August 12, 2014  - By Gretchen Saffles

Confession. I am a recovering addict. Chances are, you are one too. I have been enslaved to “likes” and trapped by numbers for a lot of my life. The number battle seems to wage a war in my heart each day. Even before things like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, I measured myself by how many people complimented me or knew me. In college I struggled with the numbers I saw on the scale. They never got low enough for me to feel beautiful and my body suffered from it (read more about my story here). It seems like we are constantly trapped by numbers and never appeased with what we see.

The Problem With Numbers

Our culture is obsessed with numbers. We are surrounded by “followers” and measure our worth by the number of “likes” we receive. We are a society of “like-aholics” – addicted to more and never truly satisfied with where we are and the way God made us. The definition for addiction is:

the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming” (

 If you don’t think you are addicted, ask yourself a few questions. How many times a day do you check social media? Do you measure the value of a photo or post based on how many likes, retweets and followers you get? Do you feel discouraged when you don’t get a lot of these things? Are you constantly looking to others with more followers and feeling less than them? Do you notice when you get “un-followed” and does this hurt your feelings? Chances are you, you’re a “like-aholic” too. 

I have heard from far too many friends lately that they have felt discouraged by social media (and I have been there as well!). It is too easy to pull it up and scroll through and let Satan have a field day with our thoughts. We are in a battle but we aren’t fighting it with truth. Instead, we are waving our hands in surrender and falling even more deeply into the trap of numbers. For far too long we have allowed the scale or our pant size to determine our beauty. We have allowed the number of digits in our salaries to determine our worth. We have allowed the amount of followers, likes, Facebook “friends” and comments to dictate the amount of joy and confidence we have.

Can I be completely honest, here? I am so tired of looking at likes and followers and “friends” and measuring up or down. I am so tired of seeing other believers do the same thing. I am tired of the feeling of it never being enough. I am tired. Are you? There is hope for you.

Freedom from Numbers

The Purpose of Numbers

God is not surprised by our obsession with numbers. Since the beginning of time man and woman have been trying to climb the ladder of approval and worth without realizing that all we need is found in Christ. You see, God created numbers for a reason. Have you ever thought about the fact that God is not bound by time? He is limitless. He never sleeps and He can do anything (Isaiah 40:28). We, on the other hand, need at least eight hours of sleep each night and are limited to only 24 hours each day (and are only awake for half of these!) There is a purpose behind numbers. 

In Genesis 1 and 2, God created everything and He did it all in seven days total. Already we can see that a limitless God set in place a seven day work-week for us. He modeled for us six days of work and one day of rest. God used numbers to create order in the very beginning. And then in Genesis 5, God commanded Noah to build an ark and to bring animals in sets of two (one male and one female) onto the boat so that after He wiped out the earth, He would rebuild it with the animals and people He had ransomed from the flood. God used specific numbers to represent His salvation. And then in Genesis 15, God promised Abraham that he would have descendants that numbered the sand and the stars. In verse five, God said to Abraham:

“Look up at the sky and count the stars — if indeed, you can count them…so shall your offspring be!”

God used numbers to show His majesty and His power. His challenge to Abraham was to reveal to Him that He is the Creator of every star and grain of sand and He is faithful to fulfill His promises. Scientists have estimated that there are over 100 billion stars in the sky. When I was little, I would challenge myself to count the stars on a dark night when they shone brightly. The darker the sky can get without any lighting, the more stars are visible than we can see from the city. One of the darkest places on earth is in Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales. People travel from all over the world to gaze at the billions of stars in the night. It is impossible to count the stars of the sky. And yet, God, knows every one of them by name. All billion of them.

National Park

God created numbers to show us HIS greatness, not ours. Numbers are limitless. The concept of infinity used to drive me crazy! How can numbers just keep going and going and going? They can because they are pointing to a Creator who is limitless. God didn’t create numbers for us to make much of ourselves, but to make much of Him.

The Gospel and Numbers

Psalm 90:12 was a prayer of David: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” David understood that our days are limited. God already knows the number of our days and the number of hairs on our head (Psalm 139:16, Luke 12:7). Instead of using numbers to find our value, estimate our worth, build our own kingdom and glorify our worldly achievements, what if we used numbers the way God intended them? Numbers point to an Almighty Creator who is so big that He created numbers to be infinite like He is. Instead of finding our value in the amount of followers we have on Instagram, the number of likes we get on a photo, and the comments (or lack thereof) we receive on a picture, we found our peace, hope, and joy in Christ? Doesn’t that just sound so good? That is how God created us.

We were never meant to measure ourselves up or down based on salaries, sales, friends and size. The Gospel of Jesus Christ eradicated the law so that we could have new life in Him. God wants us to be free from our addiction to “likes” and live fully for His Kingdom today. The Gospel purchased us our worth in Jesus. Colossians 2:10 tells us this amazing truth (read it very slowly and let it sink in):

“…and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority.”

You are complete. You don’t need affirmation from social media to find joy, because you have Christ and Christ is more than enough. If your heart is weary from the number battle, find rest in God alone today. In Him you will find your worth and your hope. In Christ alone, you are complete.

Let’s live in freedom from this addiction. The first step is admitting it. The second step is embracing the freedom Christ purchased for you on the cross. The third step is extending grace to those around you and building them up in truth. Live free and use social media as a tool to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. This is our chance. Let’s use all we’ve got for the glory of Jesus Christ.

embracing freedom,


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  1. I think that the numbers game is a problem for anyone who engages in Social Media. I don’t pay that much attention to Facebook anymore, but Instagram is a big struggle for me. I see how many “followers” I have compared with how many likes my photo gets and I just can’t figure the math or the dynamics that make one photo more liked than others. Keep your head up though! Because you are reaching more people than you realize! 🙂

  2. Anna says:

    I’m amazed! This is beautifully written and exactly what I’ve been feeling recently. I needed to read this. Thank you, Gretchen! The numbers will never satisfy.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Arrived here via Instagram (just started following you recently and it paint). The part about the numbers being limitless reminded me of how limited we are.

    This is so important to know because on my part, I am only starting out on social media (sort of necessary for artists?) but can see how easy it is for it to be a trap. I think Satan uses it more so as a time consumer. Our time is limited, and as long as it’s time away from God and focused on other things, he is winning. May we learn how to find the balance in living a life in this age filled with His joy and His life, expressing and glorifying Him — both within and on the outside.

    • gretchensaffles says:

      I totally agree Jennifer. I take time away from social media each day to reflect on what matters. The Lord desires our freedom in this AND that we use social media to declare the Gospel! I pray you can do that through your art as well!

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