Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! (Philippians 4:4 NLT)
Friend to Friend
I sat in the dimly lit room with soft music wafting through the air, and I began to relax. No this was not the prelude to a romantic evening with my husband. It was my yearly eye exam!
If you’ve ever had an eye exam, you’re familiar with the refraction test the doctor uses to determine if you need glasses and if so, what prescription is right for you. You place your face up to a phoropter (I had to look that up. Who knew?), and then the doctor flips down first one lens, then another, while you say which of the two helps you see the letters on the wall more clearly. Lens one or lens two? Lens three or four? Which one is better?
As I looked through those various lenses, I wondered if I was looking at my life through the correct lens. Could it be that I was looking at my story through the wrong lens, and if I would simply flip down a different one, I would see a better story?
The apostle Paul was a man whose physical eyesight waned with the passing years, but his spiritual eyesight remained exceptionally clear. During his time of preaching the gospel, he had been flogged, whipped, and stoned many times. He had been shipwrecked, snake bit, outcast, and ridiculed. Several times, he was in lockdown in one place or another.
Part of the time he was under house arrest in Rome, part of the time he was in a dirty dungeon chained to a guard—all for preaching the gospel. And yet, it was during one of those stints in prison that Paul wrote the most joyful book in the New Testament: Philippians.
“I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” (Philippians 1:12–14 NIV)
Lens one or lens two? Paul didn’t see himself as stuck in prison because of Jesus; he saw himself as stationed in prison for Jesus. He didn’t see himself as chained to a Roman guard; he saw the Roman guard as chained to him. The guards had to listen to Paul talk about Jesus day in and day out. Paul had time to write letters to all the churches, something he might not have been able to do had he continued to travel about. Perhaps that is why he could write, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” from a prison cell (Philippians 4:4 NLT)
Paul also wrote, “I am put here for the defense of the gospel” (Philippians 1:16, emphasis added). Who put him there? From the outside looking in, it appeared the Roman rulers put him there. But from the inside looking out, Paul knew God had positioned him there. He didn’t see himself as stuck at all. He considered himself stationed. And because he was looking through the right lens, he could have joy even in a difficult situation.
Even though Paul was seemingly stuck in a cycle of one bad thing happening after another, he still had joy. I’m sure he wasn’t happy all the time, but he was still joyful. There’s a big difference. Joy can be a happy feeling, but it’s also more than that. It’s a point of view.
I wish I could tell you that I have this perspective all the time. I don’t. It’s a struggle. I pout. I get huffy. I get downright discouraged when my plans fall apart, or people don’t respond the way I’d hoped. But after I settle down, I try to remember to flip the lens and look at my circumstances through the sovereignty of God rather than the selfishness of Sharon. And then I have a better story. Not because the storyline changes, but because I see it differently.
Heavenly Father, forgive me for grumbling and complaining about my circumstances. Help me to flip the lens and look at my life through the lens of Your sovereignty. I know that my circumstances will work to mold and make me to be more like Jesus. Help me have joy in the journey.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
What is one situation that you maybe need to look at through a different lens? Leave a comment and let’s share.
What lesson can you learn about interpreting your story from Paul’s attitude while in prison?
More From the Girlfriends
What if your worst chapters could become your greatest victories? I know that they can!
Many of us feel broken. Our mistakes, the pain others have caused us, and circumstances outside our control taunt us every day, though we long to turn a new page. My book, When You Don’t Like Your Story, challenges us to ask: What if God doesn’t want us to rip out our difficult stories but repurpose them for good? And be sure to check out my new release Never Less Than: Living Empowered, Esteemed, and Equipped When the World Tells You Otherwise.
© 2022 by Sharon Jaynes. All rights reserved.
Morning, Sharon, and thank you for writing this. I needed “checked” this morning, because I’ve been choosing the wrong lens. The situation I believe I need to look at through a different lens is job hunting.
Tiffany, it is so easy to look through the negative lens. I think that is what comes naturally to us. We have to choose the right one.
The situation that I need to look at through a different lens is my job. I love the activity of my job, but I don’t always like the circumstances and some of my coworkers. That sounds awful.
Just this morning as I was going through the start of day motions I was irritated and said, “I hate working here”. I didn’t always feel this way, but I have lately. I have known for a few years that this is where the Lord wants me, he has made that clear, but for how long? I don’t know the answer to that, but when I ask, he lets me know it isn’t time to leave yet. What am I missing? What am I supposed to be doing during my time here that I may not be doing, or that may not be completed? When I ask, I don’t get a clear answer. Or I am not listening to the answer…because it is hard? I don’t know.
God hears your prayer and He loves your heart to do what He has planned for you to do. He will make it clear.
Thank you for writing this. I definitely need to look at things differently, and respond with grace other than frustration and anger. My situation is of my dad, who has dementia. Part of my family has excepted it and one key person has not and can get very difficult to deal with. I need to go to the Lord and ask Him what my part is so I can look at it differently. He needs nighttime care, but my health does not let me and this person is angry because she doesn’t understand. Please pray I can see her through a different lense, so I can be gracious when she is mean to me. Thank you ❤️
You got it!
I am also currently job hunting and feeling very conflicted with which direction I should go. I have been feeling discouraged with the process of not knowing what I should do/ what would be fulfilling . I keep praying to God for some guidance and reassurance. This morning I woke up feeling thankful that I have this opportunity to not need to find a job right away and to take a step back and enjoy the moment of unemployment. Last year I dealt with a lot of stress with my job. As I am reflecting , maybe God is wanting me to use this time to heal, pursue some of my passions , and get closer to Him. I need to trust in His timing and continue to pray for guidance for my career and also enjoy this moment.
I pray God will lead you to just the right job!!!!
There are so many areas of my life right now,I need to look at things with different light right now.I have 3 kids who are all going thru difficult things
They each have lashed out,and I say something back then I stop and talk to God and Pray for them 🙏🙌🙌🙌🙌
It is so hard not to lash back. Sometimes just letting a hurtful comment hang in the silence is the best thing.
I thank you for always giving me hope during ttroubling times
We love doing life with you. We all need hope!
The doctors believe that my husband has a neurological degenerative disorder such as ALS. That’s a hard pill to swallow.
Hi Sharon. I needed this. I’m dealing with family conflict with my brother …I feel torn and hurt. On one hand I’m trying to have boundaries so I don’t keep getting hurt and on the other hand I wish things are different and I try my best to put myself out there to keep the peace…I need to look at things with different lenses too. Thank you!