By Art Toalston
NASHVILLE — Warmhearted feelings amid the pandemic can be hard to come by.
Maybe you’ve been venturing out to help neighbors with limited mobility by going to the grocery store or mowing the lawn for them. Or carrying a batch of fresh cookies to their doorstep.
You might be enjoying warmhearted moments of connecting with your family there at home or in video chats, sharing fun remembrances.
And, amid dispiriting TV newscasts, you might perk up for segments on heroic doctors, nurses, first-responders, truck drivers or store clerks.
And here’s another possibility for warmheartedness amid the anguish and sorrows of COVID-19: Get on social media.
Yes, social media.
Not to be a complainer or whiner, not to share a lot of personal details (though a few winsome ones could be fun) and not to fill stretches of boredom by tapping on a laptop while wearing sweats or pajamas.
Don’t buy the stereotypes. There is a sea of good people on social media – with wholesome things to share.
And you can be one of them.
Through thoughtful use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Pinterest, you can lift the spirits of your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers as they shelter at home. You can share edifying thoughts from Scripture, from something your pastor said in online worship, from an uplifting thought that may occur to you from the day’s news, as sorrowful as it often is.
If you’ve abandoned social media, that’s understandable. For years, you may have chosen to prioritize your time – God first, family second, work third, household chores fourth, with social media getting only a few crumbs. (And sadly, none of us executes these priorities with 24/7 excellence.)
It’s kind of odd. I think if I would have devoted a lot of time to social media over the years, I wouldn’t have a message, or life, with any depth.
But things are different now.
Consider these ideas:
1) Pray about what you put on social media. Ask: “Lord, is this OK?” If you post something you regret after a few moments or a few hours, you can edit or delete it, depending on which social media platform you were using. And don’t let negative folks distract you from a higher purpose. Anchor everything you post in the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, set forth in Galatians 5:22-23.
2) Ponder your favorite Scriptures or a passage you may have read in your morning quiet time. Try not to start off with anything predictable like, “My favorite Bible passage is…” or “A Bible verse I read this morning. …” Instead, introduce it with a sentence or two drawn from your heart and/or your life experience.
3) Pick up a hymnal to look for songs that have stirred your soul in years past. Copy and paste a few of the lyrics into a post, again framing it in your life context. Search for renditions on YouTube and share one that is stirring. (Have you noticed how many new versions of the great hymn “It Is Well with My Soul” are out there? It’s OK, too, to share a favorite bluegrass, oldies, Motown song or podcast every now and then.)
4) Find a webpage with anniversaries of key moments in Christian and world history or even unusual holidays and quote a relevant Scripture. If your posts generate some “friend” requests, it’s best to accept only those from individuals already connected with people you know.
5) Look for opportunities to say hello and thank you to missionaries you meet on social media who are sharing the Good News of Jesus across North America and throughout the world. Consider dressing as though you were having a real-life conversation with them or with a neighbor, at church, or at work. It could elevate the dignity with which you approach every moment you’re on social media.
6) Stay informed about your church and denomination, and let folks in your social media circles know – especially folks who are lost, without God’s redemption of their soul – of the value fellow believers can have in their lives. For us who are Southern Baptists, a great resource is the “SBC This Week” podcast which carries straight-up news about our family of faith, a look-back-at-history segment, and mentions of new faith resources to check out.
On social media, the fruit of the Spirit stirs us to “do nothing” and “do everything,” drawing from the apostle Paul’s words as recorded in Philippians, chapter 2.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,” Paul counsels in verses 3-4. “Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (CSB). In verses 14-16, his tandem exhortation is set forth: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.”
We indeed can be stars – not in the number of followers, posts, or tweets we accumulate, but in the approval of God for what is seen through our social media.
Art Toalston, a former editor of Baptist Press, is the author of “A Pandemic Proposal: Viral Vitality … Hope for the Human Soul,” an ebook available at Amazon, iTunes and other online platforms.