Of Perspective and Expectations

By Gwen Sellers

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"It's all about perspective." Has anyone ever told you that? I've experienced the truth of this statement in multiple ways. Recently it's hit home most noticeably with the weather. Colorado is known for its numerous days of sunshine. But this spring we've had clouds, rain, and hail. The forecast for Mother's Day was cold temperatures and a wintery mix. I was supposed to pick up lunch for me and my parents then spend the afternoon at their house. Though my mom told me we could cancel if the roads were bad, I'd psyched myself up to brave the nasty weather and celebrate her as intended. It was cloudy and cold when I woke up, but no snow, slush, hail, or moisture of any kind. I was thrilled. I don't like that temperatures were in the 30s on May 10, I don't like that our normally brilliant blue sky has only come out in patches for the past few weeks, and some people did get snow. But since I had been expecting things to be totally unpleasant, the fact that they weren't felt like a huge gift. My perspective was different so my focus was on what I did like about the weather — dry roads, sun peeking through the clouds, and easy driving — rather than on what I didn't.

It's amazing how my perspective on life changes when things I usually take for granted have been taken away for a period of time. Throughout these rainy/cloudy weeks I've been extra grateful when the clouds have not been low-hanging and especially when the blue sky makes an appearance. I've also recovered from some injuries recently and have a deeper appreciation for not being in pain and for having the ability to jog. Once again, it's my perspective. Rather than focus on what I don't have or what I don't like, having things I like taken away reminds me just how much of a gift they really are.

Contemplating this reminds me of Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Focusing on the good, rather than on the bad, is so much more pleasant.

That being said, God does not call us to view the world with rose-colored glasses. Philippians 4:8 is not a command to deny the hard things of life. I like to look for the silver-lining in things, but too often I do this out of a distaste for so-called negative emotions. Sometimes I'm seeing the "good" of something because I'm trying to avoid recognizing the reality that life is hard. I'm cajoling myself into a false positive attitude. It doesn't work. Long term avoidance of negative emotions has taken its toll on me. In my experience, it's much simpler to acknowledge and deal with the negative emotion up front than it is to try to run away from it. Eventually the emotion will need to be dealt with, and it's generally much more manageable at the get-go.

A friend recently commented to me about how in centuries past suffering was an expected part of life. People acknowledged and accepted that life would be hard. They were not dour about it; it's just the way things are. Today our society tries to avoid suffering at all costs. Obviously I don't wish suffering on anyone. I dislike it as much as the next person, and I try to avoid it, too. But the truth of the matter is that we live in a fallen world. Suffering is going to happen. Jesus told us as much (John 16:33).

Jesus, Himself, experienced suffering. A great deal of it, in fact. And not just during His crucifixion. I love the way Jesus emoted so honestly. He wept at Lazarus' tomb (John 11:28-37). He wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44). He sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane asking that God remove the cup of suffering He was about to endure (Luke 22:39-46). Jesus was truthful. He did not only look at the good things or only look at the bad things. He called out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He highlighted the faith of several whom He healed. He confronted people about their sin. He also offered forgiveness. He spoke about life and joy. He offered correction, healing, challenges, and comfort. He spoke of God's wrath and of God's love. He was compassionate and kind. He also spoke with authority. He was meek, not weak. And He was honest about the full spectrum of human experience on this earth. Jesus accepted the difficult realities of this fallen world and spoke God's truth into it.

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Published on 5-18-15