We’ve all been there: spending too much time on our phones and too little time in the present moment. For such a small device that can fit in the palms of our hands, it’s amazing how much power our phones or tablets have over our hearts. I’m a firm believer that we don’t have to quit the internet to live full and fruitful lives, but we do, however, have to safeguard our time and minds from idolizing our phones. Over the past few years, I’ve been more challenged to find ways to cultivate the time I spend on my phone. Rather than quitting the internet, I want to fight for the freedom I have in Christ by finding ways to utilize this device for the Kingdom.
As I’ve ventured into the territory of using my phone intentionally, I’ve noticed a few things about the human heart (my own included). We are made to crave connection, meaning, and affirmation. The weaving of these desires into our souls was done by God when He made man and woman. Adam and Eve, and all mankind were made to crave God. We were made to be in right fellowship with Him, know Him fully, and be in satisfying communion with Him. However, sin broke that desire. It broke the connection within our human hearts and shifted our longings for earthly things that can never satisfy. It is only through Jesus that God has brought redemption to this brokenness we all experience. And it is only through Jesus that we can experience wholeness in our everyday lives, even as we use our phones.
When we try to fill our soul’s need for God by running to our phones, to social media, and to other apps to fill the God-shaped hole in our hearts, we are left longing for more. Ultimately, these cravings and longings are meant to point us directly to Christ, who meets these needs fully and eternally. Though the Bible was written thousands of years ago, the principles and truths in it are still just as applicable to us today as they were when the original writers penned the words. Ultimately, the Bible should be our authority and guide as we live Christ-centered lives in a digital age.
Living in the Light
The verse God has used to shape my vision of how I use my phone cuts right to every intention of the heart:
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15–16)
As Christ-followers and children of the light, we are called to be cultivators of this world around us. We can do this by seeking to make the absolutely best use of the time we are given each day with a clear view of eternity guiding our steps. The call of Christ to be intentional with every moment we are given applies to each area of our lives, including how we use our phones. Below are a few practical ways we can daily cultivate a life-giving phone for the glory of God.
Boundaries are for our freedom. I used to cringe at the thought of boundaries. As a matter of fact, when I heard the “b” word (budget or boundaries) growing up, I panicked a little bit on the inside. Anything that felt restraining wasn’t welcomed in my heart. That is, until God started wrecking my view of what the “b” word could mean if I allowed it to have its rightful place in my life. When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them boundaries. They were to eat of every tree and enjoy all of creation, but there was one they were to steer clear from for their own benefit. As we noted above, when Adam and Eve took the fruit of the forbidden tree and crossed the God-given boundary, they walked into a world called sin and we’ve been reaping the consequences ever since.
However, God has the last say. Christ stepped into the brokenness of this world to begin the reparation process. Throughout Scripture, we see the beauty of boundaries in the life of a believer. When we give our hearts and attention to that which is good and leave behind what is evil, we experience God’s presence, peace, and perspective. The boundaries we have been given are for the benefit of our souls and our joy. The same is true with our phones. By implementing boundaries regarding the use of our phones, we are protecting our souls from worshipping these small devices, and we are positioning our hearts to worship God alone.
A few boundaries I have been learning to implement in my daily routine are these:
- Word Before World: These words echo through my head every morning when my alarm goes off. I used to pull my phone into bed and start scrolling—Instagram, Facebook, email, the news. And each morning I started the day distracted and discouraged. Now that alarm is a reminder to wake up and open my Bible first thing, and it has revolutionized my days! You can join a free 30-day Word Before World challenge here!
- At night I put my phone away around 8 p.m. and charge it across the room. Instead of scrolling before bed, I read a book on my Kindle, journal using my Word Before World journal, and spend time with my husband. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I do my absolute best not to pick up my phone then either! Instead, I’ll pray or read my Kindle.
- I put my phone away when I am playing with my little boy. Granted, I still take a lot of pictures of him, but I try not to talk to friends or scroll when it’s mommy/Nolan playtime.
- I also don’t use my phone in church to read the Bible or take sermon notes because it is too distracting to not text or scroll. It can also be distracting to those around me! I take my Give Me Jesus Journal with me and my real, paper Bible to pay attention and worship.
Another way I cultivate a life-giving phone is by my placement of apps on my phone, as well as which ones I download. As the iPhone has progressed, so has the number of practical and encouraging apps expanded. I am very particular about which apps I download on my phone. Before I download I ask myself if I need it, if it will be a distraction or a tool, and if it will add value to my life in some way. With those questions asked and answered, I don’t have a ton of apps on my phone. On the front screen I have a folder called “Jesus FIRST” with tons of apps that fuel my faith! We created a download you can find here with all those apps! On that front page I also keep the basics: notes, weather app, calculator, internet, calendar, Google maps, and overcast (an app I use to download life-giving podcasts! Find some of the podcasts I listen to here!).
On the second screen of my iPhone, I keep everything else in folders. There is a specific folder called “I am set free” that has all my social media apps in it! I often delete Instagram from my phone when it is distracting and I also don’t have Twitter, Facebook, or any other social apps on my phone. The other folders are practical ones, such as “productivity,” “health,” and “baby.” Overall, I keep my phone clear of distracting apps and fill it with life-giving, faith-fueling ones!
One last way to cultivate a life-giving phone is to create a social media mission statement. I regularly write out a mission statement to help me stay on track as I utilize social media for the glory of God. Some questions I ask my own heart are these: Why do I scroll? Why do I post? What motivates my heart? What encourages me when I am scrolling? What discourages me? How can I build others up through my posting? Social media can be incredibly discouraging and distracting—if we allow it to be. As believers, we have the upper hand in this fight for freedom! We, too, can be freedom fighters for others as we live in the freedom and joy Christ has given us. Instead of wasting time on our phones we can instead spend time on our phones intentionally to build the Kingdom of God, share about the good news in everyday life, and connect with other women who love Christ.
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You can be free, sister. You can live free in Christ, while at the same time using your cell phone to build others up and be built up. However, it will take effort. It will take regular heart checks as you get into the Word and pursue a life that worships God only. Remember, you fight from the freedom and victory Christ has already given you! Claim that freedom in Christ today and walk forward in the life He came to give you, even as you use your phone each day.
Using my phone for His glory,