Finding Joy and Peace by Paying Attention to God

If we do not properly focus on the good things God is doing in our lives, we will miss out on the beautiful, abundant life He has planned for us. God is constantly moving in our lives, but if we only look at life’s negative elements or misattribute the good things that occur to chance, we will fail to grasp this important truth. This will in turn cause us to misunderstand ourselves and our purpose, and then rob us of the peace and contentment we were created for.

The other day I saw a video claiming to be an awareness test. There two teams of four, one dressed in white and the other in black. Each team had a ball and the viewer is told to count how many times the white team passes their ball. I correctly counted 13. I thought that I did pretty well, but then they tossed in a curve ball. The video asked if I had seen the moonwalking monkey. I had not, and it was surprising when video was replayed. Lo and behold – a person in a monkey suit randomly walks on screen, dances, then moonwalks out.

I was skeptical, so I re-watched the first part of the video. I truly thought they simply tricked me by adding the monkey. I was wrong. The monkey was there the first time! I could not believe I missed it. However, I did catch the lesson.

Sometimes when you only focus on a particular part of a video, movie, or certain aspects of your life, you miss out on other things. I can’t help but reflect on my own life. What am I focusing on? What am I missing? I only have so much attention, right?

All of this makes me think of the Israelites at the Red Sea looking out at the Dead End trapping them from fleeing the Egyptian Army. They must have been terrified. An estimated 2 million people stood on the banks of the sea, staring Moses down, furious with him for getting them into this mess.

Moses stared right back and told the 2 million people, “The Lord will fight for you, you only need to be still”. This is the same person who, when surprised by God at the burning bush and given the call to go release the Israelites from the Egyptian bondage, responded very insecurely with, “maybe you should send someone else”. He had no confidence then, so what happened between the bush and the sea?

God happened. God called Moses, then He made Moses ready for what He was meant to do. Moses was transformed. Why? Because he paid attention to God.

Now, I am sure Moses prayed and conversed with God more than the Bible shares with us. The Bible only contains what is necessary for our salvation to know. But regardless, Moses saw God show up for him and the Israelites in big ways. It did get hard at times due to the obstinate heart of Pharaoh, but God still always showed up.

The Israelite people were enslaved for 400 years. Throughout this time, they cried out to God to help them. Moses showed up to give them hope. The Passover generation followed the commands of the Lord throughout the ten plagues, and in one night, everything changed.

It seemed desperate. After the first few plagues, the slaves were told to make more bricks with less materials. Pharaoh did not let them go even after the plagues and though they thought for sure the three days of darkness was going to be the final straw.

Hope was scarce. However, in one night everything changed. When it was darkest before the dawn, the Israelites were not only allowed to leave Egypt, they were thrown out. They were even given animals and possessions before they left.

Moses paid attention. He knew that God did provide all of this for the Israelites to get squashed at the shores of the Red Sea. But what were the Israelites paying attention to? Why were they missing the biggest part of their story?

The Hebrew people forgetting the mighty works of God is actually a theme throughout their time in the desert. They grumble often, even complaining that it would’ve been better for them as slaves than for them to be free in the desert.

It is easy to judge them for this. I know I too am guilty of forgetting God’s mighty works. I too guilty of not paying attention often, especially to anything for the first 21 years of my life. I personally can’t come down too hard on the Israelites, but I can learn from their mistakes.

God works in patterns. He repeats Himself in our lives and in human history. I can point to several instances in my life where I should have died. It was this pattern of God miraculously saving me that led me from having an atheistic worldview to accepting and believing in a higher power.

Furthermore, I have had experiences where God has made a promise to me in a specific way, and then has made me wait long periods of time until he delivers on that promise. The process of formation and transformation that unfolds during that period of waiting has always been life given and incredible. While it is happening it feels difficult, but I thank God for it each time after God delivers His promise to me.

In Scripture, it is very easy to see the patterns of God working for His people. In particular, the pattern of saving His people is found in almost every book of the Bible

We learn so much if we pay attention to God’s patterns. We learn how He works with humans as a whole and how he works with us specifically. We can better understand this when we focus on Him throughout our days. This will do more than let us learn about Him, paying attention to God will fill us up completely, leading us to joy and peace.

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