I hate call waiting. I have it on our telephone, but I still hate it. In the midst of a conversation the little "beep-beep" intrudes and I have a decision to make—to give in and put my call on hold, or to ignore it.
Webster defines them as things that stop or hinder by breaking in. Interruptions steal time at work and abduct focus at home. Many a marriage has been swindled out of a romantic evening by this marauding, unwelcome thief.
Do you ever feel your schedule is burglarized by this bandit? I do. I looked over my schedule recently and found that I had been victimized by a series of interruptions beyond my control.
How do you view these inopportune disturbances that create turbulence in your schedule? If you're like me, you can get irritated, exasperated, and frustrated at deviations in life such as ...
- A phone call from someone trying to sell light bulbs or newspaper subscriptions just as everyone is finally sitting down for dinner.
- A 3-year-old interrupting a conversation with your spouse for the umpteenth time.
- Your baby developing diarrhea just as you are about to leave for church.
- The flu invading you or your children just when you don't have time to get sick or be a nurse.
- The telephone constantly ringing for your teenager.
- A fellow employee breaking your train of thought just as you were about to solve a gritty problem at work.
- The toilet overflowing and demanding immediate attention.
- A neighbor stopping by to visit when you have only 15 minutes to complete 30 minutes worth of chores.
God's plan for our good
Delays, diversions, and distractions. Interruptions don't have to be viewed as thieves who "take away," but as divinely ordered construction zones which God can add to our lives. If you're like me, however, you want a bypass, a paved freeway with no stoplights or traffic jams. I want a map that takes me around the construction zone.
But guess where God wants me to go? Through a chuck-hole infested, gravel-covered construction zone—exclusively designed by God for my character construction.
Over the past few years I've been interrupted enough that I've developed some convictions about interruptions:
1. God isn't looking at the clock, but at my character.
God is not so concerned about how these interruptions affect my schedule, even if it is full of "doing His work." He wants His will for my life, not my work for Him.
2. He has liberally used interruptions to chip away at arrogance in my life.
I can tell I've got a problem with self-importance when I'm confronted with an unscheduled problem and I think, I don't need this! I shouldn't have to put up with this—not now! Isn't it easy to arrogantly assume that we are above it all?
3. Interruptions remind me I am not in control of my life.
Someone else is ordering my steps.
4. A life without interruptions would become too predictable—even downright boring.
God could have made it that way, of course. Only people who are dead have no interruptions. What if everything was 100 percent predictable? C.S. Lewis understood how to view interruptions and how they were a part of the real life God has for us:
"What we must do is to stop regarding unpleasant or unexpected things as interruptions of real life. The truth is that interruptions are real life, the real life that God sends us day by day. What we call our real life is but a phantom of our imagination."
The right response
If we can't eliminate interruptions, then what can you and I do?
Whether trivial or monumental, when our path is bent by these course-altering circumstances you and I have the responsibility to respond rightly—as God would have us respond. The Scripture teaches us how to handle God's construction zones for our lives: "Give thanks in all things, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
By giving thanks in all things we affirm God's rightful place—that of Sovereign God, the One Who orders our steps, the One Who knows the beginning and the end, and all that's sandwiched in between. "Giving thanks in all things" says to God, "You know what You're doing and I trust You."
When you give thanks in all things it helps you see interruptions through God's eyes. As Romans 8:28 reminds us, "All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose."
Giving thanks is difficult enough for me—it's the "all things" that makes it challenging. But a some time ago my wife, Barbara, taught me a lesson in "giving thanks in all things" that I'll never forget.
Three times since 1977 Barbara's routine has been interrupted by an extremely rapid heartbeat caused by a congenital heart defect. At 250 beats a minute (four beats a second), her heart was just fluttering—an interruption of monumental proportions.
Barbara was at home working in the kitchen when it began, and in an instant God got her attention. When her phone call came through two minutes later. He had my attention as well. God is sovereign, I thought, as I hurried home, stomping on the accelerator. He knows what He's doing. Barbara and I had experienced this interruption before, but lessons in trust (when they involve your most valued friend) are still gritty and take time to process.
Arriving home, I found Barbara sprawled in a chair, ashen, cold, and clammy (because of the low blood pressure which accompanies a heart rate of that magnitude). Moments later, as we were on our way to the emergency room, Barbara confided, weakly, "I think I'm growing. My first response when my heart took off beating was to pray and give thanks to the Lord." She admitted she hadn't done that before.
Even though I was very concerned for Barbara's immediate health problem, I was extremely proud of her response. It takes real faith and trust to give thanks in a situation that is beyond your control.
It was a dangerous interruption. And Barbara didn't know what the outcome would be, but she still gave thanks. Humanly speaking, it seems silly, doesn't it? But not if you take God at His word—"Give thanks in all things." God is at work in the details of our lives.
Ninety minutes later doctors slowed Barbara's heart to a normal rate by "re-timing" it with an electric shock. A few hours later she walked out of the hospital with me, shaken but grateful to God for the privilege of life.
Right now I have no idea what you are facing. It may be a critical interruption like Barbara's or a 2-year-old that woke up early from a nap and interrupted your reading of this article. Regardless, I've got a question for you:
Have you given thanks in all things?
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