:ow disheartening it is to feel that we are constantly being side-tracked from the main business of our lives! This frustrates us in our daily round (bureaucracy, household chores, distractions on the internet, unsought obligations) or as we look back with regret at longer periods in our lives when we lost a sense of purpose.
It helps, of course, to identify clearly the purpose that we are being distracted from. The first representatives of humankind had a God-given purpose, working with their Creator in caring for the creation: ‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it..’ (Genesis 2.15)
All that they needed had been provided. What response could there be other than trust, obedience and walking with their Creator? Yet, this was not enough. Despite the abundance of food supplied for them, they reached for what had been set apart, they rebelled against God and the friendship was broken.
Retreats are everywhere: for businesses, churches and individuals, and there is quite a “retreat industry.” There is value in trying to put aside the distractions and making the most of our God-given time, but it can’t be confused with any kind of “self-help,” let alone an escape or anaesthetic, if we are to rediscover God’s purpose. It will involve restoring trust (and this is where fasting comes in), obedience (seeking God’s will in the Scriptures and listening to his voice in prayer) and the restoration of our relationship with the Creator through Christ our Lord. Only then will we be able to realign ourselves with his purposes for us. This is the source of peace, something which no wellness centre can supply.
Getting away from it all – in the wilderness
In the wilderness (which in the Bible is certainly not a retreat centre and is generally a setting for a struggle) Jesus, weakened by hunger, was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4.15). He declares trust in his Father and obedience to his word: “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4.4). His ministry, suffering and death cannot be separated from God’s purposes. Indeed a refusal to walk with God is identified as both rebellion and, ultimately, idolatry.
Purpose and peace
Trust, obedience and a restored relationship with God are themes echoed in the closing lines of James Edmeston’s hymn Lead us, Heavenly Father, Lead Us:
…thus provided, pardoned, guided,
Nothing can our peace destroy.
And thus we can face the distractions.