Distractions are powerful and sometimes play a major role in our lives.
What is a distraction?
Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines a distraction as “the act of distracting or state of being distracted: especially mental confusion” and “something that distracts, especially amusement.” (emphasis added)
Since the definition of distraction relies heavily on the meaning of distract, we see that distract means:
How do we become distracted?
To have our attention diverted or pulled away, it must have been on something else prior. Whether you feel that you consciously exert effort to place your focus on something in particular or you go through life attending to fires that grab your attention, you can only become distracted if you are already focused on something and have your attention taken off it.
We all lose focus on a regular basis. It’s a daily part of life, but how long we are distracted is essential to our success, productivity, and peace within. Christopher Columbus said, “By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.”
Determining Necessary and Unnecessary Distractions
Distractions are a part of life, but they don’t have to become our downfall. Sometimes situations need our attention, and sometimes we should ignore them and carry on. Wisdom allows us to determine which distractions to attend and which to ignore. We need to give ourselves grace and understand that sometimes our attention and energy must go in a new direction.
I spoke with someone this week who didn’t work her garden this year as she had planned because after preparing the soil and setting seeds, her sister contracted COVID and suddenly passed away. This woman’s attention turned from her garden to preparing to share her home with her sister’s four children. God suddenly started a new chapter in her life cultivating young people instead of plants. Perhaps she and the children will soon be able to enjoy gardening together as a way of therapy while mourning the loss of their mother and sister. Regardless, this woman turned her attention to care for her nieces and nephews in an act of compassion that needed to happen for the sake of this family.
Sometimes things beyond our immediate control vie for our attention. Things such as injuries, illnesses, major life changes, and loss affect us all at some time. A lot of us find it difficult to stay focused because of health problems. We struggle to see how we can positively impact others when we feel that we have lost control of our own lives.
Sometimes our attention drifts to unimportant and even dangerous things because we aren’t as focused as we should be. We get distracted by our strengths and weaknesses, our passions and desires, and our fears.
We waste time with strangers on social media in heated political or religious debates, and then still in defense mode, we argue with our spouse over bills or dinner plans. We may not intend to neglect our 8 year old needing help with math or basketball, but we do so because we are determined to have our personal workout hour every day after we leave the office. Only after our children stop telling us about school at the dinner table, they quit the team, or get a D in math do we wonder where we went wrong.
The Danger of Distractions
Satan tries to use all distractions—necessary and unnecessary—against us. American Writer Bruce Sterling said, “One of the points about distractions is that everything that they do is destabilizing.” In the moment we let our guard down, we are affected by satan’s attacks. Whether we are on cloud nine because of good things or we are emotionally exhausted from trials we have been facing, satan attacks the unguarded areas in our lives.
Distraction Leads to Discouragement
Satan uses distractions to discourage us from completing a God-given task. He hopes to divert our attention to people who are gossiping behind the scenes, to numbers and statistics showing a lack of engagement, or to other things we could be doing instead, and the list goes on.
The fact is that if God gives you something to do, do it, no matter what. Don’t get distracted or discouraged. Distractions will always be there. Keep your heart fixed on God. Psalm 57:7 says, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.” The repetition here seems to show the psalmist is encouraging his own focus and determination.
When satan uses other people to distract and discourage you, remember to “cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee: He will never suffer the righteous to be moved…Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days” (Psalm 55:22-23).
Safe from the Storm of Distraction
We are safe from satan’s attacks when we are praising God. He inhabits the praises of His people. (Psalm 22:3) Focusing on God, we don’t focus on the enemy, the battle or winning. We just focus on our High Commander in Heaven who also lives in our hearts guiding and strengthening us to win the war.
King David was a man of many sorrows. He had to flee and hide for his very life more than once. He remained focused on God instead of the many distractions before him. He earnestly and honestly petitioned God for His help. Psalm 56:9-13 is an example of his honest praise and petition. Notice that praise is where there is power to ignore life-threatening distractions.
When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back:
This I know; for God is for me.
In God will I praise His word:
In the Lord will I praise His word.
In God have I put my trust:
I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.
Thy vows are upon me, O God:
I will render praises unto thee.
For thou hast delivered my soul from death:
Wilt not Thou deliver my feet from falling,
That I may walk before God in the light of the living?
The Power of Disengagement
In traditional warfare, one strategy to win the battle is to not engage with distractions. Certainly there are distractions that demand our attention, but continuing to focus on the initiative, we will minimize unnecessary engagement with distractions. Remember that distractions are part of a strategy by the enemy to expose or create a weak spot to attack.
So even when you should divert your attention to something else, don’t forget your initiative. Our initiative should be to seek God’s leading and praise Him no matter our circumstances. By doing this, you destroy the enemy’s opportunity to turn a distraction into your disaster. James 4:7-8 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you.”
*For more on distractions, please read blog post for May 21, Dealing with Distractions.