Written by Wei, Singapore
You know the feeling when you start one episode on Netflix and the next thing you know, four hours has passed? Netflix’s autoplay has led many down a deep dark hole of endless entertainment—including me.
A couple of weeks ago, I had chanced upon a series on Netflix that sucked me in so deep that every available moment I had (like on the commute and meal times) was spent watching it or planning when I could watch it next. My thoughts were consumed with the show, its characters, plot, costumes, and more.
It then hit me that there’s a word to describe my behaviour: ADDICTION! Dictionary.com defines addiction as “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming.”
Recognising this was definitely a wake-up call for me. From the outside, it still looked like I was functioning normally—I went to work, to church, and social gatherings. But although I was present physically, I had left my heart in Netflix . . .
Take our weekly family gathering at my Grandma’s house; usually I would connect with other family members there and spend some time catching up with them. But during this season, I brought my iPad along and continued my Netflix binge.
Or the time when I watched Netflix up till the very last minute before Church service started instead of preparing my heart to come to God in worship. The reality was that I had let Netflix consume me and I was now a slave to it. I asked myself, would God be pleased with the way I was using the time He gave me?
Netflix in and of itself is not a bad thing, and we can learn to develop a healthy relationship with leisure and entertainment. But for me, my addiction to Netflix had become an idol in my life, and without realising it, I was making a practice of sinning (1 John 3:4). And I knew I didn’t want to continue down this path.
Why I Decided to Fast Netflix for Lent
All this happened around the beginning of Lent. As someone who likes structure and working towards deadlines, the season of Lent seemed like a natural bandwagon to jump on. And with that, I decided to start a fast from Netflix in the weeks leading up to Good Friday.
In an article entitled, “Christians Fast Because Satan Is Hungry”, American pastor Dustin Messer summarised the practice of fasting so well: “Christians fast because Satan is hungry. Fasting reminds us of our mortality and sin. By fasting, we are filled by the spirit and won’t be eaten by Satan.”
On this earth where Satan is the prince of the world, sin clings to us like a leech hungry for more. But Hebrews 12:1-4 reminds us to lay aside our sins and instead run our race on earth with endurance. And the strength to do this is found in Jesus.
When I realised I had become enslaved to sin, I came to God in confession of my Netflix addiction, thanked Him for this conviction, and asked Him for strength to turn from it.
Turning Away From Sin, Turning Towards God
Turning away from an addiction or vice is never easy on its own. But it helps when we replace it with something else we can turn our focus or gaze on. In the case of fasting, this meant turning towards God—through dwelling in His Word, reaching out to Him in honest prayer, and remembering that He is our great high priest who understands our struggles (Hebrews 4:14-16).
As a start, I set aside a personal time of reflection and journaling, so that I can intentionally check-in on the status of my heart. I would ask myself questions such as “What is my heart yearning for? How am I spending my time? Is this God-honouring?”
This time of journaling and reflection was a good launch pad to coming to God in prayer. When I am aware of my struggles, shortcomings, and needs, it shapes my prayer life in the right direction.
Sharing my struggles with fellow Christian brethren was also helpful in various ways. Sin loves the darkness where it festers and grows out of control. But when we choose to confess our sins to God and to one another, our secret sins come to light and its hold on us weakens. Christian friends who are journeying together with us can also periodically check in with us, encourage us, and keep us accountable in this fight against the strongholds of sin.
Practically speaking, I also found it beneficial to create a plan for how I would spend my time during the fast to keep me on track in forming my new habits. I filled up the time I would usually devote to watching Netflix to Bible-reading plans, topical Bible studies (The Gospel Coalition does some good and free ones!), and good books (I’m currently reading one called Identity Theft: Reclaiming the truth of our identity in Christ).
There were of course moments of weakness where I thought of taking a peek at Netflix—whether it was when friends shared the latest series they were watching or I had extra time on hand to kill. The Spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak! However, those thoughts never escalated to me actually opening up the Netflix app as the stronghold of that sin over my life had weakened over time.As I began to set my mind “on things that are above” (Colossians 3:1-2), God was supernaturally changing my heart to delight in His ways, enabling me to now make a practice of righteousness (1 John 3:7-8a).
Spending more time with God in His Word and prayer has also changed me bit-by-bit to become more like Him. It has given me newfound perspectives on the situations I’m in, problems I face, or where my identity lies. What I once saw as dreadful roadblocks are now seen as opportunities to grow in His grace.
So, What’s Next?
When Good Friday comes round, my fast would come to an end. This doesn’t mean that I’ll head straight for Netflix or avoid it completely. But as I focus on my relationship with God and keep my newly formed habits of prayer, journaling, and Bible-reading a mainstay in my life, I hope they will guide the way I spend my time and assess my entertainment habits post-fast to ensure that I do not become enslaved to Netflix again.
If you find yourself enslaved to Netflix or placing anything else in your life above the One who deserves all praise and glory, I’d like to encourage you to try fasting. What this looks like might look different from my own experience with fasting, and it may seem daunting at the start, but focus on the daily time you get to spend with God during your fast instead of the absence of what you’re fasting from, and you’ll find it to be a thoroughly rewarding journey.