Is your device controlling you?

A great article by Jeff Mingee

Against the backdrop of God creating humanity to exercise dominion, consider the man who misses his son scoring the winning goal because he’s distracted by the vibrating phone in his pocket. Or the young employee who browses social media but with the mouse cursor hovering over the “x,” ready to close it should her boss walk by. Or the student who ignores his body’s cry for sleep and instead strains his tired eyes to scroll for a few more images. They are not in control.

Paul warned about those who weren’t in control. He described one controlling factor of enemies of the cross as “their god is their belly” (Phil. 3:19). Idolatrous passions or earthly concerns governed them. In contrast, Paul exemplified the importance of control in the Christian life (1 Cor. 9:27).

We’re to exercise control because we believe God deserves our active obedience and not merely our accidental praise. Yes, he will ultimately be glorified even if we rebel against him. But he’s worthy of our lives—even our digital lives.

God created you to have control over creation. He didn’t intend for you to be controlled by your device.

Rather than being passive, reckless, and undisciplined in our digital behavior, what if we exercised digital control in obedience to the greatest two commandments? What if you took control of your devices as an act of love toward God and your neighbor?

Digital Control and Love of God

Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). If you want to process how to steward your digital devices in obedience to Jesus, this is a pretty good place to start. Take control of your digital devices because you love God.

Without digital control, we’re drifting—aimlessly scrolling and passively swiping. And no one drifts in the right direction. Rather than drifting recklessly, into behavior and words that can dishonor God, we practice digital control for the glory of Christ. In our actions online—as with every other sphere of life—we want others to see Jesus.

We exercise dominion ultimately to fill the earth with image-bearers and to glorify God. David Mathis explains, “Christian self-control is not finally about bringing our bodily passions under our own control, but under the control of Christ by the power of his Spirit.”

We’re not seeking control over our digital devices merely for productivity or for our own fame but to make much of Christ. Christian men and women are gladly under the rule and reign of Jesus. His commands are never burdensome (1 John 5:3). Obedience to Jesus brings joy, even in the digital world.

We’re not seeking control over our digital devices merely for productivity or for our own fame but to make much of Christ.

In Galatians 5, the apostle Paul lists evidences of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Among this list he includes “self-control” (Gal. 5:23). Self-control is not mere effort. Christians, as we pursue self-control in our digital habits, recognize that such a fruit is a result of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. This affects both how we understand self-control and the means we use to pursue it.

Paul also directly ties self-control to our salvation. In explaining the gospel of Jesus Christ to Felix and his wife Drusilla, Paul thought it necessary to reason about self-control (Acts 24:24–25). Self-control is an essential part of us working out our own salvation. Like an athlete developing self-control in the pursuit of a win, Christians develop self-control in the pursuit of our ultimate salvation (1 Cor. 9:25). We cannot take our sanctification seriously while dismissing the need for self-control, not even in the digital world.

Digital Control and Love of Neighbor

What is your lack of digital control doing to those you love? Do your kids feel unheard? Does your spouse feel neglected?

If I want to love my wife well, I need to control myself. If I want to serve her by making her a smoothie before she heads to school with the kids, I need enough control to put my phone down. If I want to love my son by playing football or a board game with him, I must have the self-discipline to close the app or computer. Our failure to develop self-control stifles our love for others. Our digital devices are not helping.

Our failure to develop self-control stifles our love for others.

We’ve all felt the sting of neglect as someone chose to pay attention to a device instead of us. Perhaps they didn’t mean to hurt us. But we asked the same question multiple times and got no response—their face tilted down at a screen, lost in another world. We tried to move closer to them, but couldn’t get their attention. We sought intimacy, but only got isolation.

May it not be so with you. Develop control as an act of love toward others. Exercise digital dominion as a display of affection toward those you cherish. Don’t hand over control of your life to a digital device. Take control and love others well.

How to Help Teens Who Are Anxious and Depressed article by Jared Kennedy

In 2016, Susanna Schrobsdorff published an eye-opening article in Time that told us preteens and teenagers are more anxious, overwhelmed, and depressed than the generations before.

When her article was published, over 6 million teens in the U.S. had been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder—25 percent of the teen population. After several years of stability, Schrobsdorff reported that depression among high school kids was rising. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 4.6 percent of adolescents, ages 12 to 17, had at least one major depressive episode in 2006. That number was up to 12.5 percent by 2015.

Those numbers were reported five years before the COVID-19 pandemic. A more recent report by the Center for Disease Control found that 44 percent of the high school students surveyed said they’d “felt sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in a row such that they stopped doing some usual activities.” These numbers are higher both among girls and among teens who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

Preteens and teenagers are more anxious, overwhelmed, and depressed than the generations before.

Schrobsdorff observed that, while not universal among kids with depression and anxiety, non-suicidal self-harm “[appears] to be the signature symptom of this generation’s mental health difficulties.” She told the story of Faith-Ann, an eighth-grader who first cut herself in the middle of the night while her parents slept. She sat on the edge of the tub at her home and sliced into her ribs with the metal clip from a pen: “There was blood and a sense of deep relief.”

Youth ministry leaders in local churches know these stories all too well. Kendal Conner serves on staff at Redeemer Fellowship in Kansas City, Missouri. She says, “I’ve ministered to middle and high school girls after suicide attempts and cutting, through mental health crises and paralyzing anxiety. What once felt like an auxiliary part of youth ministry is now at the center of all you do.”

The stats and stories raise questions for parents and youth ministry leaders. Why has teen depression risen so sharply over the past decade and a half? What can we do to prevent kids from hiding depression? What should I do if I discover my child is cutting?

Mental Health and Technology

Schrobsdorff’s article focused on potential causes. She was particularly interested in links between teenage mental health and their use of technology: “Conventional wisdom says kids today are over supervised. . . . But even though teens may be in the same room with their parents, they might also, thanks to their phones, be immersed in a painful emotional tangle with dozens of their classmates.”

Getting your first smartphone is a rite of passage in our culture. Kids have them at earlier and earlier ages. Experts warn against the addictive distraction from schoolwork and the danger of exposing kids to online bullies, child predators, and sexting. Such realities call for the same vigilance with internet safety we’ve demonstrated in baby-proofing our homes. Parents should know how to set up a phone’s restrictions and find a plan that allows for monitoring text messages. And parents must teach skills for navigating the world of social media by first limiting access, then giving increasing freedom as their children demonstrate growing responsibility.

But even with these precautions, a subtle danger in children having smartphones is exposing kids to a deep experience of their own feelings before they have the skills to process them.

A subtle danger in children having smartphones is exposing kids to a deep experience of their own feelings before they have the skills to process them.

Teenagers are wired for stimulation. The emotional reactions of a teenage brain can feel urgent and overwhelming. With a rise in hyperconnectedness, even rural youth are increasingly exposed to what Schrobsdorff described as “a national thicket of Internet drama.” She wrote, “Being a teenager today is a draining full-time job that includes doing schoolwork, managing a social-media identity and fretting about career, climate change, sexism, racism—you name it.”

Conner says, “Students are giving the deepest parts of themselves—feelings, emotions, passions, desires, dreams—to thousands of people online who cannot offer much, if anything, back. This leaves them confused, tired, and with less to give to their closest relationships.”

Help Teens Work Through Their Feelings

It shouldn’t surprise us when kids who are more socially connected gain a greater awareness of the world’s brokenness and feel deeply about it. Brent Bounds, a clinical psychologist who served as director of family ministries at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, says it’s important to create a culture where it’s safe to talk about these emotions when they come. Parents and youth leaders can’t force vulnerability, but we can model it. And we can let kids know that it’s not wrong to feel deeply.

Our goal shouldn’t be to change how they feel but simply to recognize our kids’ emotions and affirm our love. Bounds told me, “Sometimes parents feel that they have to have all the answers to make their child feel safe. But one of the most freeing answers a parent can give their child is, ‘I don’t know. But I love you and I want to support and help you any way I can.’”

When conversation is open with a teen, parents can simply reflect back what their child may be feeling—“You seem really angry right now. I wonder if you’re angry with me and don’t know how to talk about it?” or, “Wow, that’s a really hard situation. I can imagine you feel overwhelmed.” Using this same reflecting technique, a parent can help build a child’s emotional vocabulary from an early age. This will prepare kids to face more complex feelings when they enter their teen years.

Helping our children grow in self-awareness about their emotions is a pathway to helping them grow in self-care as well. A teen must identify how social media triggers his anxiety before he’ll understand his need to manage that anxiety in a healthy way—perhaps by putting down his phone and going for a jog.

What If My Child Has Hurt Himself?

When a child does report he’s hurt himself, parents or pastors should first acknowledge the risk the teen has taken to be vulnerable. Acknowledge the teen’s courage and then listen. It’s hard to do. Bounds observes, “Most parents are understandably concerned when they find out a child is cutting, but they tend to react in ways that don’t draw out the teen but instead shut them down.”

Know that it’s not out of the norm for a teen to cut themselves at some point. The important questions to ask are, Where did he cut? (Alarming areas are inside wrists, forearms, and the inner thigh.) What did he use to cut himself? And how often has this happened? While we want to respect our child’s privacy, if you have knowledge that a child has been harming himself, take it seriously and seek help immediately from your local physician.

Most parents are understandably concerned when they find out a child is cutting, but they tend to react in ways that don’t draw out the teen but instead shut them down.

Sometimes self-harm comes from a sense of helplessness and a desire for control. Teens like Faith-Ann say self-harm relieves internal pain by “letting the feelings out.” The desire may come from a child’s deep belief that she’s not big enough to contain the feelings she is experiencing. The desire to cut may even be a deep emotional witness to the truth that growing social awareness or social advocacy will not atone for the world’s sins. Our brokenness is only healed with the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22); but it’s the Savior’s, not our own.

Scott James, a pediatric physician and researcher, and an elder at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, cautioned me that it’s not absolutely necessary for us to come to a full explanation of why this is happening:

I’ve learned as a doctor that when it comes to mental health, I need to disabuse myself of the notion that I will always be able to pop the hood and get to the bottom of what a patient is feeling and doing. Empathy is important, but it’s hubris to think we should always be able to correctly identify and address the exact motives of each person.

Instead, we can confess, “I don’t understand where my child is coming from or why she is viewing life the way she does. But I’ll be here for her regardless.” That’s a position of compassionate engagement that puts aside trying to be the hero and savior. From that place of humility, we can point to Christ, the true comforter and healer. Jesus understands. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:15–16, NIV).

Editors’ note: 

An earlier version of this article was first published at The Ethics and Religious Libert

God grants understanding


God will grant you understanding in all He calls you to do.


Psalms‬ ‭119:130‬;

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple


‭‭ God will use you. And whether you believe it or not, God will qualify you. Give you everything you need to accomplish what He has called you to do. Even if you think you are not smart enough, learned enough, good enough, that makes no difference. You do not need a degree, or to be a Bible scholar to follow what God calls you to do. His words will illuminate the way for you and it will be given to you in a way that will show you clearly what you must do. When the knowledge, words or skills that are needed to accomplish what God has led you to do, He will give you what you need to do it. No one is good enough, smart enough or talented enough to live up to God’s calling, but have faith. He doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies those He calls. When you answer that call in faith, your heart will be filled with hope, with joy and He will lead you to do what you thought was impossible.

Study God’s Word and have faith.