Romans 8:6 tells us that to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Yet too often my mind is better described as wandering and easily distracted. While reading God’s Word or praying alone, my mind meanders off to that phone call I need to make later today or that controversial tweet I read yesterday or what I will make for dinner tonight. And was that the dryer that just went off? My mind drifts from His greatness to the trivial, even when I have set aside time for the least interruptions.
Moreover, I often find that what gripped my heart and mind from God’s Word in the wee hours of the morning has faded from my memory by the afternoon. This grieves me very much, and I’m certain I’m not alone in this battle to keep my mind stayed on Christ’s beauty and perfections, worshiping Him as I was created to do.
Each of us have callings and responsibilities that require time and mental energy. Paul said that marriage was a distraction, yet we know marriage is also a gift. Domestic duties and nurturing children are a blessed work that I personally delight in. These works often cause distractions that are for our good. They teach us patience and trust and how to walk by faith when our best plans fail.
But there are also many avoidable distractions. Useless crowds of little thoughts, ideas, and amusements restrain my soul by their sheer number and can seem formidable. These are the little foxes that spoil the vine (Song 2:15). Social media, hobbies that I have wrongly prioritized, my children’s social lives, endless entertainment options, politics, and more can keep the head so jam-packed that there is no room for thoughts of God and eternity. The strength of the mind can be wasted on the trivial through unhealthy habits that slowly erode our spiritual health.
Have you ever noticed that we never struggle with distractions when it comes to worldliness? Our only difficulty comes from choosing which of the thousand forms of it we should delight in. This is because we have Satan’s assistance when it comes to anything that diverts our minds from strengthening our souls. The enemy of our souls is subtle. Distraction is often more effective at preventing a Christian’s worship and service than an obvious temptation or attack.
In Luke 10, Jesus corrected Martha when she was distracted from simple worship of Him. Some Bible scholars believe Martha’s preparations to serve the people in her home were unnecessarily elaborate. Can you imagine if Martha had had access to Pinterest, especially during a holiday season? Or what if she’d had the added temptation of Facebook friends to compare against (or impress with) her hospitality skills? Regardless, Martha’s unchecked distractions caused her to lose focus on the words of Christ for her life.
A Pardoned Mind
Distractions should humble us because they give ongoing proof of our human weakness. We are incapable of loving God with our minds without His intervening power at work within us. Praise be to God, a longing for a focused, spiritual mind (not a perfected one) demonstrates that God has done a supernatural work of grace in us. Because of His grace, we are secured from condemnation through Christ, the One who never once had a divided heart, fragmented prayer, or unfocused thought. His worship and obedience to the Father were perfect, and through Him the Father looks on us and is well-pleased.
Yet it was for vain thoughts and easily distracted minds like ours that Christ died. We are called to watchfulness and keeping our hearts with all diligence. We are warned against double-mindedness and instability. A distraction-free life is impossible. But if avoidable distractions are left unchecked, they will mute God’s voice and leading. We will creep and crawl through our Christian lives rather than running our race of faith with confidence and joy.
Set Your Minds on Things Above
What most consumes your mental energy? Where does your mind roam when it is free to do so? Ask yourself if worldly and unnecessary distractions have a monopoly on your heart and mind. We deceive ourselves if we think our spiritual lives will not suffer if our minds are fed with a steady diet of the inconsequential.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:24–25).
Crucifying the flesh means we are to starve the life out of the natural urges that want to master us. And walking by the Spirit means presenting ourselves honestly and regularly before God’s Word and other believers, so that in time, we are transformed into the image of Christ. If we are in Christ, we can be women with self-controlled minds.
Whatever Is Lovely . . . Think on These Things
I love to read books by the Puritans. In their writings, I see that distraction management has always been vital for spiritual health. John Owen said that carnal and spiritual thoughts fight for control of the mind like Jacob and Esau fought in the womb of Rebecca. And the fight is no less demanding in our hyper-communicating, over-entertained, individualistic age. I have often had to take a step away from my smartphone and other habits and commitments that are dominating my mental energy and causing my spiritual life to suffer.
But putting off the old habits and desires is only half of it. Putting on the new self, “which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator,” is the rest of it (Col. 3:10). We can learn the discipline of solitude and meditation by:
- Thinking deeply for a few minutes on a Scripture.
- Singing words of Truth. (There is a reason why we’re commanded so often to sing. It grips the mind.)
- Taking a walk and observing the veins of a leaf, noting the unfathomable wisdom of its Creator.
- Showing up at church faithfully. (There is no substitute for loving and being loved by others who are also fighting daily battles with sin.)
These are all ways to renew the mind, bring it under control, and train it to think on whatever is true, excellent, and worthy of praise.
What about you? Do you find it hard to distinguish necessary distractions from avoidable ones? What helps you renew your mind in Christ and be further self-controlled, demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit?