By Tom Chase
Have you ever felt overwhelmed, burdened, defeated, or just plain stressed out by all life has to throw your way? Hard times, difficulties, and troubles hit us, and I guess we shouldn’t be surprised since God tells us “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33), but somehow I still get blindsided. All these difficulties, hard times, and troubles in life can show up on our doorsteps for a host of reasons. Sometimes it is us succumbing to our sinful nature, sometimes it’s making poor choices, sometimes it’s just life, and still other times I guess we simply have no idea why. We can get a small glimpse of God’s purpose from James: “…because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:3). Somehow, I simply don’t achieve “pure joy” at the arrival of hard times. Lord, help me in that!
It’s funny. I can get stressed on both sides of the same issue. Here’s what I mean: it was not that long ago I was earnestly praying, hoping to get enough work to pay my employees and pay the salary for my partner and myself. While I felt mostly at peace about the situation, I found it real easy to get stressed out about the whole thing. Now a relatively short time later, God has answered those prayers in a big way, we have so much work that I can get stressed out just trying to figure out how to get it all done—working long hours, hoping to make all the deadlines. How is that possible?
As I write this article, my heart goes out to all of you who are experiencing hard times, who are hurting, who feel that life has hit really hard, whether by broken dreams, health issues, struggling relationships, the wrong amount of work, financial difficulties, housing needs, or the loss of someone. So what are we to do? I understand that what I am about to suggest is somewhat simplistic in that there is much for us to consider, but there is hope! The weight of what we carry can at times be helped by changing our perspective to an eternal one.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
If this is all there is, then life would be pretty hopeless. But this is not all there is. Those in Christ Jesus have an infinite amount of time, an eternity in His presence, where there is joy evermore (yeah!).
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Psalm 16:11)
This time on earth, though extremely limited in the light of eternity, is our time to live life as a response to God. We (especially I) need to be reminded of the truth of who He is and all He has done. I guess this is how Paul can speak of our troubles as “light and momentary.” Now that is a change of perspective.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)
I know that this change in perspective does not make all our troubles disappear. But our focus on eternal things and the eternal One diminishes the havoc that all these concerns create in our life. The song “Strangely Dim” by Francesca Battistelli has been encouraging me to adjust my perspective to the eternal:
I’m gonna fix my eyes on all that You are
‘Til every doubt I feel
Deep in my heart
Grows strangely dim
Let all my worries fade
And fall to the ground
I’m gonna seek Your face
And not look around
‘Til the place I’m in
Grows strangely, strangely, strangely dim.
(for more …)
Keep looking up!