On Monday morning of last week, I woke up, made my coffee, and settled in for some time with the Lord. However, I was too restless and distracted as my thoughts and emotions spun with so many issues.
For example, I’m working remotely, away from home, so my living space is different, but that’s not a big deal. I have several projects to complete for Harvest USA, which is a gift of grace to have meaningful work and an income! Several tentacles of the COVID-19 pandemic are reshaping and rescheduling my life, though these changes are manageable because God has been gracious to me. And not least on my mind is all the sadness, confusion, anger, violence, and pain surrounding the death of George Floyd and the cries for justice pouring out across the world.
What does this have to do with a Harvest USA staff woman whose job focuses on applying the gospel to sexuality and gender? A lot, actually, because I am living in a broken world that daily impacts me. These influences threaten to distract me from faithfulness to Jesus, but they can also serve as an invitation to draw near to him and cry for help. Like many of you, ordinary events confront me every day, beckoning my attention away from faith in Jesus. Will I move towards the Lord with love and obedience, or away from him with a distracted heart and mind?
Where are local and world events—not to mention personal trials—leading your thoughts these days? My distracted Monday morning came after a weekend of scouring news headlines for the latest information and circumstances in my personal and work life. What’s capturing your attention, emotions, and energy right now: Family struggles? Relational disappointments? Financial trials? Societal evils? Crushing life responsibilities? Private temptations? Stressors are all around, and your heart is responding in one of two directions: towards our Lord, Jesus Christ—or away.
Fix Your Heart on Knowing Jesus
After my thoughts bounced from one thing to another last week, the Spirit settled me and refocused my heart back upon the Lord. I was brought back through these invitational words in Scripture.
“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“And my servant whom I have chosen,
So that you may know and believe me
And understand that I am he.
Before Me there was no God formed,
And there will be none after me.
I, even I, am the Lord,
And there is no savior besides me.” (Isaiah 43:10–11, NASB)
Friends, regardless of what is happening around or inside us, our calling and purpose is to believe, know, and love the Lord through faith and obedience, lived out hour by hour in dependence upon Christ. What I need most isn’t to read the latest news—though it is important to understand what’s happening in the world—and it isn’t to accomplish my work tasks. It’s vital for me to be humbled and made aware of my blind spots as I listen to the anguished words of black image bearers of God, but even this isn’t the most important thing. As crucial, God-honoring, and pivotal as these things are, what I needed most last week was to look to the Lord; cry out to him; hear his words of comfort, challenge, and recalibration; and receive his mercy. Only then can I take action in our Savior’s name at the street-level reality of my life. Faithfulness in seeking Jesus will have a ripple effect of grace sent out in all directions from my life; this is God’s intent for his people.
Right now, you need the same thing in the throes of your personal circumstances, temptations, pain, and stress: to seek Jesus. When our world goes crazy, the craving to rush towards false comforts can intensify. Our commitment to holiness and personal integrity in our relationships, entertainment, thought lives, and sexual behaviors can seem less important than what we read in the news every day. Ministry responsibilities, societal pain and unrest, and global crises are important—but if I’m not abiding in the Lord Jesus, soaking up his word, then holiness, integrity, and fruitfulness are at stake, my friends.
Flourish and Run or Stumble and Fall?
My colleague, Shalee, and I help each other when our ministry feels overwhelming. We encourage each other to live out Hebrews 12:1–2 by saying, “Flourish and run, sister!” We want to run the race marked out for us by keeping our eyes on Jesus and by throwing off distraction and sin. How else can we truly love and serve the women God sends our way who are themselves bound up in sin, shame, and the distractions of this world?!
Brothers and sisters, hear my heart: We should never insulate ourselves from or avoid pain and injustice; to do so would be opposed to the gospel and anti-Christian! However, there is one voice we must prioritize, under which all others are submitted. Loving the Lord and our neighbors should always sync up with our private faith, personal obedience, and integrity.
So read the news and pray, asking God to move you to compassionate, Jesus-centered action. Look around at your circumstances and take selfless steps of humble service. But don’t let important things distract you from devotion to Christ and faithfulness in your private life, from flourishing and running the race of loving and knowing the Lord.
May God, our Savior and Lord, cause our hearts to be undistracted from loving him more fully and to be intentional change agents in a world broken by sin and pain!