Every time I walk into a bookstore I am flooded with a jumble of emotions that is difficult to describe: I can hardly contain the urge to laugh and cry at the same time. On the one hand, it fills me with joy to contemplate the opportunity I have to learn about theology, natural sciences, history, philosophy, and literature. On the other hand, it saddens me deeply to realize that, no matter how hard I try, I will never learn everything I want to learn (this side of eternity, at least. I hope there are many libraries in heaven).
No matter what day you read this, there is more information at our fingertips today than ever before. Every second it accumulates more and more. A quick Google search can bring you answers to the most ridiculous or bizarre questions you can think of. We seem capable of responding immediately to any question, from "Who is that actor that seems so familiar to me? I'm sure I've seen it elsewhere!" to "What is the best method to put my baby to sleep?"
We feel that we can know everything and—far from bringing us peace—this produces in us an insatiable hunger for more and more information. We think that, perhaps, if we obtain one more piece of information, we will feel satisfied with our wealth of knowledge or our decisions. But there is never real rest; Tranquility only lasts a while before we drift aimlessly in the endless sea of information again.
Some of us have clothed this tireless search for data in pity. We justify ourselves based on homework: "I must be attentive to what the young people of my church are doing, that's why I follow them minute by minute on all their social networks." "I must be an informed citizen, which is why I spend the first three hours of the day glued to Twitter and the news." "I have to write a good article, so I have to read five books and fifteen essays on the dangers of information overload." We deceive ourselves, convincing ourselves that we need to know more, instead of knowing good. We drown in information, while allowing our souls to languish in a drought of wisdom.
The good news is that today we can start walking differently. Here are six proverbial tips for cultivating wisdom in a world saturated with information.
1. Fear the Lord
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction (Prov 1:7).
To be truly wise—to live a good life—we must begin by searching for God, not by searching the Internet. Wisdom is not merely about accumulating a bunch of data about how the world works. We can't even become wise by memorizing the answers to a Bible trivia game. Knowledge is important but not enough. We must apply that knowledge appropriately; we must seek to walk according to the divine standard and not according to the fashion of our generation.
God made everything we see and what we cannot see; He understands how everything works in this broken world and also how it should work. Who better to tell us how to live well than the Author of life? To begin to be wise we must surrender under the lordship of the Wise.
2. Ask for wisdom
Because the Lord gives wisdom,
Out of His mouth come knowledge and understanding (Pr 2:6).
There is good news for all those hungry for wisdom: God is not stingy with it. Our Lord delights in pouring it out abundantly on all those who ask for it in faith (James 1:5). To walk well in this world we don't need to try to be all-knowing like God. We can cry out to Him for wisdom to show us what good works He has prepared for us and what we need to know and do to walk in them.
To walk well in this world we don't need to try to be all-knowing like God, but we can cry out to Him for wisdom.
For example, if I am a youth leader, my job is to disciple them, not police them. It would be wiser to spend time cultivating my knowledge of God's Word (which is powerful to transform them) and meeting with them regularly to see how they are doing and to pray together. Knowing every detail of youth movement on social media might make me feel very concerned about them, but it doesn't really help me much in serving them.
3. Fill yourself with the Word
My son, do not forget my teaching,
And let your heart keep my commandments (Pr 3:1).
In a world with countless sources of information, it's easy to forget to continually drink from the eternal source of truth: the Word. It is in Scripture that God has revealed the most important matters about Himself, about us, and about the world we inhabit.
In the Bible, of course, we don't find answers to all the curious questions in our minds… and the reason is that we don't need answers to all those questions. That insatiable curiosity is often what distracts us from what we most desperately need: answers to the deepest concerns of our souls. In the pages of the Bible we find identity, purpose and hope. The truths of Scripture feed us, unlike the junk we tend to stuff ourselves with for entertainment. If we neglect our feeding on God's Word, it should come as no surprise that we feel spiritually anemic and seek to quench the urge to be fed with more and more facts.
4. Forget knowing everything
Look your eyes forward,
And may your gaze be fixed on what is in front of you (Pr 4:25).
When Paul wrote "examine everything carefully, hold fast the good" (1 Thes 5:21), the Internet did not exist. Going through "everything" was relatively easy when your everything consisted of a few conversations a day, a few letters a week, and maybe a scroll here or there, if you were a well-to-do, intellectual person.
We must work hard to limit the sources of information around us so that we are able to examine what we read or hear.
Now our "everything" is, well, pretty much everything. We have at our fingertips almost all the information that has been produced in the history of humanity: the good, the bad and the terrible. In addition, email, messaging applications, streaming and social networks bombard us with a lot of data that demands our attention every minute. Does it surprise us that so many have stopped examining and just mindlessly consume? Are we surprised that our eyes go from one place to another, instead of focusing on what is important? We must work hard to limit the sources of information around us so that we are able to examine what we read or hear.
5. Be corrected
Do not rebuke the insolent, lest he hate you;
Rebuke the wise, and he will love you (Pr 9:8).
God did not create us to be alone. That's why it's good to participate in reading groups, Bible study and have coffee with godly friends with whom we can share what we are learning. We must be open to listen and be instructed by others who are able to see what we cannot.
Neither everything you consume nor everything that goes through your mind is always aligned with reality. We need others to show us where we are falling short, in theory and in practice. Look for those people full of the Word, with experience and points of view different from yours, who can help you persevere in wisdom.
6. Glorify God in your ignorance
The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord
They are wealth, honor and life (Prov 22:4).
Our ignorance should not make us feel threatened. We can rest and marvel that God understands everything while we say 'I don't know'
When we come across something that is beyond our comprehension, the first impulse is usually to improvise some half-cooked response or to run and study for hours to determine an opinion. But it is not necessary to give in to those impulses.
Of course, perhaps we are dealing with an issue that is worth exploring in the future. But our ignorance should not make us feel threatened. We can rest in the fact that God understands everything and marvel at his glory as we say "I don't know."
Are you willing to be wise?
Wisdom is available to all of us (Pr 1:20-23). The question is: do we want it? It's easy to say yes; looking for it is something else. Our distraction-filled world saturates us with information to distract us from seeking wisdom. Do not let that happen.
Jesus gave himself up on the cross so that you and I can receive new hearts that submit to the lordship of the God of all wisdom. We were not born again to live in foolishness. The days are bad (Eph 5:16); let's stop wasting time in the data whirlpool and try to walk as Jesus walked. In Him we have everything we need to do it.