Let’s face it – we are chronically self-focused. Our gaze is usually turned inward, and we evaluate and engage everything through the lens of personal impact. In seasons of suffering or bouts of difficult emotion, our vision is narrowed even more. But in Christ, our mind and heart are being transformed, renewed in the image of our Creator. A big piece of that sanctification process is growing in developing and nurturing an eternal perspective, so that our affections and purposes come into line with God’s. We need our lives to be shaped by God’s promises.
Eternal perspective has become a pervasive theme in what God has been teaching me lately. And the more I learn and grow, the more clearly I see how having an eternal perspective shapes every aspect of our present living. Here are just a few examples of areas that are impacted:
- SUFFERING | We are given hope and comfort in the midst of suffering and grief. We are motivated to persevere and surrender.
- FOCUS | We lift up our eyes and take the focus off ourselves. It cultivates a heart of humility.
- SPIRITUAL GROWTH | We are motivated to know God more and walk with Him daily, and to put off sin and grow in sanctification.
- PURPOSE | Our priorities are reoriented to focus on God’s purposes. We recognize that life is a gift to be stewarded rather than a competition to gain all we can.
- WORK | It changes our perspective on work and ministry. Everything we do is fueled by the ministry of reconciliation that has been entrusted to us.
- FEAR | In the face of anxiety, we are led to trust God and rest in the peace that He gives. This life is fleeting, and the pain and hurt is temporary. God is bigger than the things we fear, and we stand in reverent awe before Him.
- IDENTITY | Our story is enveloped in God’s, and all glory goes to Him. He redefines and reframes our identity.
- RELATIONSHIPS | We are motivated to pursue reconciliation in our relationships. We let go of offenses more quickly and remember that relationships are for Him, not for us.
- LOVE | Our affections are loosed from earthly treasures, and our heart is fixed on our Father who has so abundantly loved us. We are devoted to Him above all else.
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” – Philippians 4:8
I’ve found that there are times when my mind can’t wrap itself around words. Maybe you’ve experienced this too. It usually happens when my emotions are especially strong, and I can’t see through the fog. I know I need to align my thoughts and feelings with what God says is true, but it’s hard to remember what I know and it’s hard to grasp the written Word.
How can you fix your eyes on the Lord when the words on the page aren’t communicating to your heart? How do you let truth pierce through the fog? One helpful tool is the many images that Scripture uses to describe God’s character and the ways He interacts with His people.
God is our refuge.
He is our firm foundation.
He is our Shepherd.
Jesus is the Bread of Life.
Christ is the Lamb of God who bears our sin and takes away our shame.
God is the Holy One on the throne.
He is the light to our path, the One who led His people by a pillar of fire.
Dwelling on these images can help fix your mind and heart on God’s character and promises. He is sovereign, strong, gracious, sufficient, loving, holy, and faithful. Even when the words aren’t sinking into your heart, seek to know Him and draw near.
“Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know Him.” – Hosea 6:3a
Have you ever taken a photo and zoomed in really close, but later wished you had captured the entire scene? When people go through a period of suffering or intense emotion, or experience any kind of trauma, their thoughts and feelings are zoomed into the pain and it’s all they can see. Even once they are far-removed from the event, the memories often hold nothing but grief and heartache. Their vision is limited and they can feel completely paralyzed. The pain is in focus and everything else has been cropped out of the picture.
Unlike that photo, when it comes to your current or past experiences, you still have the option of changing the focus and reframing the story. Instead of keeping the pain front and center, zoom out and seek to view your story from God’s perspective. This doesn’t mean ignoring or dismissing the pain — just taking it out of focus so you can see the bigger picture.
The rest of the scene includes God’s character and how He displays His faithful love. In the midst of suffering, God promises His presence and comfort. He draws His children near in order to know Him more and experience His love in times of struggle. He is always good and He is always at work. Ask your loving Father to expand your vision and reframe your story by seeing it as part of His story. Then those memories won’t consume you with a flood of pain, but will inspire you to praise God and give thanks for His grace and faithfulness.
His bow is on the strings
And the tune resonates in the open space
To show us how emptiness sings:
Glory to God, Glory to God!
In fullness of wisdom,
He writes my story into his song,
My life for the glory of God.
-from “How Emptiness Sings” by Christa Wells