By Bethany Riehl
“All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.” – 1 Corinthians 10:23
This verse, like so many others, is a comfort to me; and a challenge. It’s difficult to grasp the freedom found in Jesus. Yes, I am free to do all things – make choices without fear that I will be cast out of my Father’s hand. And yet, many choices I make can very seriously destroy my witness and wreck my life. I serve a gracious God that stands back and lets me choose. He also mercifully swoops in when I make the wrong choice.
In my younger years, my wrong choices were much more obvious and damaging in ways that everyone could see (sorry Mom and Dad). Now as an adult, wrong choices can be so subtle that they snake their way through my soul, hanging on like clover patch – intersected and woven into every area of my life before I know it.
My biggest sin? Pride. And my biggest struggle? Social media.
Perhaps this sounds silly. Small and innocent compared to other struggles and sins we all face. The majority of us spend too much time on our phones and computers, and those of us that were born before computers and smartphones were in every home can very clearly grasp the amount of time being wasted each time we fall into a crazy YouTube video rabbit trail. But more than a time sucker, I’ve lately seen how social media is changing who I am and it’s definitely not for the better.
It’s not just me, or you. It’s our children.
A friend of mine, the director of the children’s ministry at her church, once returned from a conference and shared with me the one piece of data shared in a session that most affected her:
In the time span from kindergarten through senior year of high school, kids spend –
- 11,000 hours in school
- 20,000 hours in front of a screen
- 800 hours in Sunday school (if they come every week during that time)
The point being made by the speaker was that the kids are being discipled in each of those scenarios. My brain instantly connected with that. In truth, we are all being discipled in the various activities we find ourselves in each day, especially if we follow along blindly.
When my friend shared that data with me, I immediately wondered: How many hours am I discipled by social media compared to the time I spend in the Word? I read my Bible daily, but it doesn’t stick as firmly as it did before I wasted so much time scrolling through my social media feeds. And if this is my habit, what kind of an example am I to my children?
So I am challenging myself in light of 1 Corinthians 10:23. I have freedom in Christ – freedom to put aside the things that pull me away from Him and are not beneficial to my soul. My challenge is to pause / deactivate / delete my social media accounts for a time and just press into Jesus. Read His words more than I read other things. Listen to psalms and hymns and spiritual songs more than anything else. Speak His words to my children. Leave the TV off.
I feel a great desire to turn off the other voices and let the Lord Himself disciple me above all else. Otherwise, I fear my heart will grow hard against my fellow man and I will cease to be useful in this life to what the Lord has called me to do – love and glorify Him and love His people. I believe this was Israel’s great downfall. Psalm 78:8 says that they were “a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God.”
Let’s learn from their great sin and, even here in our promised land of salvation, be a generation that prepares its heart and whose spirit is faithful to God. Above all else, even our seemingly innocent, harmless entertainment. Entertainment that has become an acid eroding away our love, our patience, our commitment to live selflessly for our neighbor.
The majority of this article was written last year. And for a year, I struggled to do as I longed to. For a long time, my prayer has been for God to help pull me out of my own sin and bad habits, and I knew the root [of that] was where I turn my attention.
The Lord is rarely “fast” in His answers to His children, but I have discovered that when He moves, in His timing, He moves quickly. A few weeks ago, I discovered the book, Discipline the Glad Surrender, by Elisabeth Elliot. That book led to serious self-evaluation – the raw, honest, uncomfortable kind. Ms. Elliot often points readers to her hero, Amy Carmichael, the great Irish missionary that became the mother to hundreds of children in India.
As I was touched deeply by Ms. Elliott’s books and teachings, I immediately requested a pile of Ms. Carmichael’s books. As they were being delivered, the library notified me that a book I’ve been in line for was available: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. That book shed a blindingly bright light on the deepest corners of my heart where pride festers unnoticed, but certainly not unproductively. Nearly a month of putting down my phone and leaving the TV off for the most part to read these books rich in truth have already begun to show me how misshapen my own heart and mind have become. By the grace of God, He is discipling me in a different way and as I grow closer to Him, the less interested I am in the vices that have made me numb to His love.
If you struggle as I do, if you’ve set out to break bad habits only to fail within a week – or even more grievous, tried to tear yourself away from a relentless sin only to fail again and again – let me please encourage you with a quote from Butterfield’s book, “I’ve discovered that God doesn’t change my feelings until I obey Him.” Everything must start with prayer, then trust in Him to change our actions as we obey in faith. Often it takes just walking away in obedience whether we feel like it or not.
We are all disciples of something, being discipled by something daily. What we give our time, heart, and devotion to matters. Christian, may it be that we truly “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” for it is only once we’ve done that that we can, “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31)
Bethany Riehl loves to write stories and articles that explore the complexities of relationships and encourage readers in their relationship with Jesus. She joyfully serves in the children’s ministry at her church, teaches at a homeschool co-op, and drinks more coffee than necessary to keep up with her only-slightly-crazy life. She is the author of four Christian fiction novels and now lives in Meridian with her spunky kids and very handsome hubby.