It has always been amazing to me how our perspective of a given situation determines, to a large extent, our response to that circumstance. One of the more humorous examples I could give to prove my point is simply to watch any crowd at any high school basketball game.
It is incredible how one minute a referee can be your best friend and the very next moment be your worst enemy. There is a reason why we are called “fans” – just watch us for a few minutes and you will realize that we are fanatical in regard to our allegiance to our teams. This proves my point. How can two sets of well-intentioned, otherwise rational people, watch the exact same situation develop and have two completely different responses to what has happened? Perspective!
Perspective, according to merriam-webster.com, is “the capacity to view things in their true relations.” In other words, the right perspective is the one that gets us closest to the truth! And that, my friends, is why we have referees. In theory, they do not have a stake in the game. They do not know any of the players and will not have much interaction with either community involved, other than the work they do on the court. Because of these factors and due to their training, they are seen as being able to make impartial calls. We can argue all we want, the truth is (and I really hate to admit this) the referee’s opinion is the only one that counts!
I wanted us to think through this for a few moments, because I truly believe that so much of life comes down to our perspective on what exactly is going on around us. Think about it like this: how many of us, at some point, have been going through a difficult time? Maybe we began feeling sorry for ourselves. Perhaps, we wondered why God allowed us to go through these trials. Usually though, God has His ways of getting our attention. Either we begin to see that we are not the only ones going through tough times, or we pause long enough to remember all the good things we have in life, and our attitude begins to change.
Perspective is one of the many reasons our church likes to be involved in mission work. There is nothing like taking a group of youth from our small town to a larger city on a short-term mission trip. Regardless of where we have been, we have had interactions that were much different than what they were used to at home. Invariably, these young people will comment on how much these trips changed their perspective on life. Where they may have been taking their family and friends for granted, now they were more grateful for the life God had provided for them. Again, circumstances did not change, but their perspective did!
At this point, I am wondering if I could issue one challenge to all of us in regard to this idea of perspective and then give one or two tools that can help us along the way. First, here is the challenge: regarding our attitudes, let’s determine to not just go with our natural instincts. In other words, we will resolve ourselves to do something other than let life’s circumstances dictate our responses and our attitude. So many times, we are worried, fearful, doubtful, angry, or an entire list of other unhealthy emotions, simply because we do not have the right perspective on our situation. What if we decided that we wanted to be different; to let God do something special in our lives.
Here are some tools that can help our perspective:
First, when life tries to bring you down, get historical. This is not a misprint. Getting historical is much better than hysterical! There are so many great passages of Scripture that remind us of this principle. Remembering what God has done for us in the past is always a great way for us to regain a strong perspective in regard to our current circumstances. Listen to the way the Psalmist worded this idea…
“Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.” (Psalm 77:9-11)
The writer of that hymn was clearly going through a difficult time. Whatever he was going through, he even got to the point where he wondered if God had given up on him. Have you been there and experienced similar pain? What did the Psalmist do? He took some time and remembered some specifics things that God had done. He probably remembered some events of historical significance, but he also thought about what God had done in his own life. If God has been faithful in the past, He will be faithful again. Taking time to remember helps us regain a proper perspective.
A second idea that can help our perspective is simply to get our eyes off of ourselves. I do not mean for that to sound trite; as if your problems do not really matter. Clearly, whatever trials you are going through or have gone through were significant. But hear this suggestion: doing something positive for someone else while you are still in the middle of your pain, not only changes your perspective, it could very well be the catalyst that helps bring you through your trial. God designed us this way. Only focusing inwardly into our lives is like staying inside the house on a cold winter day. The blinds are closed and everything seems dark. You will be surprised at the burst of sunlight that comes into your life when you begin to see the needs of others and respond in loving and caring ways.
I believe that God wants us to approach life from a joyful and peaceful perspective. After all, we are believers, right? We believe that God is in control and that He has nothing but great love for us. Why would God want us to live life from any other perspective? When we begin to feel down, irritable, confused, anxious, and lost, these are all signs that we might need to see things from a different point of view. From God’s perspective, we are loved and empowered to overcome life’s circumstances and help a few others along the way.