Exploring Spiritual Formation: Perspective
Recently I heard a pastor tell a story about a women’s conference whose promoters sold more tickets than the venue had seats available. To compensate, they brought in hundreds of rented chairs that were neither sturdy nor comfortable. The women from his church became angry about the situation, and their complaints grew louder and more frequent as the conference progressed—until the last day, when Joni Eareckson Tada rolled up to the mic and said, “I hear some of you are not happy with the chairs you’ve been given.” Needless to say, the atmosphere changed immediately. It’s amazing what a little perspective can do for our souls.
The Scriptures are full of stories about the disciples’ frequent need for a change in perspective. Think of the disciples shooing the children away from Jesus until he explains that “the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:13-16). Think of James and John trying to secure positions of power before fully understanding the cost of such a request (Mark 10:35-45). Think of the disciples in a boat fretting about drowning before watching Jesus calm the wind and the waves with a simple command (Mark 4:35-41).
These stories make me wonder—what am I not understanding about my circumstances? Where does my perspective need to change? Is it possible, when my desires for ministry go awry, that it’s not a problem of others thwarting a good plan, but that Jesus has something else in mind? When I’m in the middle of a furious storm and it feels like Jesus is asleep, is it possible that he’s really got everything under control—and that he just wants me to trust him? And when others seem to reject me, is Jesus offering me a moment of special kinship with him—along with an invitation to run to him for fellowship?
After the crucifixion, which surely disappointed the disciples, they needed the perspective of Jesus’ resurrection (and a special touch from him) to finally understand all that his death meant (Luke 24:36-49). The interaction changed their lives. The women in the uncomfortable chairs needed Joni’s presence and words as a wake-up call that their situation was not as bad as they had perceived. In both situations, God graciously provided what the people needed to realign their perspectives.
How do I respond when things don’t go as I hoped or expected? I’m sorry to say that, like the women at the conference, my first response is likely to be irritation followed by anger. Like the disciples, I often suffer from cluelessness and unbelief. How grateful I am that God has just as much patience with me as he has for his other children! The challenge for me is not so much the unexpected circumstance as it is the need to look deeper to see what God is doing in the midst of it. If I turn to him in my anguish and confusion, he will school me again in the things he’s already taught me. He will provide his perspective. One that can change my life and grow my soul.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19
NOTE: Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™
 Joni Eareckson Tada is a Christian woman, author, and founder of Joni and Friends. Due to a diving accident at the age of 17, Joni became paralyzed (quadriplegia) and spends much of her day in a wheelchair. I heard this story directly from Pastor John Henderson, though a version of it also appears in Barbra Johnson’s book, Daily Splashes of Joy, published by Thomas Nelson.