Staying Focused When Life Is Difficult

You don't have to have 20-20 vision to stay focused.

My eyesight is poor. I wear contacts during the day and reading glasses over my contacts while doing close-up work. When my contacts are out and my glasses are off, my focus is way out of whack -- you don't want me on the highway.

I have discovered that there are things other than glasses that can throw off my vision. Suffering is one of them. Paul, no stranger to difficulties and suffering, shares a very important truth about this in his letter to the Romans: 

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
— Romans 8:18

Difficulties definitely have a way of clouding our vision. Paul knew this from personal experience. Interestingly, Paul's solution to times of difficulty is not to change our circumstances (sometimes that is impossible), but to change our focus. Commenting on this passage, R.H. Mounce notes,

As a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20) he realized that his earthly life was but a moment in time in comparison with eternity. Not only that, but the glory of the coming age will be qualitatively distinct from the trials of the present. If we allow the difficulties of life to absorb our attention, they will effectively blot out the glory that awaits us.

 When Mounce referenced Philippians 3, I had to turn over and take a fresh look. Here's what Paul says:

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Philippians 3:12-20 ESV

I am a part of that tribe that loses focus when times get tough. That's why I need to remember what God says through Paul:

  1. Keep your eyes on great examples of Christian faith.
    Sure, there are a lot of charlatans out there, but there are many men and women who have been walking with God for a long time -- whose words and life line up. Keeping my eyes on "heroes of the faith" helps me stay focused.
  2. Keep your eyes on your true citizenship.
    It's tough to think about the new heaven and the new earth when you are a citizen of Boca Raton. Yesterday was Chamber of Commerce weather. Bright blue skies and short-sleeve temps. Nice as this is, it pales in comparison to my true heavenly citizenship. Keeping my eyes on my true citizenship helps me stay focused.
  3. Keep your eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ.
    I started to write, "keep your eyes on Jesus," but realized that Paul used the full title: Lord (owner-ruler), Jesus (Jehovah saves), Christ (Anointed One). Jesus alone upholds the universe. Jesus alone brings salvation. Jesus alone is God's anointed Messiah. Keeping my eyes on the true Hero of the Story keeps me focused.

Difficulties distract me. They throw off my vision. I easily lose sight of God and his care. I can get discouraged, depressed, and start to doubt. On these days, I want to change my circumstances -- God wants to change my focus.

Where are your eyes?

______________

Notes:

  1. If you need a little back story on the challenges he faced, read Acts 9:23-25, 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, and 2 Corinthians 11:16-33.
  2. "As a citizen of heaven..." from Mounce, R. H. (1995). Vol. 27: Romans. The New American Commentary (184). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  3. "Suffering provides the gym ..." from Suffering: Making Sense of Suffering by Joni Eareckson Tada.