When Interruptions ARE the Ministry

I hate interruptions.

One reason I dislike them so much is that I try, first thing in the morning, to give God my day. So then whatever plans I make under His leadership must be what He wants me to do. And anyone and anything that disrupts those plans must not be of God, right?

One former Sunday School teacher said that whenever his phone rang during family devotions, he was tempted to answer the phone saying, “Do you know you’re being used of the devil right now?”

I understand the frustration. But then I noticed Jesus didn’t react that way when people interrupted His time alone with His Father. The more I read the gospels, the more I saw that Jesus’s earthly life was full interruptions. But He never acted flustered or put out.

One of the most significant incidents that changed my view of interruptions was when Jesus went with Jairus to heal his daughter. A woman with an issue of blood touched Jesus’s clothes, hoping for healing. Immediately, Jesus, “perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him,” asked who touched Him. The Bible doesn’t say whether Jairus was patiently waiting or upset and fidgeting. While talking with this woman, a messenger came and informed Jairus that his daughter had died. But Jesus told him, “Do not fear, only believe.” And He went on and healed the girl.

That taught me that even if interruptions come, they are not a hindrance to God’s plans or abilities. Interruptions are often an avenue of service.

Take the story of the Good Samaritan. A man was beaten, robbed, and left for dead. Two whose jobs were ministerial passed him by, lest he hinder their calling. The Samaritans were at that time enemies to the Jews, yet one of them stopped and took care of this man. The Samaritan became the prime example of loving one’s neighbor.

Interruptions abound not only in Jesus’s life ministry, and teaching, but all through the Bible. When Abraham saw three visitors passing by his tent, he called them in to eat. That wasn’t just a matter of calling for pizza delivery or slapping sandwiches together. He asked his wife to make cakes (possibly bread) from scratch and one of his hired hands to prepare a calf. Even though the young man “prepared it quickly,” it had to have taken some time to kill and skin the calf and then cut meat and cook it.

Some Biblical interruptions, I noted, were from God Himself: Noah’s call to build and ark, Moses’s call to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Lot’s call to leave Sodom, Gideon’s call to save Israel from the Midianites, Mary’s call to birth the Messiah, Paul’s call on the road to Damascus, just to name a very few.

Though those incidents interrupted what each person was doing, they were of God. As C. S. Lewis said, “The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day by day” (from a 1943 letter from C.S. Lewis in Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C.S. Lewis). Claudia Barba put it similarly in her “Monday Morning Club” newsletter:

Are you annoyed this morning by the wrench some monkey has thrown into your careful plan for today? Relax and remember: interruptions aren’t hindrances to ministry. They are ministry.

So not only is God sovereign over all the interruptions of our day, sometimes He orchestrates them to call us out of what we’re doing into what He wants us to do.

But doesn’t Satan interrupt sometimes? Yes, he interrupted Eve in Eden, Jesus in the wilderness, Paul while he was witnessing to Sergius Paulus. The “strange woman” from Proverbs tries to interrupt people to sin. How do we know if an interruption is from God or Satan? Well, in these cases it was obvious by what the interrupter said or wanted. It’s vital that we know the Word of God so we can correctly discern between good and evil. Then we need to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11).

But sometimes it’s hard to discern whether an interruption is a call from God for service or a distraction from God’s will. Missionary Isobel Kuhn, when she was trying to discern if an obstacle was from God or Satan, used to pray: “If this obstacle is from Thee, Lord, I accept it; but if it is from Satan, I refuse him and all his works in the name of Calvary.” Jesus taught how to resist Satan: with the Word of God. If God allows temptation to come into our lives, He’ll provide a way of escape.

Satan’s catastrophic interruptions in Job’s life were allowed to by God. If God allows fiery trials, He’ll give grace to endure them.

On the other hand, Jesus did not view every interruption as a call to service. During one of those interruptions of His prayer time, Peter told Him, “Everyone is looking for you.” Jesus has spent the previous evening, as well as previous days before, healing people and casting out demons. Evidently people wanted Him to do more of the same. But instead of saying, “I’ll be right there,” He said, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (Mark 1:29-39). Though healing was a major part of His ministry, His prime mission until the cross was to preach and teach. And he was called to go to various places, not stay in one town.

It’s not wrong to seek to avoid interruptions. Jesus often went out alone late at night or early in the morning to pray. When He was interrupted anyway, He handled it graciously. He called the disciples to come apart and rest. As it turned out, the crowds followed them and they didn’t get to rest. Finally, when it grew late, the disciples asked Jesus to send the crowds away to get something to eat. But He didn’t answer, “That’s a great idea: finally we can rest.” No, He said, “You give them something to eat.” What? They were depleted and weary. They had just a small bit of food. But Jesus told them to share that, and He blessed and multiplied it to be enough for 5,000+ people, with twelve baskets leftover.

I still don’t like interruptions. But I’m learning that dislike is usually due to my own selfishness and desire for control. I’m seeking God for help to respond graciously and His discernment to know what interruptions are from Him. And when I feel I don’t have any more to give, I’ll seek His provision and blessing, which abundantly cover the needs of the day.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Kingdom Bloggers, Tell His Story,
Tea and Word Tuesday, Purposeful Faith, Let’s Have Coffee,
Worth Beyond Rubies, Recharge Wednesday, Anchored Abode,
Share a Link Wednesday, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire.
Linking does not imply 100% agreement)

38 thoughts on “When Interruptions ARE the Ministry

  1. Isn’t it amazing how we can look at the model of Jesus life and see that almost every miracle, every teaching moment, every well-known Bible story stemmed from what appears to be an interruption?!

    • It really was a amazing when I read the gospels with an eye for interruptions. I still can’t say I welcome interruptions with open arms, but I’m trying to learn to see God’s hand in them.

  2. Grinning, because I have such an uneasy relationship with “interruptions” –most of which ARE my real life (as C.S. Lewis so beautifully pointed out), and if I didn’t have those “annoying” things to tend to, I’d have absolutely nothing to write about!

  3. God has used interruptions in my carefully laid plans to give me some of the most meaningful moments of my life. When interruptions are His instrument, it gives me an opportunity to set aside my agenda and selflessly love and serve someone else. God’s interruptions build relationships.

    Thank you for this thoughtful, encouraging post. I love how much you’ve referenced interruptions straight from Scripture!

    One last thing: God used the following quote early on in my motherhood to change my perspective about interruptions. It transformed how I parented and how I responded to other unexpected situations: “I think I find most help in trying to look on all the interruptions and hindrances to work that one has planned out for oneself as discipline, trials sent by God to help one against getting selfish over one’s work. Then one can feel that perhaps one’s true work – one’s work for God – consists in doing some trifling haphazard thing that has been thrown into one’s day. It is not a waste of time, as one is tempted to think, it is the most important part of the work of the day – the part one can best offer to God. After such a hindrance, do not rush after the planned work; trust that the time to finish it will be given sometime, and keep a quiet heart about it.” (Annie Keary)

    • Thanks so much for sharing that great quote, Jane. It’s so true. If whatever I was working on was interrupted, if it’s important and something God wants me to do, He’ll provide the way to get back to it.

  4. What a good perspective on how to think about interruptions! I dislike them too; I think, being an introvert, I enjoy my own mental processes and solitude so much that most any interruption annoys me. I’m going to try to be conscious of God being at work in the interruptions I face this week —

    • I can identify with the introvert aspect, too. When that processing time and treasured solitude gets interrupted, I can trust that He knows my needs in that area and will provide for them. I still don’t “feel” welcoming toward interruptions, but I am trying to see them as God’s appointments.

  5. I appreciate your post. I think most of us don’t like interruptions; my daily prayer is show me your ways oh Lord, teach me your paths. Perhaps many times these interruptions are His way of teaching me a life lesson that I need. I’m also reminded to give thanks in all things.

  6. Because I like to plan I’m not always happy with being interrupted but this is a great reminder that sometimes these interruptions do come from God and we need to be willing to lay down our plans. The story of the woman touching Jesus’ robe is one of my favourites so this is the perfect example.

  7. “Interruptions are often an avenue of service.” Oh, that I would remember this and trust God to guide my day even with the interruptions. Blessings to you!

  8. “Interruptions are often an avenue of service.” Praying for the eyes of my heart to be opened to see each opportunity and to surrender my plans to Him. Blessings!

  9. Barbara,
    Excellent post!! I hate interruptions as much as the next person and I chuckled about answering the phone in the way you mentioned lol. Great reminders on how to discern if an interruption is of God or the enemy. Sadly, most of my displeasure with interruptions is because it interrupts my selfish will and agenda. Joining with you in wanting to be available if God wants to pull me aside to serve Him.
    Bev xx

  10. I totally get where you coming from with this post, Barbara! I don’t like interruptions. I usually have a plan and I intend on sticking to it. But yes, often the interruption IS the ministry, and if I value my plan over God’s plan, I’ll miss out on the blessing involved. Thanks for sharing this so beautifully.

    • Thanks so much, Lisa. So often I think my plans are God’s plans for me, since I asked His guidance. But His guidance often comes through unexpected opportunities rather than my to-do list.

  11. Wow, I needed this! I definitely have a difficult time with interruptions. Thanks so much for sharing this.Jesus is always a perfect example for us. I am going to go back and reread some of the stories you shared from the Bible. Great post!

  12. I needed to read this! It’s so easy for me to get frustrated with interruptions–it’s good to know that they can be good things and how Jesus handled them. All too often, I react with impatience :/

  13. Excellent post! In our ministry, I have lived the life of interruptions, but it’s rarely addressed, yet a major part of life. I loved the multiple scripture references so people truly know all interruptions don’t come from satan. However, I had to start setting more boundaries for myself and listen a little closer to the y Spirit to ensure it was His will. So glad you shared this.

  14. Yes!! I don’t always handle interruptions well, this post gave some great insight and things for me to really hold on to and take note of the next time an interruption comes my way, which is sooo often. #graceandtruth linkup

  15. This post hit home with me, Barbara. It reminded me of this quote I have been thinking about lately: “When you realize the setback is the path, the game changes.” – Mastin Kipp

  16. This is so good, Barbara! I especially love the quote you shared by C.S. Lewis. And this: “Not only is God sovereign over all the interruptions of our day, sometimes He orchestrates them to call us out of what we’re doing into what He wants us to do.” I guess that’s why we need to hold our plans loosely and be flexible enough to go with the flow when something unexpected comes up!

  17. That CS Lewis quote. I’m goal-oriented, but enough years dealing with diverted, thwarted, detoured goals (particularly at work) have helped me to go with the flow more. But that quote is such a good reminder to be looking toward God for His leading and not at my own goals.

    Terrific post. Thank you!

  18. This is one of my biggest struggles. I don’t like interruptions, and I never handle them well. I’m working on it.

  19. Pingback: End-of-August Musings | Stray Thoughts

  20. Pingback: When God Changes Your Plans | Stray Thoughts

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