The following is a transcript from the “Ask Pastor John” podcast. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
Spiritual warfare is real in our lives. And the battle for our morning devotions is a never-ending struggle for many of us, one that we often lose. I know I do. Our attention is under relentless attack for vain things and for the personal-approval desires that lure us online. So how do we preserve our mornings?
That’s the topic today. Jackie Hill Perry is our guest. The following is from her Twitter feed: “As soon as you wake, there is a war to keep you from the word of God. Fight!”
Q: Yes. So what’s at stake, Jackie? And how do we win this war?
A: This one is hard because I feel like this is a daily, constant war for me. When I got married, and when I had children, the war got harder. That’s not to say that in singleness it’s not hard. But I feel like I had more meaningful distractions. What I mean by that is when I was single, I just had work.
I woke up when I wanted to wake up because I was self-employed. I could spend time with the word for an hour if I chose to. Now, if I want to spend uninterrupted time with God, I need to wake up before my children do.
Where Is My Joy?
Do I think the war is, Do I make time for God, or do I try to fit God into the time that I feel like I already don’t have? When I wake up, it’s a daily decision. I think one of my mistakes is that I sleep with my phone. I know for a fact if I got rid of my phone, my distractions would be not as close or nearby.
So I think what’s at stake, ultimately, is my love of the Lord. I was thinking about this yesterday at church when our pastor taught on the Beatitudes. He talked about how “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). He was rooting his text in our love for God and our love for the word.
The thought that came to my mind is, “If I’m not delighting in the word of God, then most likely I’m not delighting in God himself.” I think that’s ultimately what is at stake — my affections.
What are my affections in? If my affections are in my sleep, then I’m going to treasure sleep over the word. If my affections are in my emails, then I’m going to treasure my emails over the word. If my affections are in my time, then my time is going to be pre-eminent over the pre-eminent one.
I think identifying what really is my joy is helpful. Is it God? Is it my stuff? Is it my peace — or what I think is peace, because I’m able to sit up and watch Netflix when I could be reading Psalms?
I think it’s helpful identifying those things that are really legitimately good things and opportunities for leisure that I’ve made an idol in many ways. What’s at stake is me and Jesus being good.
The New and the Lasting
Q: What’s the impulse online that you feel? How does that manifest?
A: I love information, and so, before I go to bed, I tend to just Wikipedia random things.
Q: Ha! OK, so give us an example.
A: For example, there was this show (I think it’s called Genius on National Geographic), and it was about Picasso. I was like, “Huh, I just wanna know his name. I wanna know where he’s from. I wanna know when he started painting.”
And I learned he had something like 13 names in his name. So I just go on this rabbit trail where I’m on Wikipedia learning about people. Then when I wake up that desire for information is still there. It just tends to lean towards wanting information from secular sources.
I think, “What does Twitter have to say today? What’s the news? Oh, Lebron got signed to LA. I wonder how much he made?”
My mind is just wondering about everything that happened while I was asleep instead of waking up to wonder about the glory of God and his Scriptures. That’s something that I need to consistently kill — this desire to esteem the new information over the lasting information.
Ages of Distraction
Q: This is good. So what else can we learn from you about social media?
A: Well, you wrote a great book about it. But I think it’s our hearts.
I recently asked a friend of mine from church about this idea of distractions. She is nearing her 40s, and I wanted to know what it was like for her. I said, “In the 1980s, when you were around, I know that distractions were there. They aren’t a new thing. They have just transformed. They do that. So, what was a distraction for you guys?”
She said: “TV. There was this influx of sitcoms and VHS tapes and all of this type of stuff that we were consuming on a daily basis.”
I was like, “Huh.” I think ultimately, we have to learn how to navigate this world that we’re in with distractions as a whole. We need to see that this will subtly take our attention away from God if we let it.
I think as we learn to love God more, it really becomes easier to resist. I think it’s as simple as that.
So true. I’m thinking of the parable of the four soils. The desire for riches has always been a distraction to the gospel, since the dawn of time and long before the media age.
A version of this article previously appeared on Desiring God under the headline, “How to Win the War for Morning Devotions.”
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