Defeating Distraction: One of the Enemy’s Most Unrecognized and Effective Weapons
Defeating Distraction: One of the Enemy’s Most Unrecognized and Effective Weapons
I really enjoy relaxing. Down time for me is very precious, and when I’m able I like to wallow in it just as much as the next person. With that said, I’m a hard-wired Type-A personality. Does that mean I want to play that card every moment of the day? Absolutely not. It’s exhausting. Yet I have that gift, and when it’s demanded, I can pull it off quite well. As much as I plan, you wouldn’t think distraction would be a problem for me. Yet that couldn’t be further from the truth. It just comes packaged differently. We all deal with distraction on different levels, and the enemy knows how to target us in our weak spots. What I have found is that most of us don’t regard distraction as the threat it truly is, because we don’t understand its goal, and we underestimate the consequences of it.
What I have found is that distraction comes into our lives very subtly, and can even seem benign and imperceptible at times. Yet, in terms of degrees, if distraction can get you off course even the slightest bit, which may initially seem like no bother, 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 and 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 of it, 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, dressed in many pretty packages.
If you’re anything like me, then you’re a Type-A personality, probably similar to what I’ve already described. You’ve got ducks. Everything lines up. It makes sense. It’s logical. You’re driven. You’re focused. 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. And if it doesn’t have a name, it’s got a number. And 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 multi-taskers. They are by nature structured people. They are often too serious. 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.
As for the Type-B personalities, distraction is not merely an interruption. It can actually be a fatality. These are the personalities that have every iron in the fire at once. They are joyfully busy and often with disorder. To their dismay, and that of others, they accomplish little. 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. They’re pretty relaxed people. Their accomplishments don’t come easily, as they need twice as much focus to maintain and accomplish what they’ve started as the Type-A. And if they do finish, deadlines are often 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 fun people. They are by nature spontaneous. Everything is a party. These are the people who are defined as “fun”. But they’re also the ones who are not always reliable. Structure does not come naturally for them. They work hard just to make a list. They often don’t have a plan and live for the moment. In fact, lists are often obsolete. And they work twice as hard to accomplish any list they have, be it the one they’ve created or the one given to them. These are the folks that just roll with life. They are often whimsical personalities. So for these, who are by nature given to distraction, distraction can be potentially fatal because it is not always readily detected, nor is it dealt with appropriately. They end up hooked. They need twice as much focus as a structured individual to escape the bait and snare of distraction.
Most of us are a blend of these two personalities. Please note that for the sake of this post I have described the purists. But in reality these personality types come in every equilibrium across the spectrum. Most of us have elements of each in varying degrees. Regardless of your 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.
Easier said than done, right?
The Goal of Distraction
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, because it must be recognized and dealt with appropriately. Distraction is inevitable. And it sounds so benign, right? To be distracted implies that it is ‘momentary’. But that’s not always true. 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 turn or decision has the potential to alter the course of your entire life.
So how do we defend against distraction? We all fight it, but I believe it affects each of us differently. If you’re wired like me, distraction comes in varying forms. None of us can afford to be distracted. We do not have the time to waste. We have too much to accomplish in any given day. As for me, although I have down time, time off, or even time to relax—you guessed it, it’s usually planned. Seldom do I find myself bored with nothing to do and time to kill. That is just not my life.
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 want to put out. So you scramble and suddenly your attention is not merely diverted, but it’s completely consumed.
The ability to FOCUS is a discipline. It’s learned. How do you focus? Do you even know? What helps you? Personally, I keep a list of things I need to accomplish on a daily basis. My intimate time with the LORD always includes His list, and He’s faithful to structure my day. That list can be tight, and it consists of two categories only: PEOPLE and TASKS. The old adage, “I’ve got places to go, things to do, and people to see” is very true of me. And 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. And I prioritize those as well depending on who I am seeing and when, because not everyone is readily accessible. And there are those to whom I give special honor. My appointments with people are inflexible precisely because others are involved, and once I commit, that’s it. There’s no leveraging of people. 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. And wasted time is never recovered. Of all our resources, we cannot create more of it if it is lost. So I wholly respect the time others give to me, and I expect the same respect from them. Then there are tasks. Tasks are flexible entities. They can usually be worked in and around other necessary appointments, and often be accomplished through creative dove-tailing, which saves (you guessed it) time.
As you can see I’m a girl with my ducks in a row. I happen to like my ducks. They always line up and make sense when God is the One who aligns them. Unless, of course, I’m distracted. For me, distraction is a strategic enemy that wastes my time, energy, and other resources. I simply cannot afford it.
And neither can you — regardless of whether or not you have ducks, or how much you like or don’t like them. And until you realize that you cannot afford distraction, distraction will take advantage of you.
Forms of Distraction
I have learned that distraction comes in many forms and from every imaginable angle. Distractions are not always external, although we usually regard them as such. Distractions often come with those little nuances of emotion that persuade us, fleeting thoughts that tempt us, and fleshly urges that cause us to lose focus. 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, precisely because they are within us and we cannot readily escape them. The only way out is to deal with them. And distractions can come kindly. In fact, distraction can actually be very persuasive and alluring, even pretty, which makes them ELUSIVE. They are often packaged beautifully. I’ve learned that distractions come in varying colors, shapes and sizes. No two are alike.
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 deception that takes precedence without thought toward the consequence, or the intent of God’s perfect will.
Distraction has a purpose. Its intent is to derail you, if not 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 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. They are not as quick or as easy. And they’re much more elusive. On days when I’m especially tired, not feeling up to par, or just plain 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’m screaming, “Leave my ducks alone!”
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. Distraction is like a social cancer. This is not fun, hence the increasing degrees of derailment we noted before.
I think we’ve all been there. So what is the grand solution against distraction?
Jesus Christ was not immune to distraction. Did you ever notice how it frequented Him? How did He handle it? His strategy was perfect.
It takes more than a plan or a structured routine. It takes a bended ear and a surrendered heart that yields obediently to God. I have learned to surrender my ducks to God. He has divine ducks. You’ve got to know God and be consistently seeking Him throughout the day. And you’ve got 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:
“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:
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples,” (John 15:4-8, KJV).
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 be hearing from God in every moment of every day, with a listening ear and an open humble heart that is ready and willing to obey Him.
In a nutshell, your purpose is to be doing God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. That is intentional. It is deliberate. It’s not accidental. 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.
Get a stronghold on God. He’ll give you the ducks – and order them as well. That is the plan. Trust me, it’s the only one that works.
Cheers & Shalom,