Engage

Dis*trac*tion – Good, Bad and Staying On Task

Distraction = American English defines as “something that gets your attention and prevents you from concentrating on something else OR an activity that you can do for fun or entertainment ”

Our 11 yr. old granddaughter rattled off her list: technology, people, sound, noise and hunger.We all know about distractions. Most of us can name our most persistent ones.

I was bombarded by distractions while trying to write this blog about "distractions"!

Often not inherently bad, they become a bothersome interference if they take you off focus and prevent you from staying on task…social media, busyness, too much sugar, criticism, daydreaming, volunteering, unsolicited emails, global crises news and even reading, etc. etc. etc.

You name it – and we can be distracted by it. Are all distractions negative? When does distraction become a healthy diversion? Can it sometimes be a good thing?

Can you imagine a mother not trying to distract her toddler when he is getting a shot in the doctor’s office? Or not reading a compelling novel when recovering from surgery? Immersing oneself in a rich read can be a healthy distraction. Visiting and serving someone can be just the diversion needed to avoid an obsessive focus on one’s own plight. Interruptions can be the very opportunity God intended for that moment even if it did slice into your preplanned agenda.

Discernment is needed to distinguish between whether a distraction is for good or for ill; whether it is helpful and healing or destructive and avoidant. Oddly enough Winston Churchill’s words offer an interesting slant on this challenge: “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

In discerning these “barking dogs”, how do you deal with real soul distractions? What are they?
The writer of Hebrews (12:1-7) offers these instructions;
•    throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles;
•    run with perseverance the race marked out for us;
•    fix your eyes on Jesus who for the joy set before him endured the cross,scorned its’ shame  and upon completion now sits at the right hand of the throne of God;
•    do not grow weary – be discouraged and lose heart.

What if Jesus had given in to the distractions of the Devil while being tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4: 1-11) and aborted God’s timing and plan for the ultimate sacrifice for sin? Where would that leave us today? Fortunately, He stayed on task but not without cost…after the temptation angels came and ministered to Him.

Because he suffered for us He is completely able to identify with our struggles (Hebrews 4:15-16):

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

It takes wisdom to discern how to move through distractions and God promises to give us that help if we will ask Him (James 1:3-5). The writer of I John (2:15-17) states the three troublesome categories we are bombarded with in the world: cravings of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride. This covers it all… for all of us.

The distraction challenge is outlined. It is every man and every woman’s challenge. No one is exempt. The good news is that a way out is provided AND Jesus promised to be with us 24/7. He is Present. The way to stay on the path is to keep your focus on Him.
 
And when you lose focus, He is waiting for you to come back.

 

Gail Seidel

Gail Seidel served as Mentor Advisor for Spiritual Formation in the Department of Spiritual Formation and Leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) and as an Adjunct Professor in the D Min in Spiritual Formation in the D Min Department at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has a BA in English from the University of Texas, a Masters in Christian Education from Dallas Seminary and a D Min in Spiritual Formation from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is a contributor to the textbook, Foundations of Spiritual Formation, Kregel Academic. She served as co-director for Christian Women in Partnership Russia with Entrust, an international church leadership-training mission. She and her husband Andy live in Fredericksburg, Texas. They have 2 married children and 6 wonderful grandchildren--Kami, Kourtney, Katie, Mallory, Grayson, and Avery.