My children are experts at distractions. It’s easy to tell when their minds are wandering. Spelling words become doodles. Piano scale practice sounds like banging. I have to tap their shoulder before they hear me.
Distractions are unavoidable in life, no matter what age you are. There is always something to pull our focus from what we are trying to do to something else. Even the most disciplined person can be found staring into the distance, daydreaming about something.
Bible reading and study have many benefits which most of us know and want. However, life brings so many distractions that pull us from doing what we know we should. We realize we’ve been sitting with our Bible open for an hour, but we’ve only read a few verses. Someone needs something, and we set our Bible aside while we run to fix breakfast, only to realize hours later that we never returned. Our phone buzzes with a notification, and we instinctively look down and answer.
I am not promising in this article that you can eliminate all distractions during your Bible reading time. But hopefully, by pointing out some of them and offering suggestions, this will help you navigate and find ways to keep your focus on the page!
Anyone who knows children knows they can be great distractions from anything you are trying to get done. They pull the focus from whatever task we have in front of us and put the spotlight on themselves. So how can we navigate reading our Bible daily when we are in the baby/toddler stages?
One idea that helped me was to have a ‘Bible basket’ in the area where I read my Bible. While I was doing my devotions, my kids had Bible coloring books, storybooks, and activities that were only pulled out at that time. It made the time special for them and gave them something to do right at my feet.
I am not an early riser, but I know many moms who wake up well before their children and enjoy quiet time in actual quiet. I have also used naptime for my Bible reading. Now that my children are older, I often get them fed and set up with a game or activity, then make myself lunch and eat while I read my Bible.
Our world and schedules can be a distraction in many ways, but I frequently feel it making me too tired for other things. When I attempted to wake up early for Bible reading, I usually found myself falling asleep in my chair, waking up when my Bible crashed from my lap to the floor. With all the screen time we have, tired eyes sometimes make it hard to focus on a page, even if we don’t physically feel tired.
I am a visual learner so reading something helps me understand and remember much better than just listening. But I have benefitted from listening to the Bible on audio while reading it at the same time. I’ve also read out loud to myself. This helps keep me focused and awake because I have to concentrate on the words more than just silently skimming the page.
I am also an avid notetaker. I highlight, underline, circle, and jot down notes in my Bible’s margins and in a notebook. I have a color code and symbol system that I use in my Bible to help me recognize keywords and themes through a book. This again helps me keep focused on what I’m reading.
The biggest help to me to avoid falling asleep over my Bible is to read it when I’m not as tired. God’s Word is beneficial whether you read it at 5 am or noon. The key is to read it! Since I homeschool our kids, I usually find myself doing my devotions after everyone has eaten lunch and gone their separate ways to play. I can sit with an afternoon coffee or hot tea and read and study without many interruptions. And as a non-morning person, I’m more focused and awake.
Sometimes when I’m still, my mind starts to wander to all the what-ifs of life. I begin to worry or dwell on problems in my life. There’s something about the mind not being occupied that seems to breed negative thoughts. Things I didn’t realize were bothering me suddenly won’t leave my head. It can be difficult to focus on Bible reading when our brain space is filled with other things.
When I sit down to read my Bible, I first close my eyes and pray. I ask God to help me read with an open heart for what he wants me to learn, to draw closer to him, and to learn more about him through my Bible time. I also pray about whatever distractions are pulling me away. If it’s been a hard day with the kids, I’m discouraged about a relationship, events in the country, or world that are disturbing me; I bring it all before God and lay it at his feet. This simple act of recognizing that God alone is in control helps calm my heart and allows me to soak up the truth of God’s Word.
In addition to prayer, if you thrive on list-making, it might help to write out everything that’s troubling you physically. Some call this a brain dump, where you get everything you’re trying to remember out of your head and on paper. This can be extremely helpful. I know some people who do this right before bed to help them fall asleep easier. If you love writing lists and destroying completed lists, this is a great option!
Do I even need to say more? While technology has done incredible things and helped in many ways, the truth of living in a connected world is that we’re always connected! We’re always reachable unless we make the decision to put that device away. Before, if we went on vacation, we were away! No one could call! We didn’t have messages or emails to keep track of! Now even away from our homes and offices, we are available. We can see every message and communication that comes through. And we feel the need to grab that phone and answer!
The biggest thing that has helped me in this area is to keep my phone across the room or in another room while I read the Bible. There’s a pull to snap a picture of our Bible open for social media, to look up that one thing that suddenly jumps in our mind, to text someone that question we keep forgetting. But those all quickly lead down rabbit trails. Then, there are the notifications dinging away, pulling our focus to glance at what email came through or who texted. All of that can wait. When we read the Bible, we are learning from the Creator of the universe. The God who gave us everything. Surely that deserves time uninterrupted by a phone call.
If you use your phone for Bible reading, you obviously can’t leave it across the room and still read from it. In that case, I would suggest turning your phone notifications off while you read. This will give you the freedom to use your phone without being distracted by every ding and vibration while you study.
Distractions will unfortunately always be part of life. We can’t completely eliminate or escape them. However, by planning ahead and making a conscious effort, we can navigate around the distractions that pull us from God’s Word. Our devotional time can be more productive and helpful.
Angela Jeffcott is a pastor’s wife serving alongside her husband in northern Utah. She makes time to write between homeschooling her children, reading books, and googling craft ideas. She blogs every Wednesday on topics from homeschooling to Christian life to Bible study at angelajeffcott.com.