“We might have severe weather this afternoon,” Mark said at breakfast. We both looked out our windows and the sky was clear blue. After we cleared the dishes, I put on my running shoes and sunglasses, then headed out the back door.
I took another look at the sky and realized it had turned menacing. My usual running route takes me past ponds with turtles and fat bullfrogs, white ducks and the occasional blue heron. This was where I really wanted to go. But the clouds were getting closer and I decided to do what seemed safe. I ran small laps around the same block. I stuck close to home. I chose not to go as far.
When I neared our house, I pulled off my sunglasses to wipe sweat from my eyes, and I got a surprise. The sky wasn’t stormy after all. Oh, sure, there were a few gray clouds scattered around but nothing actually threatening.
My glasses are new, and I forgot the lenses make everything look darker. I realized, suddenly, that I had based my actions not on reality but on perception. I could have gone on my usual route. It’s hours later now as I write this and it’s still not raining.
I stood on the trail behind our house and asked myself, “How often have I done the same in other areas of my life? How often have I looked through the lenses of fear and let what I saw hold me back?”
We all do this as humans. Our brains are wired with a negativity bias. In other words, we naturally notice what’s negative more than what’s positive. This helps us survive, but if we’re not careful, it can hold us back from our best lives. When we catch ourselves thinking negatively, it’s easy to be harsh or critical of ourselves. We might feel guilty or wonder if something is wrong with our faith. But that only perpetuates the cycle. Instead we can simply pray, God, thank You for giving me a wonderful brain that is trying to protect me right now. While it can give me helpful information, I only want to take instructions from You. Help me shift my perspective and refocus on truth.
Then we can do a reality check to make sure we aren’t looking through lenses that are distorting what we see. To do so, we can pause and ask these four questions:
- What am I telling myself right now? If I do this, I’ll fail.
- Am I 100% sure that’s actually true? No, I won’t know until I try.
- If not, what do I know for sure is true? I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13 NLT).
- Based on what’s true, what’s the next thing I will do? For example, I will apply for the job in spite of the fear I feel.
Even if the person in this example didn’t get the job, they’re still not a failure. They may feel like a failure but that’s only the lens they’re looking through — it’s perception, not reality. Thankfully, God never commands us to feel a certain way; He simply invites us to obey. It’s okay if it takes time for our emotions to catch up with what’s true. What we feel also isn’t our identity. A distorted perspective says, “I’m a failure.” A truth-based perspective says, “I’m a beloved child of God who lives in a world where things don’t always turn out the way I hope.”
Is it hard to practice this process of questioning our perspective? I can say from personal experience, absolutely. Expect inner resistance. And sometimes there will be storms and setbacks in life. That’s unavoidable in this world. What matters over a lifetime is that we don’t let what we perceive have more of a hold on us than what we believe, what we know deep down is true.
Let’s move forward with more courage and clearer vision today.
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