A Fight That Builds Humble Faith
Distraction is a frequent reminder of our frailty and limits, that we indeed are not God. And since we are given to such unjustifiable, and frankly ridiculous, levels of pride, this is very good for us. Distraction humbles us and forces us to ask God for the help we so desperately need.
And it can build our faith. God is not nearly as interested in our efficiency as he is in our faith. Do you remember how he allowed enemies to harass Nehemiah and his Jerusalem wall-builders, slowing down the work (Nehemiah 4)? Similarly, God allows us to battle inefficient distraction to build our dependent faith in him. That’s what God is building in all the inefficiencies of our lives.
If we see the Spirit-given graces of humility and faith growing in us through our struggles against distraction, we will count it among the “all things” we give thanks for (Ephesians 5:20, KJV).
Building the Muscle of Self-Control
God also uses distraction to strengthen our self-control. Christian self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). And like nearly all the Spirit’s fruit of sanctification in us, they are cultivated through the primary, decisive gift of the Spirit and our secondary, but indispensible intentional hard work.
It’s helpful to remember that we strengthen self-control similar to how we strengthen muscle: through resistance. Muscles do not grow stronger without pushing against resistance. Neither does self-control. There’s no getting around the hard work of applying ourselves and figuring out what works best for us. But if we prayerfully and faithfully apply ourselves, the Spirit will empower our efforts and we will see our capacity for self-control increase.
Now, just as with physical strength and ability, some are graced with greater ability to focus than others. If you’re one of those people, then good stewardship of this gift looks different than it does for less gifted people. Like a gifted athlete, you are made to excel. Seek to maximize it, for “to whom much [is] given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48).
If you’re a person who, for whatever reason, has a more difficult struggle with distraction, you need not feel condemned (Romans 8:1).
Whatever It Takes
It’s right for us to see certain distractions as evils in themselves. Every one is a time-tax we pay, a tax for which there is no refund. Time spent simply means we have less to spend. Every distracted minute is an unrecoverable minute, now frozen in the permanent past. It is right to seek to make the best use of our time in these evil days (Ephesians 5:16).
And yet, we also do not need to be more paralyzed by this than by any other struggle with sin or futility. Our Father wants us to grow in the grace of faith-fueled focus, and will, through Christ, cause our difficult struggles against distraction to work for our good (Romans 8:28). He will, through his Spirit, use them to free us from idolatry and pride and to help us grow in self-control. So, in confident faith we can approach his throne of grace with this prayer:
Whatever it takes, Lord, increase my resolve to pursue only what you call me to do, and deliver me from the fragmenting effect of fruitless distraction.