Value the Life of Your Mind

Ian Wooldridge – March 25, 2020

A guitar-playing poet from the 60’s once sang, The times, they are a-changin’.1

Feels about right, doesn’t it?

With COVID-19 changing life as we know it, and with that the onset of widespread panic, anxiety, stress, and fear, we’ve entered into unprecedented territory. We’ve been forced to adjust to a new normal.

And it doesn’t help that we already live in what Edwin Friedman calls a culture of “reactivity,” in which we humans tend to anxiously live our lives in a reactionary state, as opposed to a calm, “non-anxious” state. 2 The 24/7 news cycle only makes this worse. We see a headline, a tweet, another notification, and we react. We become anxious. We get mad.

The cycle continues.

But as followers of Jesus, we can change this narrative by becoming a “non-anxious” presence in an age of reaction and anxiety, as we continually take on His character as our own.

Over the course of the next several weeks, I’ll be heading up a blog-post series inspired by this simple question: How can we let this season of COVID-19 form us more into the likeness of Jesus? We’ll explore that question by looking at different practices for a Christ-centered life — practices that will help us stay grounded and centered, not just in this season, but beyond as well. You’re invited to come along. Each week, a new post, a new practice.

With that, here we go. First, a couple questions for you:

What are you keeping your eyes on in this season?
What are you giving your attention to most right now?
Is it news updates?
Social media feeds?
Your phone?
The TV?

All legitimate, all valid. But the reality is, what we give our attention to most has a profound impact on our emotional and spiritual well-being — ultimately, over time, on the kinds of people that we become. Science proves this, but keeping vigilance over your heart and mind and the kind of life that comes as a result is an idea that the book of Proverbs was onto a long time ago.3

Now, check out what David says in Psalm 16: “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” 4

Notice what he doesn’t say:

I keep my eyes glued on the latest headlines… therefore I will not be shaken.”

I stay up-to-date on what other people may be thinking or saying or commenting or ranting about… therefore I will not be shaken.”

David doesn’t say any of that. Instead, his life is characterized by a simple pursuit: “keeping his eyes always on the Lord.” Another translation says, “I have set the Lord always before me.5 He’s after one thing: keeping the Lord and His presence in front of Him. As a result, he knows and is experiencing the life that “will not be shaken,” no matter the circumstance.

We can know the same.

So, as inspired by Psalm 16, here’s a practice that I’ve found to be game-changing; not just in tough seasons, but just in my life with Jesus. May it help you stay grounded and centered during COVID-19 and beyond — to be able to say with David, “I will not be shaken.”

The Practice: Value the Life of Your Mind

Worldwide, the average amount of time users spend on social media is about two and a half hours per day. 6 The average amount of time adults in the US alone watch TV is about four and a half hours per day. 7

2.5 hours of social media, 4.5 hours of TV. Whoa.

I share this because these numbers could easily go up in such a time as this. With social distancing leading to much isolation, “the screen” beckons and calls with much intensity. Of course, some of this will be necessary and helpful, and there’s nothing inherently bad about an app, social media, or TV. I’m not saying that at all. But these numbers raise some very compelling questions for me:

What are the implications of these numbers on our spiritual lives?
On becoming people of depth?
On becoming people who are present, and undistracted?
In a season like the one we’re in, on becoming people with a “non-anxious” presence?
Ultimately, on becoming people of love, of joy, of peace?

Now, Scripture has nothing to say about our digital habits. It has nothing to say about TV, how often we should check our news feed and social media, or what our “screen time” data should look like. But it does place an extremely high value on the life of our minds and imaginations. 8

Here’s just a sampler:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” 9

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 10

I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. 11

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” 12

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! 13

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying you shouldn’t stay informed on issues that matter, or to ditch social media and live under a rock. Use it to check-in with people; especially now, stay engaged with what your church is doing online; post encouragement — yes to all of that! Just don’t live on it. Remember, it’s a tool: we don’t need it all the time.

I think this matters because author and researcher Jean M. Twenge reports that, “heavy internet users (vs. light users) are twice as likely to be unhappy… Overall, activities related to smartphones and digital media are linked to less happiness, and those not involving technology are linked to more happiness.” 14

I’m convinced a lot of this is because it’s through the portal-into-the-world that is “the screen” that “The loud, boisterous noises of the world make us deaf to the soft, gentle, and loving voice of God,” as Henri Nouwen writes. 15

And I’d add hinder our attention on God’s presence in the moment-by-moment reality of our lives.

Again, because we’re going to be finding ourselves separated a lot more than usual going forward, we can easily find ourselves glued to “the screen.” I’m not saying to abandon it all. I’m just acknowledging that there should be a healthy give and take; that we’d be wise to set some boundaries right now. It’s tricky, because we want — and even need — to stay connected to each other in this season; but on the flip side, when we’re not intentionally connecting with people, we can get sucked into the insatiable hole that is the internet, and with it, lots of noise that isn’t exactly helpful; noise that doesn’t exactly lead to joy or peace.

And this noise has an effect on our emotional and spiritual vitality.
So I’m just exploring that flip side, here. That’s all.

Especially when we read the statistic that 90% of us check our phones for news, social media updates, or texts Right. After. Waking. Up. 16 So, a great place to start here is to consider a current habit: what you do first thing when you wake up.

One of the most revolutionary (and that word is an understatement) changes that my wife and I have made in our discipleship to Jesus was to go to Walmart and buy these cheap, little analog alarm clocks, and to get our cell-phones out of the bedroom. With this, we have a pretty sweet rule in our home called “hour before, hour after” — we put our cell-phones in a dedicated “phone box” at least one hour before we go to sleep, and we don’t get them out of the “phone box” until at least one hour after we’ve been awake. Instead of checking phones first thing in the morning, we each begin our days with silence and solitude, in prayer, meditation upon God’s Word and His love, and in enjoying friendship with Jesus. It’s been nothing short of life-giving.

Now, before you think, “Um…. No. Y’all are weird, and that isn’t for me…”

Fair. We are weird.

I’m not prescribing this, per se. But I’d invite you to try something out this season: instead of checking or watching a screen first thing upon waking, pray and fill your mind with Scripture. Say a simple prayer, something like, “God, thank You for this new day. Help me to see it as You do, to go about it as You would, and please fill me with Your love, joy, and peace” and open up to a Psalm, and read it aloud slowly. Psalm 1, Psalm 8, Psalm 23, Psalm 121, or Psalm 139 are great places to start with this little exercise. Then, pick something that stood out to you from the reading, and ask God why it stood out to you. Nothing crazy. You can do all of that in 5 minutes. As with all Spiritual practices, start as you can, not as you can’t; where you are, not where you think you should be.

Here’s all I’m saying:

another notification,
another headline,
a news feed
— more noise
isn’t exactly a formula for beginning the day with joy and peace.

Instead, before any of that, let prayer and Scripture nourish your heart and mind as you meet each new day, and build your day on unhurried time spent alone with God in the quiet, enjoying His presence and gazing on His beauty. 17

Could we think of a better start to our days than that?!

You may say at this point, “well, my phone is my alarm clock.” That’s ok. You can get creative. Or, don’t do any of this — that’s ok, too; none of this is legalistic. But, if you really want to get crazy, maybe consider the switch, and try it out. It’s all invitational. I’d bet analog alarm clocks aren’t sold out right now.

Ok. Let’s end here. There’s this crazy moment in 2 Corinthians where Paul writes, “So all of us… can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 18

We put Jesus before our eyes more, we become like Him more. Glory in, glory out.

Followers of Jesus, we get a unique opportunity to carry His likeness right smack in the middle of a world that will be carrying reaction, stress, anxiety, and fear in the days ahead.

All we have to do is just look at Him.


  1. That would be Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” 1964.
  2. Edwin H Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix (New York: Seabury, 1997). His overall premise is that we must become people with a “non-anxious” presence, right in the middle of a culture that’s quite the opposite.
  3. See Proverbs 4:23
  4. Psalm 16:8, NIV.
  5. This is out of the ESV translation.
  6. Aleksandar S., “How Much Time Do People Spend On Social Media…?,” Tech Jury, March 8, 2019,
  7. Felix Richter, “The Generation Gap in TV Consumption,” August 19, 2019,
  8. Since you have time to read now, check out anything by Dallas Willard to explore this idea further; but especially his book Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ
    (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002). But, I’m warning you — hold on to your socks.
  9. Romans 12:2, NIV.
  10. Colossians 3:2, NIV.
  11. Philippians 4:8, MSG.
  12. Romans 8:6, ESV.
  13. Isaiah 26:3, NLT.
  14. Twenge, J. M. (2019). The sad state of happiness in the United States and the role of digital media (World Happiness Report). Retrieved from
  15. Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (New York: Crossroad, 1989). Nouwen is so good at writing about the prayer-filled life, and what it can look like.
  16. Mary Gorges, “90 Percent of Young People Wake Up with Their Smartphones,” Ragan, December 21, 2012,
  17. See Psalm 27:4 — one of my life verses right here.
  18. 2 Corinthians 3:18, NLT, emphasis mine.