We all know that old adage, “the devil is in the details.” But in our day and age the devil is interested in much more than the details.
You see, the devil is actually in the distraction.
Here are five ways Satan uses distraction as a stumbling block to get in the way of our spiritual progress:
1. Satan Knows How to Use “Squirrels”
Satan takes advantage of the “dog/squirrel” phenomenon as it applies to us and technology. Just when the Spirit is about to teach us something while pondering our Gospel Tools app, we get a text…or a Facebook notification…or a calendar reminder.
Due to the consistent training we have received through “dings,” “bells,” “chimes,” and other cell phone generated sounds, we revert to the Pavlovian dog approach…and take the bait!
There goes that precious bit of wisdom the Spirit was about to impart as we pondered Lehi’s dream. Off we head over to our texts to answer that urgent request for volunteers to bring cookies to the ward activity. Then our brain veers over to another “squirrel” in the form of a pantry inventory (“Ooo…Do I have any chocolate chips left? Didn’t I just use my last stick of butter?”) to a to-do list review (“Okay. Wednesday night bring shovels and rakes for the service project. Make two dozen cookies for afterwards.”) to a quick jaunt over to the calendar app to make a reminder so all of these essential pieces of information can be remembered.
And since we are creating yet another upcoming notification, we are basically forcing ourselves into a cycle of distraction over and over and over…
2. Satan Knows How to Toss Us To and Fro with Facebook
Satan uses social media to distract us. (Duh!)
As an advanced devil named Screwtape mentions to his apprentice, Wormwood, in the famous C.S. Lewis book, “The Screwtape Letters”:
“[Y]ou will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract [a human’s] wandering attention. You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; …You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods.”
Facebook (and other social media) can become a very effective tool for distraction. You see, when it comes to scrolling through our friends’ posts, we are often “tossed about to and fro,” going from article to video to survey without any real purpose. Yes, the Lord can use technology, too, to promote His doctrine. But when we forget to be purposeful, the winds of social media can prevent us from actively seeking spiritual growth due to a desire to be entertained or, even worse, to go down paths of sin and error.
3. Satan Knows How to Get us to Do Good
Satan loves to keep us doing something good or better, so we can avoid doing the thing that’s the best.
It’s simple. He quietly whispers that clean dishes are more important than spending time talking with our teenage daughter. He convinces us to read the three assigned chapters of scripture for our Institute class instead of pondering three key verses for an hour. He tries to influence us to be such a good provider that we become wrapped up in our career at the expense of our family or faith.
Essentially, Satan is constantly cheering on the “Martha” in us (which does have her time and place), causing us to neglect the “Mary.” He often uses seemingly “good” activities to neglect the “best” activity there is in this life—that of developing a personal relationship with the Lord.
4. Satan Knows How to Be Patient
Satan is patient. Sometimes it takes a lot of distractions to get us to commit bigger sins, but he will wait…and wait…and wait…
I mean, just look at the story of David. “Oh, I’ll go outside to get some fresh air,” he thought one night. Then night after night the accidental glimpse of Bathsheba turned into an intentional distraction which turned into a grievous sin.
Quoting again from “The Screwtape Letters” we learn the devil’s true feelings about this tactic:
“It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts…”
5. Satan Knows How to Distract us to Keep us from Realizing We’re Distracted
Okay—read it one more time…
Basically, Satan has a way of presenting a distraction and then waving his hand Jedi-style and saying, “This is not the sin you think it is.”
And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.
2 Nephi 28:22
So here’s the challenge—make a commitment to be on the offensive when it comes to distractions in your life. Your packed schedule, to-do list, hobbies or even calling may seem extremely important. But, lurking in those many obligations or leisure activities is one of the adversary’s spiritual crocodiles—and he is waiting ever so patiently as you pave the road to his dwelling place not with good intentions, but with good distractions.