The Virtual World and the Spiritual World (My personal struggle)

I’d like to be candid in this post about a personal struggle I’ve been subtly engaged in over the past few years.  With all of the many blessings that technology, the internet, social media, blogging, and the like have brought into my life, I find that there is, through my daily use of them, a quiet erosion taking place within my spirit.  With all that I’ve gained, I feel that I’ve slowly been losing something that I once had that is incomparably precious.

Compared to many, I may seem to be rather moderate when it comes to technology use.  I minimally use social media (beyond blogging); I only started using a smart phone within the past year; I have a tablet and a computer that I regularly use, but don’t feel I over use; I’m not a regular TV watcher, movie goer, Netflix subscriber, video gamer, or avid music listener.  Even so, I can tangibly feel what seems like a creeping fog that is slowly rolling in and creating a hazy barrier between myself and my Lord.  I seem to be inadvertently losing a measure of the sensitivity to the indwelling Spirit and the voice of God that I once had, and find it more and more difficult to still my mind in His Presence.

As I’ve become more aware of this, I’ve begun to realize that there is something about this virtual, technological, synthetic, screen-dominated world that we are increasingly living in that is rewiring the way we think, feel, and process life.  It’s changing the way we interact with each other, it’s altering our ability to focus our attention on one thing for any length of time, it’s creating addictions to micro-bursts of dopamine-releasing social affirmations, soulish fascinations, and sensory excitements, that all work to keep our souls continually astir and constantly craving more.  All the while, our spirits are being deprived of the one thing that they desperately desire and need for sustenance and life: intimacy with the living God.

So recently, I’ve begun to make some incremental changes that already are beginning to make a noticeable difference.  I’ve been making a concerted effort to more frequently turn off or turn away from the virtual world, when I’m tempted to fill a quiet moment with something “meaningful”, “enriching”, or “entertaining”, and to simply enjoy the quietness. I’ve also been making a greater effort to get out into God’s creation and simply breathe in the air, take in the sounds, immerse myself in the colors and textures of the sights before me, and allow the subtlety of God’s world to speak deeply into my soul and refresh my spirit. (The difference between this and the bombarding flicker rate of a computer screen cannot be compared.) Every time I do, I feel like I’m reconnecting with my spirit, with His Presence, and with life the way He meant it to be.

In thinking about these things recently, my mind went back to a short piece that I wrote for the cover of our homeschool support group newsletter in June, 2003, some thirteen years ago. In light of what I’ve just shared, I feel these thoughts are more relevant now than when I first wrote them. I’ve included that short devotional below for your consideration. I pray that it will be an encouragement to you to more regularly turn away from the virtual world that we are so constantly immersed in, and turn to the spiritual world that is manifest all around us in and through God’s wonderful creation.

~ ~ ~

God’s “Universe-ity”

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
Psalm 19:1-4 NIV

Now that Spring is finally here and Summertime is fast approaching, one of the greatest opportunities for instructing our children lies right outside our own back door. In these verses the Psalmist declares what our hearts instinctively know; that all creation daily proclaims the wisdom, wonder and glory of God. The “speech” of creation communicates in infinitely subtle and sublime ways what human speech could never fully convey. As we take time with our children to listen to its exquisite “vocabulary”, a knowledge of the wisdom and ways of its unseen Author is imparted to our hearts. This classroom is an extraordinary place to learn.

For our family, the past few days have afforded some priceless opportunities to learn in God’s “universe-ity”. Yesterday my oldest two boys and I watched a majestic, circling osprey hunt for its evening catch as our canoe gently glided down a rain-swollen river. Earlier that day, my daughter had marvelled at the delicate beauty of a darting hummingbird as it sipped nectar from one of the very flowers she had helped her mother plant. Today we watched a thousand whirling maple “helicopters” sail off in the blustering evening breeze as we commented on their perfect aerodynamic design. Later, we joyfully winced as our two-year old son delightedly picked one white dandelion after another and lofted the fluffy white seeds to infiltrate our lawn in yet a hundred new locations!

Whether it is the ominous roll of distant thunder, or the silent speech of a star-filled night sky, all creation continues to faithfully testify of its Designer and Sustainer. May we take these opportunities to teach our children to be good students of this priceless “Book” that has been freely given to us. May we draw away from the clatter and clutter of this world’s distractions and cultivate, along with them, an ear to hear the whisper of God’ voice as daily creation speaks.

~ ~ ~

I had been wanting to share along this line for a couple of months, but the impetus to do so now came after reading a post the other day by a dear brother, Patrick Maina, of Kenya.  That post is called, “The Battle You and I Must Win”, from his blog, Life Beyond the Walls, and can be found here.  I encourage you to read it as well.

In closing, this continues to be a very busy and stressful time for our family (for the reasons I explained in this earlier post.)  Your continued prayers are appreciated.  As time allows, I will be concluding the “Affirmations” series.

Love and blessings in Him,

About David

Following Him who is the Way; learning of Him who is the Truth; living by Him who is the Life. - John 14:6
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19 Responses to The Virtual World and the Spiritual World (My personal struggle)

  1. rrapson2015 says:

    Distractions, distractions, distractions. The word on my heart these days.

    Thanks for sharing!! Walking circumspectly, slowly, by the Spirit of Him who dwells in us is a place I’ve not gone before. Keeping the ark out front and following is truly a challenge.

    Again thanks for sharin!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • David Bolton says:

      So true…”distractions” are one of the enemy’s greatest weapons against us in this day. We are being flooded with so much, even with what is “good”, that we must be very disciplined to stay focused on the Lord and follow His Spirit. Your ark analogy is most fitting! Thanks, and blessings!


  2. janloyd says:

    Thank you, David. I needed this today.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. errollmulder says:

    David, my bother, thank you for opening your heart to us as above. And thanks for ‘a word from the Lord’ for most if not all of us. ‘Lord, help me to heed this call, regularly…’
    I am praying with/for you right now…
    And yes, the ‘Affirmations,’ as important as they are, can wait a while.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. amymainetti says:

    David, this caught my eye tonight. I was just discussing this exact subject with a friend today. I feel like I do pretty well at keeping technology from taking over, but I think I might do another evaluation. Twice God has brought this subject into my life today. He’s always so faithful to remind me of what I need in my life even when I don’t know what I need. He’s a good God.

    Liked by 1 person

    • David Bolton says:

      Thank you for sharing, Amy. God is wonderful how He works! I’m glad this was an encouragement and confirmation to you! We’re all in this battle together! 🙂
      Grace and peace!


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  6. Pamela says:

    Dear David, I just realized that the comment I posted yesterday didn’t take – or at least I don’t think it did. Anyway, this is OUTSTANDING. A real keeper. A real struggle for our times. I am sadly reminded of a verse that haunts me, and one that I am happy to say also helps me – of “leaving our first love” (Rev. 2:4-5) and how we are encouraged to go back and do the “first works” we did. Which are? I think this may be a personal answer, as we each have a unique relationship with the Lord. THANK YOU so much for expressing something that is so needful. May your walk with Him be extra-special in the next week!

    Liked by 1 person

    • David Bolton says:

      Thank you, Pamela, for your encouraging words. I’m glad it spoke to you, and thank you for your exhortation concerning our “first love” and our “first works.” I like what you shared in your post that linked to this one. (Readers see above Pamela’s comment for the link.) So much of it boils down to simplicity, which is the exact opposite of what this world is flooding us with. May we encourage each other in this battle. We’re all in it together! Thanks again for your comment, and for the mention/link on your blog! All blessings in Him!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Tobie says:

    Thanks, David. This is so true. On the bright side, things have a strange way of rectifying themselves. I think a lot of us are finding it increasingly impossible to keep up with all of the blogs, the latest hot theological discussion, etc. And it really doesn’t take rocket science to realise that one’s posts, comments and tweets are becoming increasingly insignificant amongst the billions of other posts, comments and tweets that are being pumped out by the second. And so (I think) many of us are rediscovering the beauty of face-to-face fellowship and sharing with one another within the boundaries of your God-given time and capacity, whilst finding a glorious and oftentimes unanticipated liberation from the dreaded FOMO disease. Have you noticed how many of the typical bloggers that we enjoy (read “Christ-centred”) are taking a break from the feverish posting that characterised their blogs two to four years ago? And when they do post, the quality of the content is generally higher, i.e. more reflective and perhaps somewhat less confident.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. David Bolton says:

    Thanks for weighing in, Tobie. Your thoughts are well taken. I see some who are starting to make that turn, as you mentioned, and I thank God for it. Others I see so enmeshed and apparently satisfied with their social media world, that face-to-face fellowship seems to be a vanishing priority for them.

    As I believe you know, a well-known “organic church” leader recently spoke of why he is no longer involved in the kind of churches that he earlier promoted and worked to establish, at least for now, because he claimed, that the interest in such expressions had peaked about five years ago, and now the Lord seemed to be moving in different ways. My theory is that social media in its various forms began to become integral to our lives and culture shortly before that (2006-2011), which initially helped to promote an interest in “organic”, “simple”, “house”, etc. church, and propagate it world-wide through blogs, podcasts, FB, Twitter, etc… As the social media world continued to expand, and smart phones became ubiquitous, though, its influence evolved to the place where it began to replace people’s social needs with a less costly, virtual alternative, (…especially among 20 and 30 yr. olds.) Now, for some, the pendulum is starting to swing back to the priority of face-to-face fellowship, while others are continuing to go deeper into the virtual “matrix.” Obviously technology is here to stay and will only increase in its sway over our lives, cultures, brains, interactions, etc,, and so it poses a significant reality going forward. I see the shift that has taken place as being more cultural in this way, then, and one that is more permanent and increasing in nature for many/most, rather than a matter of being merely in-between “organic church” revival “seasons”. I may be wrong, but that’s how I see it at least. It is certainly a matter that we ought to have further dialogue on as His people to seek His perspective.

    I always appreciate your comments and insights, Tobie. Thanks, again, for sharing!
    Love to you and yours!


    • Tobie says:

      Thanks David. What you are saying makes a lot of sense, especially your remark about social media replacing “people’s social needs with a less costly, virtual alternative.” It reminds me of something Wayne Jacobsen said: “..many of us are programmed to try to relate to God through our needs. If we begin to build our sense of church based on those self-needs, we will only end up frustrated with a cheap counterfeit of the real church God has created us to embrace. If we are looking to relate to the church because we need acceptance, or security, or a place to demonstrate our gifts, or people to love us in a certain way or someone to tell me how I should live in Christ, we’re already headed the wrong direction.” Sadly, social media can provide all of that, without the added burden of having to serve people in the non-virtual way that Jesus did. And so we may very well be witnessing a cultural megashift that will produce the type of religion that Paul warned against in 2 Tim 3:1-5.

      Liked by 1 person

      • David Bolton says:

        Tobie, I think this is hitting the nail right on the head. Most of us by nature, and also by religious nurture are programmed to relate to God and the church out of personal need. It seems the “institutional church” is essentially built on that foundation, and so it is how and why most believers are hardwired that way. “Organic church” can be attractive to many who have been hurt or short-changed within that system, and may seem like a promising alternative to having their personal needs met. (I tried to bring this out in detail in Rebels, Refugees, and a Returning Remnant – Part 1) If their interest is still based on personal needs, though, it won’t necessarily last, and other alternatives will in turn be sought. This is likely another contributing factor to the perceived spike and decline in “organic church” interest over the past decade. Many have begun to explore it, thinking “the organic grass is greener” only to find out its actually a much harder way to grow green grass! And so some return to the commercially fertilized pastures again, and others look to the synthetic, astro-turf alternatives of the virtual world. 🙂

        There certainly are “seasons” in God, too, but we are exhorted to be faithful “in season and out” 2 Tim.4:2 When it is a matter that is bound up with God’s eternal purpose, we need to just keep plowing a straight furrow regardless of the wind, rain, sun or seasons. Again, that’s how I see it.

        Thanks for the excellent quote by Wayne Jacobsen, and for your added thoughts. I agree completely!


  9. errollmulder says:

    Thanks David and Tobie for your inter-action, it is helping me get a better perspective on things common to us.


  10. janloyd says:

    Yes, this discussion has been so helpful…thank you, David, Tobie, and all!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Zoltan Szabo says:

    Thanks David for this article!
    I live in Romania/Europe. Here we have the same struggle.
    Would you give me the permission to translate it into Romanian and distribute it?


    • David Bolton says:

      Yes, brother, you have my permission to translate the full article. I’m glad that it is a blessing to you and that you will be able to share it with the saints in Romania! When it is done, please send me a copy or link, as I’m considering adding a translations page to my blog for those articles that others have translated over the years. Thanks, and God bless you! -David

      (You can email me at david[at]christcenteredchristianity[dot]com)


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