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For a few days recently the Spirit sort of tickled my mind with the subject of this devotional. So I sat down to begin writing, but soon I was distracted. My mind turned to a trip to the store that seemed necessary. Shopping filled my mind. When I returned home and tried to concentrate, a computer problem surfaced. It wasn’t serious and wouldn’t have stopped me from writing; but it filled my mind for some time. In both instances I had allowed myself to be distracted. These relatively insignificant matters had caught my attention and diverted me from what I needed and wanted to do.

What had happened? Was this the devil tempting me? Was this “the world” in which we live keeping me from doing what God wanted me to do? Interruptions and distractions come to all of us. Are they a problem? Are they simply signs of our lack of discipline? Is there an alternative to being drawn by our own brand of “attention deficit” into a hectic life?

All of us deal with interruptions, matters that seem to turn us away from what we want or need to do. Jesus dealt with interruptions and typically turned them into opportunities. Perhaps the most famous interruption was Jesus was on a life and death mission of mercy when a woman with a need interrupted Him. Jesus paused, listened to her story, affirmed her, then went on with His task. (The story is in Luke 8:40-56.) Jesus was interrupted, but He was not distracted. He did what was necessary and then continued on His mission of mercy.

So how do interruptions become distractions? And how do we deal with a world around us that seems determined to distract us from living in the presence of the Holy Spirit?

Distractions develop quickly when sights and sounds, people and events, thoughts and reminders of things we’ve left undone parade across our consciousness. They attract us. We want to escape a boring task. We want to catch up on the latest news. We are afraid we’re going to be left out of something. And if we can check something off our “to do” list, we will feel so much better. So what’s the harm? We need some variety. 

A problem develops when these distractions divert us from developing the life God wants for us. God seeks to affirm us as His children. Our insecurities and fears make it difficult to accept His unconditional love. God wants to provide what we need and want. Instead, our appetites often want what the world around us offers. God invites us to rest in Him. The fast-paced life around us encourages us to go faster, do more, be more, no need to rest. Soon the “flea-sized” distractions grow into time- and energy-consuming predators who rob God of what we have to offer. So how do we stave off those distractions that are so much a part of our circumstances? How do we begin to set aside what the world offers us and to live a deliberate, focused life with the Lord? Though not a complete remedy for the problem of distractions, being present to God is a key element.

One of my goals as a believer is to develop the habit of turning to the Lord repeatedly during the day, as often as possible. I am convinced God is present in and around me regardless what I am doing. He is present, but am I present to Him? Or am I so full of what I am doing that I don’t listen for His voice? Am I able to deal with interruptions, tasks, enjoyments, and schedules that might distract me while consciously, intentionally living in His presence? Do I give God the space and time necessary for me to recognize and to welcome His presence?

Recently I read the headline of a story explaining how important business leaders focused in their work and became successful. (I was too busy to read the whole account.) Their “secret” was they knew how to say “no.” Is that a secret I need to practice, that you need to practice? Being present to God is not easy, but saying no to distractions might be a step in the right direction.

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