Photo by Holger Ellgaard. Used by permission.
I was at an antique shop over the summer with my wife and 10-year-old boy. As we walked around looking at the items for sale, my son spotted an old rotary phone for sale.
“Wow!” he gasped. “Is this a telephone? How does it work? Can I call Mamaw?” I showed him how it worked (dialing the phone, by the way, was far too laborious a task to him). It seemed to boggle his mind that this ancient piece of equipment was ever useful. You can’t text, or stream music, or play Madden Football on it. You can’t give voice commands so it will automatically call anyone. It doesn’t even store a contacts list.
This must be the original phone Moses used.
I tried to explain to him that rotary phones were a mainline of communication when I was younger. We didn’t have the internet. There were no texts, no Snapchat, no messaging (unless they had an answering machine – an expensive luxury back then). The disconnect between my child’s understanding of our ability to communicate with such primitive equipment and the way cell phones, tablets, laptops et al work was so great that I didn’t bother explaining party lines.
He walked away a bit bemused, looking for some other old treasure to entertain him.
As I reflect on this episode at the antique store, I think about the times when I feel disconnected from God. Generally when I’m feeling distant from the Lord, it’s a warning sign that I’ve wandered too deeply into the abyss of this life. Maybe it’s a time of stress – over work, or family, or health, or finances, or whatever – and I’ve forgotten Who’s in control and sovereign over all.
Maybe I’m finding myself too caught up in trying to improve my lot in life and forgotten Who’s important.
When I’m wrapped up too tightly in earthly distractions – whether these distractions are “good” things or “bad” – I find I tend to approach the Lord like my son approached the rotary phone.
I walk away a bit bemused, looking for some other old treasure to entertain me.
The problem with the distractions of this life is that they bore holes in our souls. If we’re not connected to Jesus, we’re going to seek out something else to fill those holes. When we’re anxious, we seek calm. When we’re ill, we seek healing. Conversely, when things are going good, we tend to seek more of the goods that make us feel good.
We will always have plenty of opportunities to take our eyes off God. And a wide variety as well! But James gives us the remedy to our malaise.
First, he identifies our problem:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? – James 4:1-5 (ESV)
Then he provides the solution:
6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. – James 4:6-10 (ESV)
Humility. Submission to God. Drawing near to God – seeking Him first and foremost instead of drawing ourselves inward – so that He will then draw near to us. That is the key to reestablishing a connection to God.
When I find myself in a season where I’m struggling with the Lord, the first place I look is my prayer life. First, am I spending time every day in prayer? Second, where are my prayers focused? Is my time with God spent spewing a litany of personal wants, or am I truly seeking Him, focusing on Him, praising Him in faith knowing He is with me always? I’m not suggesting we don’t pray to the Lord for our needs. We’re told to go to Him! But we need to do so with our focus on God, casting our burdens on Him, holding fast to His Word and His Love and Grace and Faithfulness.
The simple fact of the matter is that God Himself is our One True Treasure. Nothing on this earth can compare to knowing our Heavenly Father and staying connected with Him.
If you’re feeling disconnect from the Lord, reconnect. Get into His Work. Lay aside the stuff of this world and seek Him first. Make Jesus a priority. And you will find God drawing nearer to you as you earnestly seek Him and follow His Way.