Years ago, a farmer hired a young man who had some disabilities. He was capable, however, of driving a tractor and was given the task of cultivating a field. The job was a full day’s work, so the farmer’s wife made him some lunch and put it in a lunch bucket. The farmer instructed the young man to set the bucket in a certain spot in the field, and when he reached that spot, he would know that it was time to eat his lunch. He also cautioned the hired hand to be careful not to “run over the bucket.”
Later, the young man came in, tears streaming down his face, to confess, “I tried so hard NOT to run over that bucket that I did.”
I relate to that. Some days are so full, and many tasks are difficult to prioritize. The essentials need my full concentration, but the less important issues often crowd my mind, and I find it difficult to do what I want to do, and difficult to avoid making the mistakes that usually accompany lack of concentration.
As a Christian, I know that God is able to enlarge our capacities and enhance our skills. This one of concentration is no exception. But before I share what could sound like a pat answer, I realize from first-hand experience, that learning how to concentrate on the right things, without neglecting other important “interruptions,” does not come easy. The human mind is generally like water, taking the course of least resistance, and mine seems to be more human than most. Concentration on the task of the moment, yet being alert to whatever else may need attention, is for me a difficult challenge, one that has required the power of the Lord.
Putting myself in the position of the farm hand, I would have found it easier had the farmer told me, “You just keep working, and when it is time to eat lunch, I will come out and tell you.” That describes one of the characteristics of faith; reliance upon someone else, and faith is the answer to hectic schedules, and the inability to concentrate.
Because faith is not a magical ingredient that works all by itself, the object of faith, or the “something” that is “believed in” becomes vital to success. The young man, had he relied on the farmer to tell him when to stop for lunch, would be placing his faith in the farmer. His success would then depend upon the reliability of the farmer. When I am faced with a busy schedule, and the confusion of too much to do, I also need to rely on someone reliable, someone who can and will give me the wisdom to know when to “wait a minute, you need to stop that, and start this.”
The Christ who gives eternal life also promised abundant life, life that is full, rich, and not disorganized and confused. He wants to help us so that we do not “run over the lunch bucket” or become disoriented by too much to think about. He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest unto your souls . . . ” (Matthew 11) and “Don’t be anxious about anything . . . ” He desires that inner tranquility for His people. He also offers the means by which it can be ours, by coming to live in our hearts, and from that inner dwelling place, He can keep His promise . . . “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8) “For This God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death.” (Psalm 48:14)
The promises of the Lord are for those who will be guided. He says “I am the LORD thy God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” (Isaiah 48:17,18)
When life becomes horribly complex, how much is gained by stopping to receive His guidance, and by trusting Him to bring order out of chaos. The peace of mind that He gives is beyond comprehension, yet enables fuller concentration, and the ability to keep calm, even in the busiest of days.