Distractions and the Voice of Jesus

by Elizabeth Trotter on October 23, 2014

distractions1

Follow Me. Jesus whispered these words to me a few months ago. I was in church. It felt like He was right there in front of me, pointing His finger at me and saying, “Elizabeth Trotter? Yes, you. I want you to follow Me. You — just you — follow Me.”

Rarely does Scripture come to me fast, strong, and seemingly out of nowhere like this. I knew this phrase came from John 21, so I opened up my Bible and read it. I hadn’t been reading this story lately, and it wasn’t a story that had ever meant much to me before. So I knew I had to pay attention to this message from God.

Over the next few weeks, I read the story, and re-read it, and then read it some more. Because the truth was, I was distracted, and I desperately needed to hear its message.

One morning after the Resurrection, Jesus and His disciples are by the sea, eating bread and fish. Jesus starts talking to Peter and asks, “Do you love me?” Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus tells him, “Then feed my sheep.”

A second time Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” A second time Peter answers, “Yes Lord, you know I love you.” And a second time Jesus tells him, “Then feed my sheep.”

Yet again Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Peter’s feelings were hurt, and he answered again, “Yes Lord, you know I love you. And again Jesus tells him, “Then feed my sheep.”

Jesus then tells Peter what kind of death he is doing to die. Peter turns to look behind him and sees John. Peter then asks Jesus, “What about him, Lord?” Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what’s that to you?? As for you – follow me.”

I get distracted by so many things. I get distracted by feeling sorry for myself. I tell myself I’m such a terrible missionary because I don’t speak the language very well. I tell myself I don’t measure up, and I’ll never measure up. That I will never be good enough or worthy enough, and that everybody is rejecting me.

I get distracted by jealousy. I’ll see someone else who’s been given amazing ministry opportunities, and I’ll wish I had those opportunities. Why can’t that be me, God? Why can’t you let me do that? Why does she get to do that when You know I want to do it? Whether it’s teaching math and chemistry, or attending births as a doula, I can get distracted by what I don’t get to do instead of finding joy in what God has assigned me to do.

But the biggest distraction for me, by far, is controversies within the American church. Since I’ve moved overseas, I’ve kept up on hot-button issues in the United States. I tell myself I do this so that “I’m not out of the loop when I return.” But I’m not just informing myself when I read controversial blogs; I become emotionally embroiled in them.

I read what all the online voices are saying, and I become very worried over the direction of the Church. I have intense intellectual and emotional reactions to inflammatory blog posts. I formulate arguments in my head to combat them. ABC is right, and here’s why; XYZ is wrong, and here’s why. Surely that’s helpful, right?

Wrong. It doesn’t help. All it does is agitate and depress me. It distracts me from doing what God has already clearly told me I need to be doing with my time. Which means I’m wasting a lot of the time He has given me. It means I’m squandering His gifts.

Distractions, distractions, distractions. Not a single distraction is helpful for ministry, or my own personal spiritual life. Each distraction keeps me from doing what God has called me to do in this season of my life. When I get distracted by feelings of jealousy or inadequacy, or by worry over the future of the Church, I don’t have the time or energy to do any of the things He has called me to do. I cannot fulfill His purposes in my life if I spend all my time reading other people’s angry words.

The truth is, it’s not my job to guide the global Church. That’s the job of Jesus, and He can handle it. Hearing from God and writing out of my own relationship with Him does not in any way require that I be up-to-date on church controversies. It just doesn’t. I can follow Him without regard to what He is doing in anyone else’s life but my own. The truth is, I don’t have to know about religious debates in order to love my husband and children well, and to love women and teen girls well.

The truth is, I can do what God is calling me to do, right now, and I can be joyful in it, instead of being jealous. The truth is, I will never measure up as a “perfect” missionary or a ministry wife, because no one measures up — and that is actually the good news about Jesus’s sacrifice.

But when I’m distracted by any of these things, I’m not paying attention to God. When I’m distracted by these things, I don’t notice the person right in front of me. And I won’t be able to love them if I can’t see them. If I allow myself to be distracted, I won’t be able to follow the Greatest Commands to love God and people.

The day Jesus reminded me to follow Him only, I had been sitting in church, emotionally twisted over yet another American church issue. And I suddenly felt He was saying to me, “You – Follow Me. Stop turning your head to look at other people. Look at Me. Regardless of what anyone else around you is doing, I want you to follow Me.” In that moment, I realized I had been wasting my life on distractions. I wasn’t following; I was worrying.

Hearing the word of God on this issue made me re-evaluate my life. I can’t waste my time reading controversial blogs; instead, I must protect my time by staying away from online debates. I must say “no” to them — and I’m learning to. Refusing to read certain kinds of blogs releases me from the internal pressure to “save the American church.”

I must simply focus on what I can do, today, to serve God and others. I remind myself of Jesus’s words quite often. If I want to follow Jesus, then I, along with Peter, can’t look around at other people. I have to look at Jesus. I have to follow Him alone.

What about you? What has God already called you to do in this season of your life?

What distracts you and keeps you from fulfilling His purposes?

Is Jesus saying to you, today, “Follow Me”?

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About Elizabeth Trotter

Elizabeth loves life in Southeast Asia, something she never imagined was possible. Before moving to Asia with her husband and four children in 2012, Elizabeth worked in youth ministry for ten years. She loves math, science, all things Jane Austen, and eating hummus by the spoonful. Find her on the web at www.trotters41.com and on Facebook at trotters41.
  • Shari

    Jesus has been speaking this same thing to me. Uniquely worded for my life. I was looking at this one and that one. Insecurities formulating comparisons. Recently Jesus stepped in and stopped me. I leave the field in a month, for at least 6-8 months, praying I can come back after a major surgery. Return, as MYSELF, as Father intends. BUT, if I cannot come back, at least I am leaving as myself, with no comparisons in sight. Embracing the one Christ loves, not the one I thought I’d love to be.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      Oh I love this, embracing who you are and who God made you to be, and Jesus leading you to stop comparing yourself with others. Beautiful. I love how Jesus sends His children the same messages, leading us to follow Him only and not worry about others. He really wants us to look at Him, over and above all others. Love how He talks to us individually about this!
      I’m praying your body heals through this surgery and in the post-op months as well. Hugs to you, and hopefully you have some people in your passport country who can take care of you during this time. 🙂

  • Marilyn Gardner

    It was like you got inside my head in this post Elizabeth! Thank you. And your conclusion? Yes – I am living my story – I can’t live anyone else’s – so may I live my story in faithful obedience, with distractions fading as I look at the face of Jesus.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      So glad someone else feels these same things, Marilyn. I so appreciate your friendship 🙂

  • Richelle Wright

    hmmmmm…. i find that sometimes i go out and find distractions to keep me from what i suspect God wants me to do and that i know i don’t want to do… or at least that’s how i try and justify it to myself: that i’m so busy with this or that(other good things), that i just can’t. when my kids pull that same stunt, i call it disobedience…

    just had that thought because we’re doing jerry bridges’ bible study “respectable sins” and one of the points he makes is that we’ve found softer words instead of naming sin sin: having an affair instead of adultery, too much to drink instead of drunkenness, sharing details of a prayer request instead of gossip, living together instead of fornication… etc. speaking for myself, here, but sometimes i have the same tendency to call something “distraction” when in reality, i know it is disobedience.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      SUCH a good point, Richelle, renaming sins. Never really thought of it that way before. Distraction, or disobedience, either way, it keeps me from doing what I am supposed to be doing. I laughed out loud at your kids pulling the same stunt and you calling it disobedience. Nothing like having children that are just a bit too much like their parents (us!) to show us the problems in our own lives, huh? In fact, seeing my children struggle with worry or anger has pointed out even more clearly that I have these same sins too. I just sort of ignore them when I don’t feel like acknowledging them, especially if I have managed to hide them away. But kids don’t hide things, and being a family together brings all our struggles out into the open.

  • Anisha Hopkinson

    Thank you for this Elizabeth. Those were words I need to hear. Right now life is overwhelmingly distracting, but you are so right. Jesus is calling.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      I’m so glad this story spoke to you, Anisha. Life can be very distracting at times, and I’m sorry you are feeling overwhelmed right now. Today I pray you will find peace amidst all the chaos, and be able to look up, and see Jesus, right there with you.

  • Kelly Neill

    Elizabeth, your writing never fails to touch me. I’m so glad our paths crossed. May God continue to watch over you and keep us all from distractions. I also just read your post on starting to feel, and it hit close to home for me and for some folks I’ve been talking with. Thank you for sharing such beautiful thoughts and being so willing to be open with the world.

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      Thank you, Kelly. You are always so supportive, and your family has been such good friends to us! We are glad to know you and be able to visit you every 2 years. 🙂 God bless you Neills!

  • Often, our strengths are our weaknesses, right? 🙂 I don’t know you (in person) but I perceive you are a person with great passion and vision. Those are incredible strengths. Your voice is an important one in this missions community, because God’s called you to it. And, maybe that takes being informed and involved online. Yet, praying He will guide you, by the power of His Spirit, for exactly how to use the gifts and strengths He’s given you and how to find a balance in it. I’m learning…we are never at rest and in true peace until He is our sole devotion. He desires our hearts (and full attention!) 😉

    • Elizabeth Trotter

      So true, Anne, so true, though it sometimes sounds cliché to say! It sounds too vague, to say, “keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.” But it does help when I do! It’s far too easy to get distracted — by everything and anything. And thanks for your prayers. I can always use them!

  • Mark Driskill

    Thanks so much. I needed this.

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