“Ahhh, ahhh, ahhh!” If anyone wasn’t looking at the play around the hoop, now they were. After jumping to attempt to rebound the basketball I had landed on the leg of an opposing player and suddenly my leg was in intense pain. Falling to the ground I found my right knee cap was no longer over the center of my knee but off to the right side. Everybody gathered around and when I caught my breath and composure a bit, I asked someone to lift my foot a bit. When it didn’t relocate itself as it had in the past when I’d had the same injury, I just pushed it in myself. If only that was the entire solution to the problem Though I have had this injury five times now between my two legs, the score is now left: two, and right: three, I don’t remember being laid up in bed so long with my prior injuries.
What do you do when you are stuck somewhere you don’t want to be, feeling how you don’t want to feel? Maybe it isn’t a busted knee that’s ailing you, maybe it’s unfulfilled relational expectations or professional frustrations. Maybe you were sidelined by an injury but found that the agent used to numb the pain started to hold more attraction for you than what you prize most. In this blog, I will share a direction we often look for life, to only find it actually sucks our life away. I will also tell you where to look to find what we really need.
Kareena Hansen, Dakota Hancock and I were planning for our first youth church service and as we were batting around ideas of what to talk about, the topic of addiction came up. So, I asked them, “What are you addicted to?” I asked the question confidently because I know we all have certain compulsions that can feel almost irresistible. It’s not just those on cigarettes who feel those strong urges in their brain chemistry. After an awkward knowing moment, the three of us found that our drugs of choice came through screens. Whether it was social media, movies, or video games, we were turning there in our free moments and getting stuck there longer than we wanted to. Screen time was getting in the way of and distracting us from what mattered more. So, we decided to do some experiments where we would cut or shorten some of those activities and replace them with prayer and time in the Bible.
Guess what happened! At the end of the month long experiment, we hosted our youth church program entitled, “I’m Addicted,” and none of us wanted to go back to how things were before our experiments. We wanted to keep growing in self-control in this area. The changes we were starting to experience were welcome and didn’t just impact how we spent our free time but how we felt and treated people in the other moments. Not only did we want to stay on this new track, we invited the youth group to join us in their own experiments and some did! Though screens can do so much good if put to right use, it is easy to let our entertainment and social media get us off track, looking for life where we will not find it.
A friend of mine in ministry had deleted all of his social media apps because he realized the negative effect they were having on him. When he started doing youth ministry recently, he got them back in order to stay connected with his students. It wasn’t long until he found himself doomscrolling, which means he was over-saturating his mind by consuming too much bad news and he started to feel depressed. The Holy Spirit helped him to realize what was happening, he re-deleted his apps and quickly started to feel better.
Our phone and TV networks are incredible. They give us access to what is happening all over the world but with so much content coming in it is impossible to keep up with it all and there can be a constant sense that interesting things are being missed…because they are. This anxiety can keep us hooked and then being hooked can cause depression and shame for not doing interesting things with our own lives and the downward cycle continues. It’s not the best place to look for life.
But there is something even more accessible to our souls and necessary for them. Blaise Pascal writes, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” Jesus said He is the Water of life, the Bread of life and the Light of life. He’s the Author of life and the Word of life and He’s always just a prayer away. If you want life abundant and contented, look to Jesus. He’s the only one who satisfies the deep desires of our souls when it feels like something is missing.
When I was stuck in my bed for days after my knee injury, it was so easy to get stuck on and distracted by my screens, but thanks to God, we had just had the conversation at youth church and I have friends on the same journey that remind me of how I want to interact with these things and who I want to be. This season of slow recovery is an opportunity to be still, to listen to the life-giving voice of God rather than filling my mind with more numbing noise. I know I need to look to Jesus, my Creator and Savior for life.
If you’re looking for life like I am, I want you to join me and the youth group. Do an experiment. Grab a friend and try something practical where you will be looking less at your screens and more to Jesus. Try a break from Facebook and Instagram, ABC and AMC and read your Bible, serve somebody or talk to Jesus alone or with a friend instead. You won’t want to go back when you experience that healing connection to Christ.
In closing, let me share a couple of Bible promises to give you hope for the journey ahead:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. - 1 Corinthians 10:13
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. - Jeremiah 29:13
For a compelling documentary on the addictive qualities of social media, why it is so addictive and what the societal effects are, check out the docudrama The Social Dilemma.
I’d love to hear about the experiments you do and how it impacts your Christian journey. May God give you something great to shout about.
God bless you friends.