Today we’re talking with Wendy Speake — author of several books, including her most recent, The 40-Day Social Media Fast. In this interview, Wendy talks candidly about her passion to see women set free from anything that would keep them in bondage to unhealthy habits.
I’m excited for you to hear from her, in her own words, about the joys of fasting from social media.
To learn more about Wendy and her books, be sure to check out the links at the end of the interview!
1. Wendy, tell us a little bit of the story behind the book. What led you to write The 40-Day Social Media Fast?
I wasn’t raised in a fasting home or a fasting church, so the fact that I have fallen in love with this spiritual discipline has taken me by surprise.
Back in college I sensed God calling me to lead a Bible study in my dorm room geared toward nonbelievers. I felt so ill-equipped for the task. That was when I was inspired to fast for the first time. So, I went without food that day, relying entirely on the Lord to get me through. And get me through He did! Not only did I sense His sustaining power during the day, it was obvious that He was leading the Bible study that night. So, I continued fasting from food on Tuesdays during my Freshman year. However, almost 25 years would pass until I felt led to fast again.
Seven years ago I was leading another group, this time a Facebook Group for moms who struggle with anger. One day I asked (rather off the cuff), “What would happen if we gave up sugar for 40 Days?” At first I didn’t realize I was suggesting that we do a spiritual fast. My initial intention was to consider the way sugar was wrecking us physically — causing us to struggle mentally, emotionally, and even relationally. But within those first 40 days, I quickly realized that this was more than a physical detox, it truly was a spiritual fast. Instead of turning from sugar high to sugar high to get us through our days, we began turning to The Most High.
Since then I have hosted an annual 40-Day Sugar Fast every January. In November 2019 we released The 40-Day Sugar Fast book to help people journey through the fast any time of the year. It was last year during Lent that I realized what an incredible resource it is for those who would like to give something up for the Lenten season. Sugar is a wonderful thing to lay down in order to experience the sweetness of our Savior. However, sugar isn’t the only thing we turn to in lieu of turning to Christ.
Each year that I host the sugar fast I remind my fasting-friends that God never called us to a “Sugar Sacrifice” but to see ourselves as a Living Sacrifice. And so I ask them what else they are running to instead of running hard after Him. And thousands of women and men quickly respond in chorus, “MY PHONE…my screens…social media.”
Even more than sugar, many of us are finding that we self-medicate our loneliness, our boredom, and our stress away with mindless scrolling online. And so, that’s how this fasting journey led me to write The 40-Day Social Media Fast. Not long afterward, I also released The 40-Day Fast Journal which can be used for either of these fasts or any fast at all.
2. I love how you say, right up front in Day 1, that “Social media isn’t the enemy, the devil is. Social media is simply another spiritual battlefield.” In what ways is social media a spiritual battlefield? What are some of the harmful effects of too much “scroll time”?
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.”
Our good God wants to use social media for our good and His glory, but Satan is hell-bent on owning that territory and using it for our distracted demise. That is true in everything. God wants us focused; Satan loves us frazzled. God wants us devoted; Satan loves it when we’re distracted. God wants us content; Satan loves us discontent — dissatisfied, depressed, and dejected. God wants us to know His incomparable love, while the devil wants us comparing our lives with others as we search for a different sort of love — a love that looks more like “likes.”
“What are the harmful effects of too much scroll time,” you ask? Perhaps, most dangerous, is the possibility that, over time, the ones we follow get in between us and the One who said, “Follow Me.” Maybe we are so connected with those we “like” we’ve ended up disconnected from the One we love (and the real-life people in our homes that we love as well.
Yes, I do think that social media is a very real battlefield.
3. When you have fasted 40 days from social media in the past, what noticeable changes took place inside your heart and mind and soul? What are some of the advantages of giving up the scroll for an allotted period of time?
The words that came to my mind when you asked that question were simple: Look Up! We spend so much of our times bowed over our phones — bowed down but not in prayer. When I fast from all the apps on my phone and all the virtual rabbit holes on my laptop I immediately enjoy looking up. And the benefits are many!
When I look up, my body feels better. I’m not struggling with achey tech-neck, and I’m sleeping better, too. Without the stimulating screens stimulating my mind late into the night, I go to bed early and sleep better.
When I look up, I see the real-life people right in front of me. My husband and my children, first and foremost. And everyone’s behavior in my home starts to shift. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that they have my undivided attention. Since they have my attention, they don’t have to do something negative to get my attention. This is especially true for those raising younger children. Negative attention is still attention.
When I look up, I also notice my neighbors, my work colleagues, even strangers. There are so many gospel interactions available for us when we put our phones away and encounter the flesh-and-blood people in our path each day. When we put our phones down it’s easier to look up!
When I look up, I see the sky and I see the mountains. I see God’s glory and His strength on display. I see my real leather-bound Bible, full of notes and dates and memories. I see opportunities to sit with God, that allow me to hear from God. When my eyes are cast down, my ears are full of the online chatter. But when I look up I seem to hear His voice clearer.
So many benefits!
4. I know you share my passion for seeing the lives of others transformed by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. How has this social media fast deepened your understanding of the gospel and its power to release us from the pull of worldly things?
I mentioned looking up and seeing the people around us. That’s really what this life is about. Loving God and loving others. Seeing God and seeing others. One of these days, I hope to write a short book chronicling the gospel interactions I’ve had at the grocery store. I’m going to call it Grocery Stories. (Haha!)
I believe that the greatest barrier to the gospel in this digital generation is the fact we’re all on our phones. Oh, I know that many of us make the most of our influence online, but what about our influence IN LINE (at the grocery store)?
The Message adaptation of Colossians 3:1-2 says it best: “Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ — that’s where the action is.”
5. One of the things I love about this idea of a social media fast is the way it partners with the Apostle Paul’s admonition in 1 Thessalonians 4:11, where he says, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” From your experience, how has periodic fasting from social media helped you to “lead a quiet life”?
Oh my word, yes! Somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that our lives are supposed to be spectacular. We should be more beautiful, and our dinner plates should be, too. We should lives lives that are more fun as well. While I enjoy seeing the highlights of peoples lives, I know that sometimes that means we feel alone when going through the lowlights of our own real-life. During the forty days of a social media fast, I experience an instant relief when I log offline. Truly! When I fast from sugar it takes a week or so to get out from under the “sugar fog,” but when I fast from social media, the clouds lift on DAY ONE! Truly.
What a relief to take a break from social media in order to get social with the Lord. What a quiet joy it is to “go dark” in order to experience the Light of the world in our offline days. It is a quiet joy and a hidden joy. For in His presence, we are told, there is fullness of joy. Not in everyone else’s online presence.
6. I’d love to hear a little about your process for writing this book. From the perspective of a word artist, what did you learn about the craft of writing from this project in particular? I know whole books are written on the topic of writing advice, but what quick word of encouragement or advice would you give to other writers today?
When you stumble upon a message that obviously resonates with your readers online or via your newsletter or at a speaking event, camp out there. So often we write about what we want to write about, but let your audience tell you what they want to hear you share. This is how my parenting book, Triggers, came to be written (in that same Facebook group for moms who struggle with anger) as well as The 40-Day Sugar Fast.
I had no intention of writing about mommy anger or sugar addiction. Come on, who wants to be that person? But it’s just the message God planned for me to live, learn and then share.
7. Wendy, this is fantastic. How can someone join you and the community you have gathered for the next 40-day social media fast?
Lent begins Wednesday, February 17th. I’ll be logging off for my own personal 40-day social media fast (and I’m giddy with excitement.)
Let me encourage you to spend some time pinpointing what you turn to during your days. If it’s food, commit to the Sugar Fast. If it’s scrolling mindlessly throughout the day, choose the Social Media Fast. Once you grab your book, you can grab additional resources such as Scripture memory cards, screensavers, video Bible teaching lessons, and more at 40daysugarfast.com and 40daysocialmediafast.com.
I hope that you will accept this invitation not only too fast, but to feast! Spend forty days setting down your fork and your phone in order to lift up your eyes and feast on Him!
Happy fasting, friends!
Wendy, thanks so much for sharing with us. I’m super excited about this book and its call to fasting.
Friends, be sure to check out the links below, and as Lent begins tomorrow, prayerfully consider possibly taking up the 40-day social media fast!
Wendy Speake is a trained actress and heartfelt Bible teacher who ministers to women’s hearts through story and the study of God’s Word. She is the co-author of the popular parenting book, Triggers: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses and host of The 40-Day Sugar Fast and The 40-Day Social Media Fast.