Technology today seems to demand our constant attention. The modern “miracle” of the internet gives us the amazing capacity to access humanity’s collective learning in the palm of our hand. But for many, such constant access can come at a cost.
Writer Linda Stone has coined the phrase “continual partial attention” to describe the modern impulse to always need to know what’s happening “out there,” to make sure we’re not missing anything. If that sounds like it could produce chronic anxiety, you’re right!
Although the apostle Paul struggled with different reasons for anxiety, he knew our souls are wired to find peace in God. Which is why, in a letter to new believers who’d endured persecution (1 Thessalonians 2:14), Paul concluded by urging the believers to “rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances” (5:16–18).
Praying “continually” might seem pretty daunting. But then, how often do we check our phones? What if we instead let that urge be a prompt to talk to God?
More important, what if we learned to exchange a need to always be in “the know” for continual, prayerful rest in God’s presence? Through relying on Christ’s Spirit, we can learn to give our heavenly Father our continual full attention as we make our way through each day.
Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians is one of his most personal and warm epistles—and that’s not surprising. He personally planted the church at Thessalonica and knew the people there well. Paul’s introduction to this Greek city came during his second missionary journey, between his stops in Philippi and Athens (see Acts 17:1–9). Although he spent a relatively short period in Thessalonica (v. 2), it was a challenging time filled with controversy. An uproar resulted in an attack upon a man named Jason (apparently a new believer), and Paul and Silas being sent away to Berea. Undoubtedly, these shared experiences of hardship bonded their hearts together—explaining perhaps why this letter reveals such a closely held relationship.