Focus on the Lord

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” Matthew 6:34

I had negative ideas about what meditation is. It seemed too self-focused for me. I used to think of meditation as emptying the mind, or focusing more on oneself or something like that.  I don’t need to think about me more. I need to think about the Lord more. How is meditation going to help with that?

Well, one day I decided I needed to just breathe and not let my thoughts get the better of me. I sat and focused on my breath and would chant “Thy will be done” over and over, or “Trust the Lord. Trust the Lord.” again and again to try to drown out the thoughts that were pounding on my mind. But it didn’t help much. It didn’t help because I was still trying to control the situation. That’s not trust.

I tried several times with this method. I would start with reading the Word and then “meditate.” Or I would try to meditate for a bit and then read the Word. I didn’t notice a change in how I read the Word or a change in how I felt. I still couldn’t focus, and I still felt overwhelmed. I mentioned to a few friends that I wanted to try meditating and one friend recommended a particular app for meditation, so I decided to give it a try.

It worked.

The entire focus of the app is on letting the thoughts that inevitably enter your mind come and go. Not chasing them down, not beating yourself up for thinking them, but just noticing them. I am so used to beating myself up for unwanted things that come in to my mind that I would often try to fix it by trying to chase the thoughts away, or drown them out. It never worked.

“If man only believed, as is really true, that all good is from the Lord and all evil from hell, he would neither make the good in him a matter of merit nor would evil be imputed to him; for he would then look to the Lord in all the good he thinks and does, and all the evil that flows in would be cast down to hell from which it comes. But because man does not believe that anything flows into him either from heaven or from hell, and therefore supposes that all things that he thinks and wills are in himself and therefore from himself, he appropriates the evil to himself, and the good that flows in he defiles with merit. (Heaven and Hell 302)

All thoughts are from heaven or from hell. We can’t always tell where thoughts are coming from and we can’t stop some random thought entering our head, but we can train our brain how to react to these thoughts and feelings.

In February and March I practiced meditation for over 50 days in a row and witnessed a drastic change in how well I could focus on any given thing. Most importantly I noticed how it changed my reading of the Word.

Reading the Word can be a chore. I feel like I’m slogging through sometimes and I used to beat myself up about not instantly loving the Word. That’s not helpful. Practicing meditation allows me to observe how I feel about reading the Word thinking “Hmm, okay” and then returning to my reading, and it becomes easier to maintain focus on the Word instead of continuing to beat myself up for not focusing.

With a busy spring I wasn’t able to meditate on a daily basis, but the effects lasted, at least for a while. I travelled overseas by myself in April and noticed a big change in how I got through the stress of travelling. I don’t think anyone loves going through airport security. Most people have their nightmare stories of missing connections, or running through the airport hoping you don’t have a breakdown. I know this sounds pretty obvious, but when I got in line for security I just said to myself “Stressing out about this isn’t going to make it any smoother.” and on the way home, when I had to go through a second round of security checks during my layover I just stood in a long line and knew that worrying about it would not help me catch my flight. I don’t think I could have done this before.

It is definitely easier said than done, which is why meditation is a practice. Not something you achieve and are done with. After more than a month of being “too busy to meditate” I noticed my mind slipping back into its old habits of worry. I couldn’t focus on anything and I was worried about how many things I had to do so I did none of them.

There was once an old sailor my grandfather knew
Who had so many things which he wanted to do
That, whenever he thought it was time to begin,
He couldn’t because of the state he was in.
AA Milne

Sound familiar? It’s all too familiar for me. When I started back into my mediation routine I would only give myself 5 minutes and I resented it. That was a waste of 5 minutes that I could have been spending on something else. But interestingly once I moved up to 10 minutes of meditation it became useful again and the days when I don’t start with meditation and reading the Word are less focused and productive days.

Being able to prioritize is just one aspect of meditation, but for me, the most useful thing has been the ability to sit back and just observe my thoughts. Not to chase them out of my head, because then it becomes an anxious game of whack-a-mole, but to just sit with my thoughts and quietly label them. Our thoughts are not our own and when we get stuck in blaming ourselves for thinking them then we fall right into the trap set by the evil spirits: becoming so anxious that you are stuck focusing on that rather than on the Lord. But labeling gives us the perspective to see what thoughts are coming from the Lord and which from hell. Then we aren’t taking ownership for any, but still choosing what to act on.

Many years ago, one of my sisters-in-law was feeling overwhelmed by everything that needed to get done and said “Okay, focus!” and her small son replied, “Mama, we only say focus on the Lord.”

This has stuck with me because he is right. There are so many things to focus on from moment to moment, so many things trying to pull our mind in so many different directions and the only thing that is actually worth focusing on is the Lord. He can pull our minds in to order and give us the perspective we need to continue moving forward. I found meditation to be a tangible tool to help me do this in a way I never have before.

Meditate. Focus on the Lord.

“But seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

About Alison Cole

Alison Cole likes to describe herself as “a freelance useful person”. There are all kinds of people and jobs out there, but she likes the freedom to drop everything when someone is in need and go off on adventures to help out with new babies or anything, especially when it's supporting marriages and family! When Alison is not off nannying, she likes to occupy her time with drawing, painting and writing!

9 thoughts on “Focus on the Lord

  1. Thanks for those thoughts, Allison! I have had some similar experiences, and it helps knowing there are others who understand.

    1. It’s called Headspace. I like it because it’s just a guy talking in a normal voice (with an accent!) but not trying to talk in a relaxing way or anything.

  2. This has reinforced my desire to try get back to meditation! I love that it’s been so powerful for you. Thanks for taking the time to articulate it!

  3. I have tried to meditate to quiet my mind to hear the Lord, but on my own I have been unsuccessful because, like you, I try to hard to push away the thoughts that flow through about what I have to do today, things to remember, or berating myself for not being able to clear my mind.

    However, when I joined a yoga class a few years ago, where meditation techniques were taught, I found myself closer to the Lord than ever before. With guidance, like your app (I’d also love to know which app you use), meditation allowed me to focus on the flow of thoughts rather than pushing and every now and again I could hear the answers to my questions to the Lord. It was amazing and awe inspiring.

    But, I stopped yoga when I got too busy with work to continue. I stopped meditating. I often get overwhelmed. I have found trying to meditate hard on my own, so I’m inspired by your article to find an app that can guide me and start again.

    Thank you!

  4. I needed this. And I might need the app you mentioned too. Thank you so much, as always, for hitting the nail on the head and inspiring me to do a bit better. What you write is so relatable and a joy to read.

    1. Headspace. It’s a free app and has several free sessions, but occasionally asks you to subscribe to the full thing. I have yet to do this, but probably will subscribe for a year to try some of the other things. I really like that it’s not pushy about getting you to subscribe, and doesn’t lock you out of the sample ones. I’ve used the sample ones repeatedly, and I sometimes use the one minute “breathe” session when I’m at a traffic light 🙂

  5. The following list of meditation apps were submitted by a kind reader:

    Headspace (Apple iOS and Android)
    Mindfulness techniques have benefits for mood, attention, and general coping skills for the ups and downs of life. http://www.headspace.com

    Dream On (Apple iOS)
    Monitor your sleep cycle via your level of movement through the night, play a “soundscape” of your choice to try to influence your dreams and be woken during the optimum part of your sleep cycle

    Live Happy (Apple iOS)
    Ideas for boosting optimum happiness using psychology, rather than only psychological ideas, to treat unhappiness.

    Thought Diary Pro (Apple iOS)
    Keep track of your negative thoughts to help you spot unhelpful thinking biases and generate alternatives

    Mindshift (Apple iOS and Android)
    This app is designed for teenagers and young adults who want help with feelings of anxiety. Provides information on what anxiety is and helpful strategies to try to tackle it.

    My Rewards (Apple iOS)
    For parents, help rewarding behaviors you want to increase. Star charts encourage positive behavior by motivating children with stickers or rewards.

    Way of Life (Apple iOS)
    App that harnesses the behavioral principles of reward. Produces helpful motivational graphs to track your progress toward your own goals.

    My Mood Tracker (Apple iOS)
    Keeps track of how we feel to help us notice that sad moods do pass. Can also potentially help us link our mood to things we do, places we go, and people we talk to. Also collects information on sleep patterns and exercise.

    Expereal (Apple iOS)
    Another mood tracker. Helps see how your emotional life “trends” over time.

    3D Brain (Apple iOS, Android)
    3D interactive brain structures with information about function, neurological disorders. Useful for those who are interested in the brain.

    Relax Meditations (Apple iOS, Android)
    Select sounds and melodies that you like and combine them to create a mix. Add a meditation, lay back, listen, and enjoy falling asleep. It’s that simple and it works. Use timers and alarms if needed. Try different and new mixes every time!
    Mindfulness for Children (Apple iOS, Android)
    Mindfulness for Children provides relaxing sounds of nature to help children calm down and improve focus/concentration. With descriptions and terms aimed at children, users are taken through body scans, visualizations and breathing exercises.

    Booster Buddy (Android)
    Manage your personal wellness journey and earn achievements as your sidekick guides you through a series of daily quests designed to establish and sustain positive habits.

    Smiling Mind
    A meditation program working to make mindfulness meditation accessible to all. Developed by psychologists and educators in Australia.

    Stop, Breathe, & Think
    Meditation and Mindfulness app allows you to check in with how you are feeling and recommends short guided meditations, yoga, and acupressure videos.

    Stop, Breathe, & Think Kids (ages 5-10)
    Mindful games app; kids can check in to how they are feeling using emojis and try to recommend mindful missions tuned to those emojis.

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