When I’m in the thick of it, and really desire help or a resolution to my circumstances, where is my focus? Almost always it’s also on “the thick of it.” That’s a very natural response. But like many aspects of the Christian life, God’s economy is paradoxically inside-out. When our problems are directly in front of us (or all around us), God often calls us to a different perspective.
God calls us to a far-range focus. To focus on the distant horizon, if you will, essentially looking out as far as you can see and be reminded that the Lord has a perspective beyond that.
Some years back our family made the nearly 1,200-mile drive from Lafayette to the Rocky Mountains. If you’ve ever made a similar trip then you’re familiar with the experience. While yet two or three hours away from the mountains, the horizon stops being flat and it dawns on you that you’re seeing the Rockies. Your perspective of merely looking at the road in front of you shifts to the mountains on the distant horizon.
Psalm 121 is a classic example of this perspective shift. The first two verses pack in a powerful perspective change.
“I lift up my eyes…”
This encourages us to stop focusing exclusively on our present circumstances. Eyes up means eyes aren’t down. It means we can see things we can only see when our eyes change focus, perhaps even things we’ve been missing. It just might be an opportunity to stop looking in the wrong direction, and (re)start looking in the right direction.
“…to the hills”
Just like looking to the Rockies for those of us native to the Indiana cornfields, this is a call to look farther than we’re used to looking and navigating. Using a longer timeframe, a broader scope, or a bigger picture changes my outlook. Seeing the Rockies on the distant horizon doesn’t necessarily help me navigate the road immediately in front of me, but it does give me a fresh sense of anticipation on what is otherwise a pretty long trip.
“…from where does my help come?”
Ahhh, now here’s a great question. Let’s not let this be merely a rhetorical question with a quick Sunday-school answer. Let us actually stop and ponder this. Usually, I’m all too hasty and operate by default without asking this question. I don’t think I’m unique here. Personally, I usually fall into one of two camps: either help is going to come from me (“git ‘er dun”, right?), or else I silently lament that others aren’t proactively offering help that I think I need (or for which I haven’t asked).
But this is a solid question to ask myself: where will my help come from? Is it really me, or my unspoken expectations of others? Will I stop long enough to take inventory to realize I’m a poor source for my help? It is well established that we learn and grow most through pain and trial. Stopping to see how limited I am is a key step in shifting my perspective.
“…my help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
This is the answer worth our pondering and our worship. This identifies the whole focal point of my new perspective. I may not know how the Lord will help. It remains a mystery of when God will bring his help. But the anxiety of these lingering questions can be overcome by my focus of who will be my help. The “maker of heaven and earth” is on the job. No one can match that résumé! And as we’re reminded that he’s on the job, we refresh our hearts to worship him on the throne.
To be sure, our Heavenly Father reminds us he “is a very present help in times of trouble” (Ps 46) and lovingly desires to “draw near” (Hebrews 10:22, James 4:8), but he also encourages us to shift our focus. This is not a call to an ignorant hope that everything works out as we wish. This isn’t a recipe to follow so that we get all we want (God is not a cosmic vending machine). This is a deeper truth that our focus is often misplaced, and especially so when things are hard. There’s much for me to learn about waiting on, trusting in, abiding with, and expecting from the Lord; but it’s an appropriate start to first respond with my gaze and focus.
If Jesus is our example (and he is), we can learn from considering his perspective at the uttermost point of his enduring, “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12). His focus was forward, and was beyond the horizon of that thing that was the greatest point of suffering for all time.
What are you enduring these days? Allow me to encourage you to start with changing your perspective to beyond that thing which you’re enduring. Honestly ask yourself: where are your sources of help? Then consider how those, including your own strength and capabilities, stack up against the one “who made heaven and earth.”