When I was seventeen, I stood before a series of Monet paintings. Pastel-colored hues painted by my favorite artist on canvases overwhelmed me. I remember my dad asking me what is the big deal with these paintings.
“Just look,” I replied.
Sometimes, when we are faced with times of uncertainty and hardship, I feel like this is how God responds to us. “Just look”.
Self-Centered vs. God-Centered
We often do not see how the trials and tribulations we endure can result in beauty and goodness. It can be difficult to trust God’s plan when, from our perspective, it does not make sense.
It is like standing in front of a painting. If you stand too close, all you see are the brushstrokes. It’s messy and not too beautiful. However, if you take a step back, you see how the brushstrokes form a masterpiece. Every brushstroke is intentional. There is a purpose for each and every one because together they form art. One brushstroke does not define the piece. It’s an accumulation of brushstrokes that create a painting.
Too often we doubt how God’s plans are good, but too often we are standing too close to our trial to fully understand it. Our perspective is narrow, but God’s perspective has no limits. We only see the details, but if we take a step back and look outside of our own perspective, we can see how God used every brushstroke and every detail for a purpose.
Perspective is everything.
When you become less self-centered and more God-centered, your perspective shifts, and things like love and selflessness become a reflex. You can begin to look outside of your own plans and motives and start trusting in God’s plan and purpose.
Trust in the Lord will all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6
Perspective is the driving force behind every action we take and the attitude we embody when we react to a situation. People’s perspectives provide a definition of who they are, what they believe in, and what their motives are.
What does it tell us about ourselves, as Christians, when we doubt or blame the God who is perfect goodness when something terrible happens? Christians should be the ones to know that God has everything in control, yet our self-centered perspectives can often cast a shadow upon our understanding of God’s plan, causing us to put our trust in ourselves instead of God.
Seeing God in Today’s Mess
Sometimes, our lives can feel like an endless cycle of breaking and bending. This year has been one of those cycles. I do not understand why over 100,000 Americans’ lives have been lost due to COVID-19. When the world’s perspective is darkness, I know to look at the perspective of the God who is the essence of light.
In the breaking and in the bending, God is mending the broken pieces back together into a creation that is stronger than before. You cannot know the significance of wholeness without once being at a point of brokenness. Christianity never promised to be the easier lifestyle. It promised to be better because we are bestowed the title, Child of God. God always remains the same. He does not flux nor does He decrease within the valleys or mountains, but remains a constant, straight-line throughout the highs and lows of our lives. He is ever-present, ever-caring, and ever-loving.
Even if from our perspective we cannot see goodness, we must trust that God already knows the goodness He has planned in the future. When our perspective only reveals a glimpse of God’s plan, we must put our trust in the God who is sovereign and loving.
We must acknowledge that our finite minds have a limited perspective, but God’s infinite mind has an unlimited perspective. God is sovereign and all-knowing. He already knows the outcome of our present situation. God has already beautifully placed together the pieces to form a masterpiece that reflects His grace and goodness.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. – Proverbs 19:21
Joseph and Seeing the Meaning in Our Affliction
The story of Joseph beautifully illustrates the power of a God-centered perspective and putting your trust in God, even when it is difficult.
Joseph went from having everything to having nothing. Being his father’s favorite son created jealousy among his other brothers. Most of his brothers were so jealous that they wanted to murder Joseph, but instead, they decided to sell him into slavery. Joseph spent many difficult years enslaved and in prison after being falsely accused of a crime. However, his faith in God brought him out of enslavement and allowed him to be the right-hand man of the Pharaoh of Egypt. This position of power enabled Joseph to help prepare Egypt during a time of famine.
When Joseph’s brothers asked for assistance during the famine, Joseph could have been bitter and denied giving them help, but he didn’t. He displays unimaginable mercy and love, but what astounds me, even more is his trust and perspective of God’s purpose in his life. Joseph understood that he could not have been at the place where he was without the moments of affliction.
You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result: the survival of many people. – Genesis 50:20
God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God. – Genesis 45:7-8
If God used Joseph’s betrayal to make him the redeemer of a nation, then I will trust God when I am hurt by my present circumstances. If Jesus once hung on a cross with a broken body to pay the ultimate sacrifice, then I will pray for God to break me and to use those broken pieces for something bigger and more beautiful than what I had planned.
God turns our oppression into opportunities. He turns our unfortunate circumstances into unimaginable blessings. There is meaning in our misery. There is purpose in our pain.