January 22, 2016

Challenged to focus . . .

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:22)

Is it attention deficit that makes my mind wander? Or is it human sinfulness that makes it so hard to focus on God? Chambers uses a version of the Bible that translates this verse, “Look unto Me, and be ye saved.” He talks about concentration of mind, but the ESV and my Hebrew helpers say this is about turning to God, as in changing direction or orientation. I might be splitting hairs, but I think there is a difference between turning and looking.

In the grocery store, I can look at a great many things, even focus on them, but keep going down the aisle for the next item on my list. Just because I look at a chocolate cake does not mean I’m going to buy it and enjoy it. But if I walk by it, then turn around from the direction I was going and turn to that cake, there is a great deal more attention being given than merely looking.

However, this verse was written in Hebrew, not English. It is not fair to the original language to put a contemporary spin on it. So I dug a little deeper and found that this word can be translated “look” also. That means a good student of the Bible must consider the context and other passages before making any conclusions. In doing that, I realize just looking to God could be enough for salvation, whether spiritual or physical (in this case, it could be both), but true saving faith requires repentance. That means turning to God from sin.

Gazing at God is a problem for those of us who are easily distracted. Chambers says most of us look at God when in trouble, but otherwise our minds stray in all directions. I know that my mind is elsewhere no matter what is going on, problems or blessings. Praying out loud helps. Praying out loud and walking at the same time is even better. But most of the time, narrowing all my interests until my mind and heart is concentrated on Jesus Christ seems impossible.

Chambers says “the very thing we look for, we shall find if we will concentrate on Him” and “the difficulties and trials, the casting about in our minds” all vanish when we look to God. Isaiah says the same thing:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

This one thing I know: if my concentration is unstable, it usually indicates lack of trust, but when I’m thinking of the sovereign power of God, His love and His wisdom, then focus is easier. He gives me a sense of being perfectly safe in His care.

The ability to turn, to focus, to keep my mind stayed on God in trust is being tested this week. Events seem a bit surreal. Bob had a bad night, didn’t sleep, fever up, pulse racing. It was the same during the day. He is a bit muddled at times and forgets to tell his caregivers some of his symptoms. The doctor cannot figure out why he is not making much progress. This afternoon, the lab took lots of blood during a temperature spike so they could do blood cultures, hopefully to figure out what is causing his fever. He isn’t enjoying “looking at a clock” all day, so I had the TV hooked up. It might help him have something to think about other than the stress of not knowing what is happening. Because of isolation and rules about passing on infections, hugging is discouraged. Sigh. Maybe that’s why I cannot concentrate!

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