The Big Difference between Interruptions and Distractions
By Rebecca Barlow Jordan
Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts…. Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. - Proverbs 4:23 MSG
We usually consider things that prevent us from reaching our personal goals in life as both interruptions and distractions. We rarely if ever make a distinction between the two, and we dislike them both.
And even though we may cross this off as mere semantics, perhaps God indicates there is a difference between the two words. And Jesus makes that difference clear, viewing one as positive, and the other negative. His entire life involved interruptions, a positive for Him. As soon as Jesus spoke His early morning “Amen,” drawing strength through prayer and time with His heavenly Father, ministry began: teaching, healing, discipling, encouraging, soothing, correcting, and loving both His disciples and the crowds who swarmed Him wherever He went. All good things.
Traveling to heal one person, another would block His way and cry out for His attention. Both children and lepers longed for the touch of sweet Jesus. He interrupted His journey to talk or eat with the socially and morally despised: tax collectors, adulterers, foreigners, the lame, deaf, demon-possessed, and any who needed what He offered. Interruptions didn’t thwart His goal. Why? Because nothing swayed Him from the joy of His mission that was set before Him by His Father. What others saw as interruptions were actually tools to Jesus to accomplish God’s “goal” for His life. And we’ve benefited from both the result of His obedience and goal “achievement,” and His attention to interruptions.
Jesus clarified the two concepts repeatedly. With His actions, He demonstrated the positive result of interruptions: changed lives. But He also cautioned about how distractions like worry, fear, wealth, wrong priorities or attitudes could affect us negatively. He warned Martha about unimportant distractions that could steal her focus away from Him (Luke 10:41). He counseled His followers in an agricultural parable about life’s busy distractions and a divided heart that can prevent us from bearing spiritual fruit (Matthew 13:22).
So how does that apply to marriage? How do interruptions and distractions affect our relationship? How can we tell the difference between the two, and how do we deal with them when they arrive? That will require intentional consideration. Here are some truths that might help:
1. Consider these questions regarding a potential interruption or distraction: Is this (thought, action, or activity) a check in your spirit or a pause in your work, day, or life that can ultimately contribute to your Christian growth (and marriage) if you give it attention? Does God want you to take a break so He can teach you something through this? If so, it’s probably an interruption that God will use for good.
2. Or is this (thought, action, or activity) something that threatens to pull you away from God’s most important work in your life and marriage? Does this have the potential to detract from obedience to God and cause damage to your marriage relationship? If so, label this a distraction and recognize its danger.
3. Remember that God’s goal for your life is character development—becoming more like Him.
For example, you and your husband are trying to talk together or eat together, and your phone keeps chirping texts or Facebook notifications. Interruption or Distraction? Unless it’s an urgent message from your child or some other emergency, 90% of those “announcements” we’d label as a distraction. They can wait. The more important work regarding your marriage is building time together at that moment.
I’ve experienced mega times when the two words blurred in my mind as I’ve hurriedly typed away trying to finish a writing project. I saw a ringing phone or a knock on the door—or even a request from my husband as something negative—as a block of that day’s goal, and certainly a distraction, not a positive interruption.
But God showed me in more ways than one how He was behind so many of those interruptions, and I learned to embrace them as positive (Robo calls don’t count!). He taught me to see them as ways to minister to others and as lessons from God to build my character—and my relationship with my husband.
Perhaps our thought life offers one of the biggest tests in helping us know the difference between an interruption and a distraction. How would we define lustful thoughts, anger at our spouse, thoughts of revenge, or attitudes of disappointment and despair? These can definitely hinder growth in our marriage relationship. Obviously harmful distractions.
When those thought distractions occur, we can either (1) give them room to grow into a stronghold (2) or we can immediately recognize the source of those thoughts (our spiritual enemy) and ask Jesus’s help in bringing those thoughts captive. Then we can ask God to replace them with positive thoughts and attitudes about our spouse.
God will use any “interruption” in our lives—from marriage conflict, illness, job loss, to simple “thought” reminders from His Spirit to bless our spouse in a special way—to get our attention. And He will be faithful to convict us when something like a distraction tries to pull us away from Him and each other. Even when we give in to a distraction, God’s grace will help us restore any damage if we run to Him in faith.
Our daily prayer and focus can be, “Lord, show us the difference between distractions and interruptions. And use them both to help us grow in our marriage to be more like You, and to honor You in all that we do.
Rebecca Barlow Jordan is a bestselling inspirational author and day-voted follower of Jesus who loves to paint encouragement on the hearts of others. After five decades of marriage, she and her husband are more passionate about marriage and family than ever. Rebecca has authored and contributed to over 20 books and has written over 2000 other articles, devotions, greeting cards, and other inspirational pieces. She is a regular Crosswalk contributor whose daily devotional Daily in Your Presence is also available for delivery through Crosswalk.com. You can sign up for Rebecca’s free ebook and find out more about her and her encouraging blog at www.rebeccabarlowjordan.com.
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