dark nights of the soul.

Some of those dark times, people haven’t been around. I’ve not been able to talk to someone, but desperately needed to.

Have you ever been there?

The refuge I found, the only place I could turn in those times, was social media. I tweeted and posted statuses requesting prayer, sharing briefly how I felt, and what I needed. I messaged people, sometimes on the other side of the world.

And often, people responded. They told me they were praying for me. That I wasn’t alone. And gave me messages of encouragement and support, which made all the difference.

On social media, I found solidarity. I found refuge. I found a safe place.

These weren’t virtual messages. The term virtual is damaging an inaccurate. There is not the virtual realm and real world. There’s the digital and physical realm – and both are real.

Those messages and tweets of encouragement, prayer, love and support from real people certainly weren’t fake. They made a real difference to me in times of darkness. They lifted me. They gave me hope. Social media, for those brief times, was a place of refuge as much as my own Christian community.

It was – and is – a community. A real community.

Of course, long-term social media is inadequate – we all need physical, face-to-face, community, places and people we can go and be with, where we feel totally safe, to be us, as we are. And know we are loved, accepted and welcomed – as we are.

And of course, we must always be guarded with all our digital interactions. Don’t give away personal details. Interact with people you already know. Don’t get lost in the digital world. Be careful.

But we mustn’t underestimate the solidarity and refuge social media can provide in certain circumstances. How friends from the other side of the world can provide support when those nearby can’t for whatever reason.

The message of Joel is one which confronts the truth – we live in difficult times, life can be painful, because so much of the world continues to choose the way of selfishness, greed and violence. And because sometimes, life is just difficult. But it also brings us hope. That there is a place of safety, refuge, and love.

Churches need to be places where we don’t avoid the darkness, but safe and free to be honest about it, to confront it, and receive the love, healing and forgiveness we need.

And at times, social media can be a place of refuge too.

 *****

(Picture Source: vividlife.me)

About James P

James Prescott (@JamesPrescott77) is a writer & creative living in Sutton, near London in the UK. He blogs regularly at www.jamesprescott.co.uk on issues concerning social media, gender and the divine journey of life. Follow him on Twitter at @JamesPrescott77