We Must Remove Distractions to Hear What the Holy Spirit Says
I recently listened to a talk on the topic of noise. It was the opening message to a sermon series. The teaching provided many thought-provoking ideas to consider. It also supplied me with a springboard to examine my own contemplation about noise—specifically the noise around me. It triggered the realization that we need to reduce the noise pollution in our life to better hear God.
When we think of noise, we typically consider it from an auditory perspective, as in a tangible noise that assaults our eardrums. But noise occurs in other areas as well. There is visual noise, mental noise, and emotional noise. Yes, even spiritual noise.
Anything that distracts us from what is most important in our life is noise. Noise has a negative impact on our emotional state, our overall health, and our mental capacity. This is in addition to the noise pollution in our physical environment.
All sources of noise, in all forms, serve as a distraction and make it more difficult to hear God when he speaks.
Noise All Around Us
Life bombards us with noise.
Though we each live in different environments, with varying degrees of noise from diverse sources, life blasts us with noise.
In addition to the sounds from our environment, all too often we bombard ourselves with additional racket. We may do some of this without thinking, but other times it’s intentional.
Many of us also try to force our minds to multitask, even though real multitasking is an illusion. True, we can have one conscious focus, along with one subconscious input. But we can’t truly focus on two things at once.
At best we merely train our minds to quickly switch back and forth between the two. This, however, doesn’t produce optimum results. It’s exhausting. Some say attempting to multitask even damages our brains.
With all this noise pollution around us, how can we expect to hear God when he speaks? He may be talking, but are we in a position to hear?
Too often, the answer is no.
Reduce the Noise
For some time, I’ve been working to reduce the noise—the distractions—in my life. This has served to produce a saner, happier, and less stressful existence. It has improved my mental health and provided more opportunities to hear from God.
Here are some areas I’ve tackled.
One item I’ve addressed is the news. As I told friends on my email list, I’ve stopped listening to the news. It’s negative, biased, and has an adverse effect on my mental health and overall well-being. I’ve now gone over one year without listening to the news on TV or radio. I do subscribe, however, to one weekly newspaper so that I’m not totally unaware of what’s going on, but when it comes to news, that’s it—along with whatever my family may tell me about.
Another area is social media. The noise there is intentional and can serve as a huge time drain. Yes, I still have a presence on social media, but I don’t go there often. I seldom go to a few platforms, and I visit most others only once a week for a brief check in.
Facebook is one place I go to each weekday, but it’s only once a day. I review messages in the handful of Facebook groups I’m in and see updates from family. It’s intentional and brief. I schedule this Monday through Friday. It’s a task to complete, which I try to do in as short a time as possible.
I’ve seen too many people who were slaves to their phones, granting it their attention at every idle moment and having it inundate them with an array of alerts.
My smart phone is for my convenience, so I place severe limits on it. I don’t have any social media apps on it, and I’ve not connected it to my email. There is no email message that needs my immediate attention.
Few people have my number and—unless I expect a call from someone—I never answer numbers I don’t recognize.
I use technology for my work, with my computer being central. Just as with my cell phone, I’ve turned off every alert except for reminders tied to my calendar.
I also pursue a zero-inbox strategy with my email. Else there’s a pile of pending messages to add more noise to my life—emotional noise, not physical. In parallel fashion, I’m pushing to have only one tab open in my browser. It’s a work in progress.
Noise Reduction Goals
I’ve made much improvement in my effort to reduce the noise in my life—the distractions that bombard me every second of every day—so that I can better hear from God. But I have more work to do.
Here’s my current list.
I’m a podcasts junkie and subscribe to over two dozen informative programs. Some are faith related, others are about writing and publishing, and a few benefit my business. I try to listen to them only when I’m doing some subconscious activity, but in the push to listen to them all—even at 2x, twice the normal speed—I sometimes find myself listening to recordings when I should just turn it off and listen to God.
’m not talking about the computer operating system but the number of application windows open at any one time in my computer. Right now, I have seven open. That’s too many. Each one serves as a distraction, a source of mental noise. Each window I close is one more step to reduce the noise in my life.
When I first got my phone, I pledged I would never pull it out in the presence of someone else. Even if it rang during a meeting, I would ignore it. The person in my presence should be more important than the person on the phone trying to interrupt us.
Over time my resolve has slipped. It’s true that without email and social media on my phone, I’m not pulling it out for the latest updates during every idle second. But I too often find myself looking something up germane to the conversation I’m having in real life. But, In truth, we need to know every answer to everything that comes our way in that exact second.
Long ago I stopped turning on TV to see what was on or because I lacked the motivation to do something more productive. But even though my TV consumption is now intentional, I still watch too much. This is another area where I need to reduce the noise.
Few TV programs and movies pass Paul’s lofty list of what to think about: whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Instead of seeking out shows that “aren’t too bad,” I’ll be better off applying Paul’s list to the visual entertainment I consume.
Watching videos online can be a huge time suck. That’s why I stay off YouTube as much as possible, otherwise one video leads to a second, which calls for just one more. Before I know it, I’ve lost a half an hour of my time that I can’t recover. Yet when I go online to post a video, there it is, begging me to watch the next intriguing, can’t-miss video. If I can resist watching the first one, I’ll stave off wasting thirty minutes of my time.
I do, however, subscribe to a couple of YouTubers, but I block out time to watch them on television. I go through the list of pending episodes, and then I’m done, without watching anything else.
Less Noise and More Hearing from God
Some may conclude that by removing these many things from my life I’ve made it somehow less interesting, even boring. Let me offer a counter conclusion: less is more.
I take most seriously what my Creator says, “Be still, and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46:10). The less noise I have in my life, the better I’m able to connect with the Almighty. I have much more noise reduction to accomplish, but I’m headed in the right direction and making steady progress.
May we all reduce the noise pollution in our life and allow more time to hear from God.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.