Recently I read, ‘Preaching in an Age of Distraction’ by J. Ellsworth Kalas, who pointed out that there are many distractions confronting both preachers and the congregants. However, not all distractions are bad. There are some that can be very therapeutic. Dr. Kallas gave example of Jon Sweeney who made time to think fresh thoughts, go for walks, pray for a friend, or simply to look at a songbird outside his office window. Such diversions were not empty exercises because they became the catalyst for creative and productive thinking. This brings me to the example of our Lord Jesus Christ who saw the need for just such a diversion for his disciples: “And he said to them, Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while … And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves (Mk 6:31, 32). We can learn several lessons from this incident. Firstly, some of us may be so busy doing our own ‘thing’ that we do not realize that we are spiritually and emotionally at the verge of breaking down. Jon Sweeney related his own experience, “Today I am good at focusing. But too much focus leads to too much stress as well as exhaustion.” You may be very successful in your work or career but you may be a bankrupt spiritually. You are so focused on your program and activity that you may lose touch with God and your family. You are so emotionally drained or exhausted that you have no appetite for worship and bible study.
Secondly, we can take heart that even though you may not recognize your need, our Lord Jesus Christ does. He cares about you. As the psalmist says, “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). This psalm, at the very outset, draws our attention to the character of our God: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1 ESV). What a God we have! He is not only our protector, provider but He is also our ever present help in times of need. In short, He is someone we could go to and find rest, security and strength. And this is the very God that the psalmist wants us to know!
Finally, Jesus invites us to take time to be “still” and “silent”. We need to take time to recover our passion for God. Like someone said, “… boredom is not simply an absence of activity. One can be busy and bored at the same time, even in Christian service.”
The solution for distraction and boredom is not to be more focused or to work harder. In fact, Jesus our Lord gave the opposite advice to his disciples. He arranged for his disciples to “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.”
Let us take time to find our true selves – creatures in love with God and therefore in love with life.
Rev. Mark Tay