Distractions come in many forms, doing their bidding for our lives in ironically scrupulous ways. They come to all of us. In this post we’re going to discuss what distraction really is, the ultimate goal of the enemy, and how to navigate it biblically. We must learn how to overcome distractions, because if we don’t they can deal fatal blows to our life goals (purpose) and destiny.
We all deal with distraction on different levels, and the enemy knows how to target us in our weak spots. I believe most of us disregard distraction for the threat it truly is because we don’t understand its goal, and we underestimate its consequences.
Distraction comes into our lives very subtly, and can even seem benign and imperceptible. Yet in terms of degrees, it can be catastrophic if not corrected. In due time it has the potential to derail you and alter the course of your life. I have personally encountered this, and despite my Type-A personality and my ability to plan, I lost my reference point in the midst of one the busiest yet most blessed season’s of my life. The end result was a complete detour that took years to correct. By the mercy and grace of God, I am back on track.
As one who has personally encountered distraction and suffered the consequences, I’d like to talk with you about this subtle tool the enemy uses so you may escape its trap — because this one is no joke. It comes at us in numerous ways, from many angles, and dressed in many alluring packages.
First, we’re going to discuss personality types. They’re important in understanding how distractions affect different kinds of people. Among all the personality types and tests, there are two major personality types that are commonly known, which were developed by Cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman. As a Cardiac RN, I’m very familiar with these personalities, and for this specific post, these types best apply to our topic.
TYPE-A | Task-oriented. Prefers structure and routine, excellent planners, deliberate, strategic, organized, and can easily multi-task. Achieves goals. Accomplishes tasks. Perceived as “intense” or “too serious”.
If you’re a Type-A personality, you’ve probably got your ducks lined up. Everything is in alignment. It makes sense. It’s logical. You’re driven. You’re focused. You’re diligent and consistent. You have a routine. You’ve got a schedule. You’ve got PLANS. People say, “You’re intense.” And although you absolutely love spontaneity and wish you could run with the Type-B’s all day, many times it’s just not convenient. You like lists. You love order. Everything has a home and a purpose. If it doesn’t have a name, it’s definitely got a number. When you seek God, you don’t just seek Him for intimacy’s sake, you seek Him for your daily list. You rely on Him for divine direction. Type-A personalities are structured and regimented. They are powerful multitaskers. They are, by nature, very structured people. They can often be too serious. But hey — they finish what they start, and for the most part they do it on time. They are deliberate about everything. Nothing is an accident. It’s PLANNED. Distraction for these individuals causes interruptions that are often recognized, and although there may be detours or delays, they eventually end up back on track and recover. Therefore, the enemy throws distractions at Type-A’s in a way that is much more subtle. He doesn’t offer the apple… he offers the apple seed. This can be a slow painful death. Type-A’s need to be very alert, objective, and strategically decisive about where their time and energies are allotted.
TYPE-B | People-oriented. Prefers loose boundaries, flexible planners, spontaneous, laid-back, disorganized, and easily overwhelmed. Busy yet struggles to achieve goals or accomplish tasks. Perceived as “undisciplined” or “chaotic”.
As for the Type-B personalities, distraction is not merely an interruption. It can actually be a fatality. These are naturally given to distraction quite readily, and therefore, this manner of derision is very easy for the enemy to use against them. They’re easy targets. These are the personalities that can have every iron in the fire at once. If they are joyfully busy, it may be with some measure of disorder. To their dismay (and that of others) they commonly accomplish less than what they initially sought to do. If you’re wondering why, it’s because they much prefer people instead of tasks and are the social butterflies of life. They are fun-loving carefree spirits, and they don’t especially like boundaries. In contrast to the Type-A, they’re pretty relaxed and unstructured — about almost everything. Their accomplishments don’t come easily, as they need twice as much focus to stay the course and accomplish what they’ve started. If they do finish, deadlines may be missed. These are often the individuals with scores of projects which are partially completed. I love the Type-B personalities because they are so easy-going. They lend a lot of balance to my life and they’re genuinely fun people. They are by nature spontaneous. Everything is a party, and everyone is invited. These are the people who are defined as “fun”. But they’re also the ones who are not always reliable. Things are constantly shifting. Structure does not come naturally for them. Boundaries are poor. They work hard just to make a list. They often don’t have a plan and instead just like living for the moment. Navigating life with any consistency is difficult. In fact, lists are often obsolete. They work twice as hard to accomplish any list they have, be it the one they’ve created or the one assigned to them. These are the folks who just roll with life. They can be lovely yet frustrating whimsical personalities. So, for these individuals distraction can be potentially fatal, because it is not always readily detected, nor is it dealt with appropriately. They end up hooked and lured away quite easily. They need incredible focus in order to escape the bait and switch of distraction.
For the sake of this post I have described the purists. However, most of us are a blend of these two personalities. We fall somewhere along a very broad spectrum, and can probably relate to qualities within each. Regardless of your true type, potential distractions and the way you handle them is critical to accomplishing the will of God for you life and ultimately fulfilling His purpose. This is a daily exchange between you and God; heaven and earth. It happens one-day-at-a-time, which is why Jesus told us to take up our cross daily and follow Him.
A & B personalities don’t ordinarily work well together on projects or plans, be they vocational or professional. Their differing means to the same end will commonly create an enmity of sorts. Therefore, it’s wise not to mix them together. Both will frustrate one another to the degree that their forged alliance will be counter-productive to the end goal.
Question: What personality type are you?
The Goal of Distraction
The goal of distraction is to interrupt your focus. When the enemy can interrupt your focus, he will also interrupt your course of action and delay your objectives, your goals, and in time — your destiny and purpose. All of us must be on guard against distraction. None of us are exempt, including Jesus. It doesn’t matter what personality you have. What matters is how distraction affects you, and how you deal with it.
To be distracted sounds very benign. There’s an implication of being ‘momentary’. However, that’s not always true. The consequence of distraction has the potential to be eternal because it can completely derail you from God’s plan – not just today, but for your entire future. One wrong decision can indeed alter the course of your life.
Question: How many times have you had a completely derailed day, only to push events to the next day with the very best of intentions to catch up. But then the next day, and the next, things keep piling up — until a week or more goes by without anything being accomplished. Pretty soon, you look back and realize a quarter of a year has passed, and somehow that vital task or appointment was never addressed at all? In fact, it was lost and forgotten in the sea of many subsequent distractions and their numerous consequences? Now the window of opportunity has passed. It’s gone. Over. Done. Has this ever happened to you?
Sometimes there are no do-overs in life. That is a sad reality for all of us. Missed opportunities can be devastating blows.
We’ve got to learn how to navigate distractions — and to apply boundaries where they are appropriate. Yes, you can say no. It can wait. You have the right to post-date it or schedule it. And by all means, you don’t have to put out every fire that lands in your lap. If that is your mode of operandi then the enemy will be quite happy to keep you busy putting out his fires all day long every single day. He knows you’re going to take the bait. So, you have to stop.
I have found that one distraction leads to another… and then another… and another… and before you know it half your day is lost. The day goes by and you’ve accomplished lots of little “nothings”. The enemy is good at building fires he knows you will put out. You scramble and suddenly your attention is not merely diverted — it’s completely consumed.
Being able to focus, and knowing what the will of God is for your life that very day, within your allotted amount of God-given time, is key. Yes, be flexible. Also, be wise in recognizing God’s will. There is a difference between opportunities and distractions. One is from God, having a divine order of Providence. The other is from the enemy. We must learn to recognize both and respond accordingly.
Question: With that said, what kind of people have you let into your life? Do they bring God’s divine order or the enemy’s distraction and frustration?
The Ability to Focus
The ability to focus is a discipline. It’s learned. Focus is largely reliant upon two things with regard to your decision-making skills:
(1.) Understanding how you make decisions (the deliberative or strategic process): the conclusion is often measured by such things as core beliefs, personal values, variable resources such as time, energy, and money; consequences, projected outcomes, risks vs. benefits, potential costs vs. losses — all which are weighed in the balances with your desires, needs, goals, life objectives, aspirations, relationships, reputation, etc.
(2.) Understanding your priorities within those decisions (the key factors you weigh in that process): boundaries, priorities, consequences, cost, equity, etc.
Many of us don’t think about our decision-making processes — at all. We fail to investigate them. Yet we make hundreds of complex and simple decisions very quickly — in mere seconds every single day — with little to no thought. They are nearly automatic. Yet deep within those decisions we innately factor in key elements that weigh in our ultimate conclusion. How does that happen without acute awareness?
As we grow and mature our decision-making processes should sharpen, bringing healthier outcomes in life. However, some of us remain stunted in that growth due to a lack of internal structures. For whatever reason, we’re poorly developed, or even immature. We’re given to impulsivity, selfishness, compulsion, greed, convenience, and the need for immediate gratification. We fail to consider consequences to ourselves, or others. We fail to consider risks, or mitigate them appropriately. We want what’s pleasurable and fun. We shy from responsibility or commitment. Whatever the cause, knowing and understanding how your decision-making process works is fundamentally important to being a focused, successful, and accomplished individual who enjoys a steady measure of Godly peace and satisfaction in life. Knowing how you settle the score on any given issue is paramount if you’re going to maintain your focus on God’s will.
Question: Consider how you focus. What helps you?
Question: Consider your decision-making process. Are you happy or satisfied with your decisions? When you look at common outcomes or denominators in your life, what seems to weigh the heaviest in the balance?
Maintaining focus means being deliberate about your decisions. You choose where you put your time and attention. It’s about recognizing what’s truly important in the moment and weighing it against your desires, the obligations others may want to put upon you, and making a wise distinction and choice in the best interest of your end goal — which is God’s revealed will for your life. Maintaining focus means being consistent, diligent, and paying attention to the details that matter.
I prefer to keep a list of things I need to accomplish on a daily basis, and I try to keep it as realistic and flexible as possible. My intimate time with the LORD always includes His list, and He’s faithful to structure my day. That list can sometimes be tight, and it consists of two categories: PEOPLE and TASKS. The old adage, “I’ve got places to go, things to do, and people to see” is very true. Within that list there are routine mundane things in life that need to be accomplished as well such as meals, workout, mail, dishes, laundry… etc. which go without saying. Appointments, dates, and special outings always take absolute priority. People are number one. I try very hard to give people 100% of my undivided attention. I prioritize outings depending on who I am seeing and when, because not everyone is readily available. There are those to whom I give special honor. Hard appointments with people are inflexible precisely because others are involved, and once I commit, there’s no leveraging unless it’s emergent. If there is a mutual agreement, I’m committed to that individual 100%. I’m giving them my time, and they are giving me theirs. Wasted time is never recovered. Of all our resources, we cannot create more time if it’s lost. Therefore, I do my utmost to wholly respect the time others give me, and I expect the same respect from them in return. As for tasks, these are the most flexible entities. They can usually be worked in and around other necessary appointments, and often be accomplished through creative dove-tailing, which saves you precious time.
You cannot afford distraction, regardless of whether or not you have a list. Until you realize that you cannot afford distraction, distraction will take advantage of you.
Forms and Types of Distraction
Distraction comes in many forms and from every conceivable angle. Distractions are not always external, although we usually regard them as such. Distractions can come with those little nuances of emotion that persuade us, fleeting thoughts that tempt us, and fleshly urges that persuade us. Sometimes it is sudden. Other times it’s very gradual – to the degree that we don’t even notice. I have found that more often than not, the most effective distractions are actually internal, coming from fleeting thoughts within.
Some of us give ourselves over to distraction. We intentionally seek it out as a means of escape and/or comfort. Distraction can become a habitual practice when our lives are perpetually measured by constant stress or pain. We all do it, and to some degree this type of distraction can be appropriate at times. However, it’s not the means to our end. When left unchecked, this is another way the enemy lures us into the pitfalls of distraction. He brings about circumstances in our lives that cause us to seek it and rely upon it. And even though that specific distraction may otherwise be healthy or normal (ie music, a good book, company with a friend, etc.), when it’s out of balance it can still play in the equation that causes us to forfeit God’s will by sabotaging (thwarting) His ultimate plan. None of us were meant to live in a distracted state as a means to escape or survive our reality.
Sudden versus gradual. Internal versus external. Kind versus interrupting. So how do we recognize a distraction?
• A distraction is anything or anyone that deflects or seizes the focused attention of the individual from the original purpose and goal (immediate or long term) which God has given, having the opportunity and potential to create a waste of resources and thereby the turmoil of life, being exclusively dependent upon how the individual chooses to respond or interact.
• Distraction is a temptation to abandon God’s purpose in a given moment wherein one is apprehended by a thought or action that takes sudden precedence, without a thought of consequence, or the intent of God’s perfect will.
Distraction has a purpose. Its intent is to derail you, if not to completely destroy you. It wants to prevent you from fulfilling God’s plan not just for today, but ultimately for your life. Distraction, when it is not blatant, is usually quite cunning.
God is able to handle my external distractions rather easily by giving me nudges that keep me spiritually alert and awake. They’re often obvious. As for the internal distractions, they’re much more nuanced, complex, and therefore harder to recognize — precisely because they’re mine. They are not as quick or as easy. They’re much more elusive. On days when I’m especially tired, not feeling up to par, or am unmotivated, distraction wields its cunning devices quite well, and I can end up accomplishing very little. Or I end up accomplishing very poorly. At the end of the day I can feel very tangled.
We can distract ourselves. Be aware of your weaknesses.
The result? Days in succession are entirely thrown off as I rearrange my schedule and appointments with other people. Guess what? Many times this rearranges their schedule as well, and the consequences of distraction are not merely mine anymore — they get passed around. They’re suddenly shared. Distraction is like a social cancer. This is not fun, hence the increasing degrees of derailment we noted before.
Question: What kinds of distractions plague you the most? To what kind are you most vulnerable?
So, what is the grand solution against distraction?
The Divine Strategy
Jesus Christ was not immune to distraction. Did you ever notice how it frequented Him? Distractions were constantly thronging Him. How did He handle them? Let’s take a look at His strategy:
It takes more than a plan or a structured routine. It takes a bended ear and a surrendered heart that yields obediently to God. If you like having your ducks in a row, it’s encouraging to know that God has divine ducks. You’ve got to know God and be consistently seeking Him throughout the day. You have to know His will—not just for that day, but for your life, following Him one-day-at-a-time. It requires constant communion with the LORD through the Spirit, which I believe is the number one offense against distraction. Keeping a sharp, sober and alert mind comes from the Lord, not just your espresso and vitamins. This is what Jesus practiced when He said:
19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise,” (John 5:19, KJV).
And so He says to us:
The only plan Jesus had each day was the one His Father gave Him. He was vigilant with purpose. He was focused. He was of sober mind and heart. He followed the Father moment by moment, performing His will on earth as it was in heaven. If we are going to do the same, we need to hear from God every moment of every day with a humble heart that is ready and willing to obey Him.
Fulfilling your purpose in Jesus Christ is not accidental. It’s deliberate and intentional. In a nutshell, your purpose is to be doing God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.
Determining God’s will in any given situation is the key to defeating distraction. This is why Jesus did not address certain issues or people that passed His way. It simply wasn’t in God’s itinerary that day.
Distractions do not have to be detours or life-altering fatalities. Life’s interruptions, whether internal or external, happen to all of us. Many are momentary. Some are monumental. All are strategic. Never undermine their potential. Get God on it before you make a move.
Follow Jesus. Make your list. Do your routine. Be a responsible adult. But when distraction comes, don’t be afraid to slam on the proverbial brakes to stop and pray, asking God for His divine direction and intervention. That is what Jesus did. That’s what He told us to do. Be sober and vigilant with purpose. Abide in Him.
Make God the stronghold of your life. Be about your Father’s business. He’ll give you the divine ducks — and order them as well. That is the plan. It’s the only one that works. One day at a time…
Cheers & Shalom,
Image Credit: Robert_C | Pixabay
Post Updated: August 3, 2020