Did you know that the CEOs and former CEOs of large tech companies who created smart phones and screen-based gadgets rarely let their kids use their company’s products? They understand the negative effects of over-using their technology. Numerous studies have been conducted showing that too much screen time can result in sleep deprivation, susceptibility to chronic health conditions, loss of cognitive ability, impaired socialization skills, and so much more. I think an honest look at screen time/phone usage will reveal that it affects our walk with Jesus too.
I will be the first to admit that sometimes my phone can be an easy escape and obvious “go-to” for entertainment. However, my phone gets in the way of Bible reading and prayer. The TV and computer have become a way for me to shrug off my responsibility as a husband and father to my incredible family. The desire for comfort and entertainment can keep me from being involved in my neighborhood and the Adel community.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the benefits we get from technology. My screens certainly help me with my job and ministry responsibilities, but they damage my relationship with my family, friends, and community members if left unchecked. Life is full of weights and measures. It’s a big balancing act, but often the wrong things can outweigh the good, pleasing, and beneficial things.
This week’s fasting challenge is centered around abstaining from screens. I understand that, for many of us, our jobs revolve around using a computer or phone. However, we are challenging you to put down your technology during your leisure time and instead intentionally connect with God, your family, and your community. This fasting challenge is completely personal. We want you to evaluate your own screen time and set limits this week that will encourage you in your relationship with God and others.
Below are a few practical ways to limit your screen usage during your free time. This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start.
Turn on your “Do Not Disturb” feature after you’re finished with work. This will keep you from constantly getting a “DING” or notification about the next thing that wants to pull your attention away from what matters.
Leave your phone alone in another room. Some people have a designated spot for their phone on a charger or in a drawer. Designate a place that is away from your family areas or places where you would spend most of your leisure time.
Get creative! Think of fun, creative things you can do with your kids, spouse, or friends that activate other parts of your brain to give you joy.
Get a few books or projects to work on. I get it...Not everybody likes to read! It’s like pulling teeth to get me to read the books I need for studying and other things. If you don’t read, find a nice project that you can work on like a model car, art project, or even volunteering at ministries and nonprofits, like 3rd Place!
Schedule out your time. Sometimes it takes creating an agenda for yourself, so that you don’t have extra time to think about your phone or favorite TV show. If you’re someone who really does need to be available for contact, set specific, and time-bound moments in the day that you can go back to check your messages.
Regardless of what routine you use to break the habit of overusing screens, the point of our fasting challenge isn’t just so you can have better experiences or happier lives. The purpose of fasting is to grow closer to Jesus. Psalm 73:28 (ESV) says, “But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.”
Church, it’s good for you to be near to God. He’s the one who sustains and provides. He’s the one who calms the anxious heart. He’s the one who strengthens those who struggle to get out of bed in the morning. He is our joy, righteousness, and freedom. He should be enough for us to be satisfied and entertained.
For the good of our families, our community, and our own souls, let’s fast from the screens that sometimes enslave us. Let’s free ourselves from our own appetite for constant entertainment. Let’s lean into Jesus as we put down our phones and focus on the things that matter.