When the World Feels Like a Dumpster Fire — Finding Peace
I just removed social media apps from my phone — for probably the 22nd time. (True confession, I still don’t know how to use Snapchat.)
As I scroll mindlessly through social media, I find that I either compare myself to others, want to buy something, or get angry and feel emotionally charged. None of these things give me peace. Just angst.
A little research shows that I’m not alone. According to a 2017 study from Phil Longstreet and Stoney Brooks, “Over 210 million people worldwide suffer from [Internet and social media addictions].” They also found that how satisfied we are with life influences how likely we are to become addicted to the Internet and social media.
As Sally, in all her wisdom, shows us, even if we had perfect inner peace, the “outer obnoxiousness” around us can still leave us feeling like we hate the world. And social media, the Internet, 24-hour news, gaming, and texting can all give us a front row seat to this obnoxiousness on a moment-by-moment basis. When all we consume are stories of war and unrest, racial profiling deaths, mass murders, political unrest, and every other atrocity, no wonder our internal sense of peace is waning or even nonexistent.
Removing social media, canceling your Internet, or even becoming a hermit/monk/nun are just short-term tactics to help lessen the chaos. But it’s not just the outer world that can leave us feeling like life is a dumpster fire. There are all the struggles in our personal lives we can’t just turn off with a push of a button: student loans, relationship struggles, death, sickness, loneliness, despair, rage, and the list goes on and on.
The thing is that this isn’t the first time that life has felt like a dumpster fire. Back in the day (I mean really, really back in the day), Jesus spoke to his disciples right before he returned to heaven — with no specific timeframe about when they’d see him again in-person:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
— John 14:27
Jesus is explaining to them that he will literally give them peace, the Holy Spirit, that’s out of this world. It’s nothing like the quick fixes we often chase after. This peace is life-giving, eternal, and brings us a feeling of wholeness — not lacking anything.
“Eirene,” the Greek word for peace, appears about 90 times in the New Testament. It can convey a sense of inner rest, well-being, and harmony. Our ultimate peace, our eirene, comes from being reconciled with God by placing our faith in Jesus. This peace comes to us as we fill our minds and hearts with things that bring us life. It’s not just the absence of the dumpster fire but the presence of God.
Practically speaking, taking away social media and limiting our intake of divisive subjects can help open time in our days to instead read Scripture (start with the New Testament), finish or start a Bible study (find amazing ones here), or listen to a favorite Christian podcast (the Bible Project is one of mine). These things will fill our minds with good and take the space of negativity, comparison, and all the other taxing emotions we feel.
I’ll end with one of the most encouraging verses in the Bible when it comes to peace: “These things (see Jn 14-16) I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).
The dumpster fire will probably not die down anytime soon, so how will you find your eirene? What will you do to fill your heart with the true Peace that following Christ delivers? Share below how you best connect with God or a new approach you want to try.
Stephanie serves as Communications and Operations Director of InterVarsity’s Learning and Talent department. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and four young children. To make a donation to Stephanie’s ministry, use this link: donate.intervarsity.org/donate#21400.
COVID, a lack of in-person relationships, the ongoing realities of racism, patriarchy, income disparity, and climate change — the world can feel like a dumpster fire. Scary to watch from a distance but devastating when you’re standing in the middle of it.