Searching

As human beings we love to search. We search for meaning, purpose, information and sometimes we just enjoy searching for the sake of it. As we enter a new year and a new lockdown perhaps we are searching once again for answers.

At the start of the first lockdown in March 2020 I thought it beneficial to take time out to look over the past ten years of my life and do what we may call some soul searching as a Christian. A global pandemic and a national lockdown seemed to create the right atmosphere for it. In some measure this was echoed across the country with an increased interest in the gospel with people seeking meaningful answers.

So I was interested when I came across this article last year about the google searches that took place during the initial stages of lockdown in March 2020. Of course if we’re searching in life then google seems to be the first port of call(!) but as usual these searches tell us a bit about ourselves and perhaps something more significant about God.

Firstly these searches show that we want to learn. ‘How to’ was a big search item in the initial stages of the 2020 lockdown. As you might expect much of this was about the virus and how to deal with it but there was also a common search for step by step videos as people sought to develop new skills during lockdown.

In life we like to learn new skills and grasp new knowledge. There’s something satisfying about learning a new skill. It’s also a breath of fresh air when we learn something new in life or notice something in a fresh way that has previously been hidden to us. The first lockdown created an atmosphere where this desire flourished.

It’s notable then that God is inexhaustible and in the bible we will be forever growing in knowledge of him. Sometimes we become bored of our learning whether it’s the repetition involved in mastering an instrument or when we become tired of the heavy book we’re reading. Once we’ve done it we also feel it’s done. The fresh scent of that first experience sometimes becomes a bit stale when we do it again.

However this can happens to us in the Christian life and tells us more about ourselves than it does about the gospel.  In our sin and brokenness and our lack of faith we (dare I say) become bored of God and yet in the bible God is inexhaustible and he is always fresh and appealing. Heaven itself will be a never ending process of learning new things about our creator who is infinite and unsearchable. This type of learning is  precious to us;

‘How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver.’ (Proverbs 16:6)

As we enter a second major lockdown may our knowledge of God be fresh and our growth in Him continue.

Our google searches also revealed that we want to be healthy. Of course this is a given and as well as the high volume of searches about the virus there were also other types of health searches such as fitness equipment for home use and beauty products to look after our hair and skin!

Our health is important to us because it affects so much of our daily life. Our health determines our limitations, often affects our mood and even our physical appearance. It is noted that when we are under pressure and bearing a heavy burden our shoulders literally sag and worrying has some nasty physical side effects.

It’s of interest then that the bible speaks of human beings as a unit where our physical state can affect our spiritual state;

‘Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.’ (Proverbs 3:7 – 8).

‘A tranquil heart is life to the body, but passion is rottenness to the bones.’ (Proverbs 14:30).

‘A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.’ (Proverbs 17:22).

It’s important to emphasise that Proverbs are not promises but suggest what is generally true in God’s world which is now broken and corrupted by sin. There are always exceptions and when it comes to our health there are numerous examples of poor health over which we have no control.

Having said that there is also a connection between our physical health and spiritual health. Obvious examples may be when we ignore God’s wisdom and invite calamity upon our lives (Proverbs 3:7-8).  Or the stress we place upon our bodies when we overindulge in life (Proverbs 14:30). Or when our lives are torn apart and we are marked by grief or an inner spiritual struggle and the effect is felt physically in our bodies. Lack of sleep, sore bones, weary and tired.

As we enter a second major lockdown it is important to look after our health which can be done in various ways but our first point of contact to do this is our spiritual walk with the Lord himself who steers us away from calamity and brings solace to a broken heart. This is especially important as another lockdown brings a fresh wave of stress and strain into our lives as we juggle all the implications.

We also want to have security. Perhaps this is a natural corollary to our health. If we find security in our health we also find it in our pay packets through our jobs. There were many searches about furlough as people worried about their job security, paying the bills and running their lives.

On a more humorous note this was coupled with a need for toilet roll which was searched around five million times. There’s a certain sense of security(!) that comes from knowing you have enough of this and toilet roll became symbolic of the initial fear that the pandemic brought upon us.

The bible has a lot to say about fear. The most repeated command is to ‘fear not’ because the one who makes the command is the one who can provide the much needed security that we need and which our instincts crave;

‘Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked. For the LORD is your security. He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap.’ (Proverbs 3:25-26)

As we enter a second major lockdown we can ask what are we afraid of? May the Lord be our security.

Well as everyone was busy googling it also showed that as human beings we like to be busy! Amongst the top shopping searches were items such as lawn mowers, plants and garden seeds. As previously highlighted the desire for good health was matched with the desire for good weights, a search which increased by around 4000% from February 2020.

People like to be busy.  Sometimes we become too busy. One of the opportunities of the initial lockdown was being able to step back from life, take time out and reflect. This was especially appropriate as we became aware of suffering and our limitations against the common belief that we are masters of our own domain and in control of our lives.

Having said that we have an instinctive drive to be doing something and preferably something we find meaningful. We are created to be active and whilst we correctly emphasise the inadequacy of good works to merit salvation we also find the couch potato a bit repellent.

The bible speaks highly of those who are busy and do not waste time but who are instead diligent and hard working;

‘Go to the ant you sluggard, consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?’ (Proverbs 6:3-9)

The ant seems so small and insignificant and yet what a great example to us all! The ants works hard with little supervision and is always productive and doing something useful.

One danger of the initial lockdown and perhaps a danger now is that we become unproductive and a bit lazy. Hanging about waiting for all this to end.  This is especially dangerous when it is difficult to break up the day. As we enter a second major lockdown let’s remember that whilst reflection and time out is appropriate we are also hard wired to be busy and will do well to remember the ant!

Our second last observation is one that we may have all felt at some point in 2020. We want to escape. This is true of us generally. People enjoy escaping into a book or a film as a way to detach from life and sometimes as a form of relief from living in a broken and stressful world.

However one of the challenges of 2020 was a feeling that we couldn’t escape. We were limited to our homes and even when the circumstances eased we had to live with a sense that this could suddenly change. The annual family holiday was uncertain as was any form of ‘getting away.’

Sadly this can lead to other forms of escape as the writer joked about  an increased search for alcohol. It may be funny were it not for the tragic death rate due to drug and alcohol abuse in Scotland.  The bible helps us because our heart takes the lead in the sense that what we choose to enter into springs from within.

‘Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.’ (Proverbs 4:23).

As we enter a second major lockdown this is important.  Our heart may be weary with disappointment and the same old same old. Guard it.

Finally our google searches revealed something that we often try to avoid. Dealing with death. We want to know how to deal with death. Alongside an increased search for sympathy cards was an increased search for what to write in them. We seem to live our lives staving off death in one form or another but when reality looms our google searching shows that we don’t really know what to do with it.

The bible is a bit more realistic. We can’t just put death off because it looms large in life;

‘There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief.’ (Proverbs 14:12-13)

Even our happiest moments are tainted with the presence of death. We live with a sense that however happy we seem to be in a moment or a period of time it is only temporary for the sting of death awaits us.  So it is good to know that in the bible death is not ignored but neither does it have the last word. For in Jesus’ resurrection death is defeated and the wages of sin are paid in full at the cross.

Jesus asks us to trust him with our lives but also with our deaths. Furthermore the bible helps us to understand that in Jesus all of our searching (google or not!) finds it’s goal in him.

We want to learn and Jesus says learn from me. (Matthew 11:28-30)

We want to be healthy and Jesus is the one who gives life. (John 11:25)

We want to have security and Jesus keeps his disciples. (John 18:9)

We want to be busy and Jesus gives a life of service. (John 13:14)

We want to escape from reality and Jesus points us towards what is true and real and worth investing our hearts in.  (Matthew 6:19-21)

As we enter a second major lockdown what sort of searching will we be doing?

‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened to you.’ (Matthew 7:7)