Comer: Having a better perspective is a choice that we all can make
A couple of weeks ago, I was at the convenience store getting a fountain drink and was struggling to get the lid to fit on the cup. I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t fitting and was starting to feel annoyed. There was a guy behind me, clearly waiting for me to get this lid situation figured out so he could get a lid for his cup. Feeling like I was probably frustrating him by taking so long, I said to him, “Hey, sorry for the wait. I just don’t know why this is not fitting like it should.” He joked: “It’s OK. The longer I stand here sipping my drink the more I can refill it back up.” Maybe it’s the times we’re living in when it seems no issue is too small to get upset over, but I was genuinely surprised by his response. It immediately struck me as an amazing way to think, and so I replied that I wished I could have the ability to have that kind of perspective when things don’t go the way I want.
Truthfully, I do have the ability to have a better perspective when things don’t go the way I want. The question isn’t whether or not I have the ability, but whether or not I have the desire.
In these columns that I’ve been writing, I’ve been relaying stories from the Bible. I really came to love the Old Testament last year because I realized just how many lessons are taught that are as applicable today as they were then. I don’t think I realized that before. I’ve grown up knowing that the Old Testament was important, but until last year, I didn’t exactly understand why. On the topic of perspective, I don’t know if there’s a greater example than Job. After his property and children were destroyed, Job worshipped and said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) Job realized that everything he had was because of the Lord, and because all that he had wasn’t really his, if the Lord decided to take it, so be it. And not only that, but blessed be the name of the Lord anyway.
Later, Job was smitten with boils, after which his wife told him to curse God and die. In another display of perspective, Job asked if people should only receive good from God but not evil (Job 2:7-10).
In all this, Job proved to be different from what Satan assumed. Satan said the Lord had protected Job but that if he stripped him of his possessions then Job would curse the Lord (Job 1:10-11). Later, Satan said that people would give everything they had to save their lives and if the Lord would smite him and cause him pain, Job would curse him (Job 2:4-5). Job proved that losing his possessions and being afflicted with physical suffering wasn’t enough to destroy his allegiance to the Lord. Job said all souls were in the Lord’s hands and that the Lord governed all things (Job 12). He said if the Lord slayed him, he would continue to trust in Him and the Lord would be his salvation (Job 13:15-16).
“Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth; therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.” (Job 5:17-18)
Job had perfect perspective.
So how do I, and everyone else, have a better perspective when we come up against trials ranging from not being able to fit a lid properly on a drink cup to losing loved ones and possessions and suffering afflictions? As I said above, the key is desire. Do we want to have a better perspective, or are we comfortable being miserable because of whatever problems we’re facing? That sounds crazy to say because who is comfortable being miserable, but I’ve felt that way before. In moments where things haven’t been going the way I want, I’ve felt myself recoiling when someone attempts to straighten me out. It’s tough to explain, but in the moment, I feel like whatever is going wrong is such a horrible thing, and if I allow myself to have a better perspective, then maybe I’ll realize my problem wasn’t so horrible in the first place. But I want it to be horrible because that justifies my frustration. How’s that for some crazy psychology? I can’t be the only one who connects things that way. Maybe I am. In any event, being miserable isn’t fun, and it isn’t worth it, not just because of the way you feel, but because of how that affects interactions with others.
If you have the desire, the next step is to look to people who have succeeded in having a better perspective. Look to examples from the scriptures. Look to examples from your life. I frequently think of my late wife, Shannon, because I can’t think of anyone who had better perspective than her. I’ve told this story before, but it’s worth telling again because of how inspiring it was to me. Following the birth of our second son, Shannon went back on a drug to control her multiple sclerosis that she had not been allowed to be on while she was pregnant. Unfortunately, her liver rejected the drug. This was massively frustrating because she had been on the drug for several years before she had our first child, and she had been on it between the birth of our first son and the time she was pregnant with our second son, and there were no side effects. We knew this drug was the best way to keep her from suffering a massive attack, but we were told it was suddenly too dangerous. An alternative drug was given to her, but I had no confidence it would be effective.
We got into the car after the doctor’s appointment and I looked over at Shannon. She seemed calm. Too calm. I asked her if she understood the implications of what the doctor had said. She simply said, “Sorry if I die, honey.” Shannon knew how much everyone would miss her, and she certainly didn’t want to leave any of us, but she didn’t fear death. She knew that meant a return to her heavenly home, and that’s where she wanted to be. She always said she wanted to return to Jesus. About a week before Shannon passed, when it became obvious to me and others that she was not going to be with us much longer, I went to her room at the nursing home she was staying in and asked her, “Are you ready to go back to Jesus?” She wasn’t very responsive to anything at that point because of how severe the disease progression had been, but she was definitely responsive to that. I could see joy on her face. In one of her most difficult moments, she was happy because of where she was going. She truly had perfect perspective.
I hope we can all strive to have a better perspective when we come up against trials.
Ryan Comer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.