Break Free From Phone Addiction

In Addiction, Articles, Culture, Tech by Joshua Tong

I was addicted to mobile games for three years.  

It started innocently as something I wanted to do for my kids, but it quickly became something I did for myself. I was spending 2-3 hours each day on my phone, and additional time engaging in the social aspects of the games I was playing (leading other players, organizing team activities, etc.) 

My wife knew it was a problem and encouraged me to either limit my time on these games or to quit altogether. She was exceedingly patient with me and prayed for me regularly. I knew it was a problem as well, but not to the same extent.  

At times, I would wake up at 5 AM to play, but I would write it off as an occasional indulgence rather than an attention-distracting, time-sucking habit. I would find it increasingly difficult to sit down and read my Bible with my full attention because my mind was still spinning with the details of the game, but I didn’t want to stop because it felt so good.  

That should have alerted me to the reality that this was no longer entertainment. It was an addiction. I see it now, but I didn’t see it then. I would instinctively reach for my phone every few minutes to check if there was anything new going on. I would feel anxious if I couldn’t locate my phone right away. I stopped caring about any other form of entertainment except this game.   

One of the books I read during this period was Tony Reinke’s insightful book, Competing Spectacles. After adding its insights and wisdom to my already-burdened conscience, I became convinced that I needed to break this habit.  

But I couldn’t. My best efforts may have resulted in 15-30 minutes less here and there, but I was still spending over two hours per day on this game. 

One summer, I drove down to Louisville for a worship conference with some guys from our church. I was genuinely looking forward to spending time with them, sitting under world-class preaching, and worshipping God with passion. To some extent, I was able to enjoy all three of these things. But if I’m honest, I have to admit that it was a diluted enjoyment, as I found myself constantly distracted and pulled toward this game even in the middle of the conference.  

It was near the end of the conference that the Lord intervened in my life. I found myself being unexpectedly and strangely moved while the worship team presented a song that was written for people who struggle with drug addictions.  

Then, during the final sermon of the conference, I felt the Lord working in my heart and changing my will. I distinctly felt the Lord call me to quit the game, and the assurance that He would give me the strength to do it. As the sermon continued, I felt my will grow stronger and stronger until it materialized into a concrete decision to quit immediately after the conference closed. And that is what I did. 

As soon as the conference ended, I turned to one of the guys and told him that I was done playing the game. He was shocked because he knew how passionate I was about it. Then, as we were walking toward the car, I called my wife and told her as well. She was speechless (and perhaps a little skeptical). Then as we were driving to Chick-Fil-A for one last bite of “Christian Chicken”, I messaged my friends within the game. I told them that it was time for me to return to my first love, Jesus, who is infinitely more satisfying than anything in this world, including the virtual world of mobile games.  

With all that done, I deleted the app from my phone and haven’t looked back since. In fact, I made a vow to never play a game on my phone again. I needed to cut off the hand that caused me to sin.  

It has now been over two years since I last played a game on my phone, and the changes in my life have been wonderful. I am engaging with my family with less distraction. I am reading my Bible and other books with a greater degree of concentration and retention. And I am more satisfied than ever in the immeasurable riches of Christ.  

Thomas Brooks once wrote that Satan gets us by “presenting the bait and hiding the hook.” Sin always looks safe. We tell ourselves that we’ll be the one fish that doesn’t get caught. But make no mistake: there is a hook at the end of the line that Satan will use to reel us into patterns of sin and self-destruction. Don’t give into phone addictions. Fight them with all your might. But if you fall into one, know that Jesus is ready and willing to free you from it.  

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If you are struggling with phone dependency here are some suggestions to take steps towards freedom.  

  1. Tell someone about it. The longer your struggles are kept secret, the harder they are to overcome.  
  2. Find a support group. Struggling alone is isolating and discouraging.  
  3. Leave your phone in another room at night.  
  4. Activate features on your phone that communicate how often you use it.  
  5. Say this prayer: 

“Dear Jesus, I want to live for you. Forgive me for how I continually run to my phone for fulfillment, rather than seeking it from you. Would you help me with your Spirit’s power to overcome this addiction? May I learn to say no, so that I can say yes to you.  

Amen”

 

About
Joshua Tong
Joshua Tong serves as the Senior Pastor at Sovereign Grace Church in Bradford. Before entering full-time ministry, he worked as a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto. Josh also serves as a teacher at Innova Academy in Newmarket, a Board Member at Redeemer University in Ancaster, and a Council Member with The Gospel Coalition Canada. He and his wife Nina have six wonderful children together.
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Joshua Tong
Joshua Tong serves as the Senior Pastor at Sovereign Grace Church in Bradford. Before entering full-time ministry, he worked as a criminal defence lawyer in Toronto. Josh also serves as a teacher at Innova Academy in Newmarket, a Board Member at Redeemer University in Ancaster, and a Council Member with The Gospel Coalition Canada. He and his wife Nina have six wonderful children together.