By Amanda Benson in the Philippines — “Happy Birthday, Amanda. Stay in love with Jesus.” These words got me thinking. Am I still in love with Jesus?

We had a speaker at Faith Academy in the Philippines, the school where I teach, who talked about “digital cocaine”—how being addicted to screen time affects our brains in the same way using cocaine does. (Watch a video of him.) He closed with a picture of a group of teenagers staring at their phones and challenged us to think: Am I as captivated with God as I am with my phone?

In Isaiah 58, Israel tells God that they are fasting and doing what he asks, but God tells them that they are only fasting for themselves. Instead, they should be focused on sacrificing themselves to help others, as God desires for all to be free. 

What about me? Am I doing my “Christian duties” for myself, or am I doing them with the right heart? Have I allowed myself to get distracted by much serving, as Martha did in Luke 10, or am I sitting at the feet of Jesus?

A crazy season

These thoughts started floating through my head as I moved into a new house, so life has been crazy. All of my down time (which isn’t much) was spent packing and unpacking. I got behind on grading, and some things I’ve been wanting to get organized for school for the past two months still aren’t done. Sometimes it has felt like I’ve been just barely keeping my head above water.

Am I willing to stop everything to listen to God, as I do when a phone call or message comes through?

A couple years ago, I started spending extra time with Jesus on Sunday nights, but the last couple months, that time has been next to nothing. I’ve let my other concerns and worries take away from my extra time with him.

I think about how often I use my phone—how I pull it out as I walk around the halls; how I check to see if anyone sent me any messages between classes; how I check Facebook during lunch; how it is the last thing I touch before I go to bed; how it is almost always with me. Do I invest as much time in my relationship with God as this? Am I consciously talking to him all the time? Am I willing to stop everything to listen to him, as I do when a phone call or message comes through? I want to be truly captivated by God. I know that I won’t be effective in my ministry if I’m not.

And I think about how often I get so busy doing the good tasks that I believe God has called me to do, that I lose track of why I’m doing them. When I don’t keep in mind that I need to do them sacrificially for the benefit of others and for the glory of God, I lose my joy in serving. 

God’s good reminders

This is not who I want to be. I think we all face times like this in our lives, and I believe that God uses these times to remind us of who he is, who we are, and why he has us where he does. 

  • He reminds me that his grace is sufficient for me, that he is bigger than any of my problems, that he will guide me each step of the way.
  • He reminds me that I am but human, that I need other people, and that I cannot do things without him. 
  • He reminds me that I am not at Faith Academy or in the Philippines just because it’s fun or because I like it here. He has me here to impact lives for him, whether that be at church or at school or when I go to the grocery store.

I know that Jesus truly needs to be my first love. I should never let other things or people take his place in my heart. 

I spent some extra time with Jesus last Sunday, and it was marvelous. I’m so thankful that I serve a God who is with me every step of the way and will pick me up when I’ve fallen down.

God of the hills and valleys

Amanda recommends the song “Hills and Valleys,” by Tauren Wells. Give it a listen!   

“On the mountains, I will bow my life to the one who set me there.  In the valley, I will lift my eyes to the One who sees me there. When I’m standing on the mountain I didn’t get there on my own. When I’m walking through the valley, I know I am not alone. You’re God of the hills and valleys.”