Lately, it’s been getting harder for me to read the Bible. It’s not that I don’t want to, or don’t see the need to. I’ve just found it harder to stay focused on the words and actually read them. My brain feels like slush when I try. It takes me several minutes of reading the same passage over and over before I feel like I get into “Bible mode” and can actually read.
I blame it on my smartphone, or more specifically, my smartphone habits.
If God desires purity in our thoughts, then what is constant social media and news-checking doing to help or hurt in this process? For me, it seems like social media tends to get me thinking more about my physical life instead of my spiritual life.
You see, I have a lot of noise in my head these days. When I wake up, I check my phone to see what has happened overnight. I check my text messages, Facebook, Mint, my Etsy shop app, Google News, Pinterest, my workout app and Instagram.
Instantly my mind is loaded with information, ideas and those all-too-powerful images of other people’s lives—both the good and the bad. And each interesting morsel is quickly scrolled past to find what the next interesting thing will be! I don’t feel like I even truly process much of what I see before I succumb to the urge to scroll to the next thing. I can almost compare it to the feeling of being hungry—hungry for more entertainment, or information, or validation.
This routine of checking all these apps can repeat itself multiple times throughout the day. It feels satisfying and important, but I’m starting to wonder if I have a problem. It’s hard to stop all this “checking” when it’s time to pray and read God’s Word. It’s hard to stay focused enough to read the Bible without my hand seemingly unconsciously unlocking my phone! It’s embarrassing to even write this, but my guess is that I’m not the only one struggling.
I have a theory: My mind has grown dependent on the constant influx of new information. Now when there is a dull moment (or a Bible passage that challenges me), I seek relief in the distractions always readily available on my smartphone. I feel really uncomfortable with this. Is this really the way God wants me to live?
The physical vs. the spiritual
In Psalms 19:14 Psalms 19:14Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
American King James Version×King David writes, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” The meditation of our hearts is simply what we continually think about throughout the day. If God desires purity in our thoughts, then what is constant social media and news-checking doing to help or hurt in this process?
For me, it seems like social media tends to get me thinking more about my physical life instead of my spiritual life. Seeing other people’s physical accomplishments—outfits, vacations, workouts, political views, food, families and activities—gets me focused on these types of things.
This is not to say that I think it’s bad to post on social media. There can be many good uses such as checking on sick friends, or staying close to out-of-town friends or family! But when I spend hours of my free time immersed in thinking about the physical sides of life, it doesn’t leave much time for thinking about the spiritual side of life. “The meditation of my heart” becomes a futile exercise in increasing worldliness.
The problem with social media distracting us from God’s Word may come from how much easier it is to look at photos and read other people’s ideas compared to sitting down, focusing and studying the Bible. Reading the Bible requires us to calm and quiet our minds.
It requires us to think and wonder what a passage might mean. It requires us to pray for guidance. It really takes a lot of time to truly dig in. If your attention span has been totally shot by all the instantaneous distractions of the Internet, it can be very hard to adequately study the Bible!
Psalms 46:10 Psalms 46:10Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
American King James Version×says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” There is a stillness and a quietness of mind that I feel is being completely stolen by constantly checking our phones. There is no time for reflection, no peace, and no place for the Holy Spirit to guide us.
I really want to improve in this area. It’s frightening to think that it’s become difficult to stay focused on God’s Word!
So what can I do?
I want to properly balance my life so that my meditation is pleasing to God, my mind isn’t continually distracted, yet I can still use social media for its good aspects. Here are a few ideas that I have just started trying:
• First things first.
I bought a regular clock so I can put my phone away at night (instead of using it for an alarm). I have been trying to not check my phone until I spend some time praying and reading my Bible in the morning.
• Delete apps.
There is no need for me to have instant access to some apps. I can check Facebook or Pinterest on my computer, for example. It’s okay for people to not be able to reach me instantaneously. My connection with God is much more important!
• Use a timer.
I found an add-on for my Internet browser to limit my time on Facebook. When the time’s up, I can’t access the site anymore. This causes me to quickly check on the events or people that I need to and then sign off as fast as I can. I also put an app on my phone which tracks how much time I spend using it and notifies me if it’s too much.
• Take some time off.
I scheduled a few days a week for myself that I am calling “screen-free days.” I’m sure that I will still have to check my phone some, but the hope is that instead of spending my free time on the Internet, I can instead spend time outside, read a book or just think.
• Ask God for help!
I had to admit to God that I was sinning by making an idol out of my smartphone and all that it offered me. And even now, I still feel majorly tempted to overdo my use of my smartphone. I pray that God will help me through His Spirit to overcome!
In Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
American King James Version×Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” We, too, cannot subsist on the daily distractions of the Internet. Yes, there are good things, but no, it can never fulfill our deep hunger for God’s Word. We have to make room in our minds and carve out a quiet place where we can feed on His Word so that He can work in our lives.
If You Must Be on Your Device
If you find it really hard to put down your smartphone or tablet, there is the alternative of using it for reading the Bible and spiritual study. You can spend time on Bible apps, follow friend recommendations on useful reading, and peruse our website, which is filled with mobile-friendly articles, study guides, sermons and Beyond Today videos. Above all, read the Bible itself. Of course, it takes wisdom and discipline to not be easily distracted on electronic devices and to spend your time well.