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A ‘perspective lifter’

The United Methodist Church I serve and love is going through difficult times. Delegates from all over the world gathered recently to set policy and direction for the church.

Meeting every four years, the General Conference is the leadership body that speaks for our church. For 10 days, delegates tried to resolve important issues. In the midst of stirring messages and creative worship there was also frustration over the posturing, endless debates and general unwillingness of many to work toward any solution other than the one each side supported. Near the end with the conference going nowhere, our bishops were asked to provide leadership.

So, they proposed a time of prayer and the formation of a commission to examine the issues and provide a plan to keep our beloved church unified.

Frustration can come in all sizes. General Conference is a huge frustration impacting thousands of United Methodists all over the world but whether the frustration is huge or minor, the feelings are similar.

There are minor frustrations, but they accumulate. A few years ago, my wife Mell and I were feeling the frustration of accumulated small problems and basically having one of those bad, bad days.

Nothing went right. A trash can lid disappeared after pick-up. They promised to deliver another one in a week. A week? Where do we put trash? Every hour afterward brought more bad news: phone calls with churches and pastors having problems, a minor automobile accident, all small issues by themselves but cumulatively, they were amounting to a disappointing, tiring, frustrating, exasperating, making a very bad day.

The next morning, Mell and I read our morning devotion from: “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young. The first sentence: “Welcome problems as perspective lifters.”

For some strange reason that I can’t explain, we both suddenly started laughing and couldn’t stop. Talk about a heavenly prompting from God. After we regained our composure we continued reading:

“My children tend to sleepwalk through their days until they bump into an obstacle that stymies them. If you encounter a problem with no immediate solution, your response to that situation will take you either up or down. You can lash out at the difficulty, resenting it and feeling sorry for yourself. This will take you down into a pit of self-pity.”

It’s not unusual to have bad days. Some are worse than others, but we all have them. What is important: How do we handle ourselves in the midst of difficulties? Can we avoid the pit of self-pity? Are we able to maintain perspective? Can we visualize God in the midst of the problems walking alongside us?

“Welcome problems as perspective lifters,” applies toward accumulated problems that add up to a bad day and more serious problems faced by the United Methodist Church. How do we handle ourselves in the midst of difficulties? Can we avoid the pit of self-pity? Can we maintain perspective? Can we visualize God alongside us in the midst of our problems?

The devotion continued: “Alternatively, the problem can be a ladder, enabling you to climb up and see your life from my perspective. Viewed from above, the obstacle that frustrated you is only a light and momentary trouble. Once your perspective has been heightened, you can look away from the problem altogether.”

The problems we face can either weigh us down or they can serve as a ladder giving us a higher perspective. What can we learn? Where is God? How can we better appreciate knowing God is there even in the midst of bad days and as well as guiding us through larger issues?

The devotion concluded with: “Turn toward Me and see the Light of My Presence shining upon you.”

Can we see God in the midst of our bad days and difficult situations?

The apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we can fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.”

Mell and I learned to laugh in the midst of our obstacles and struggles. More importantly, I learned that God is well aware of what I am going through and what our United Methodist Church is going through and will provide the much needed comfort to see us through.

Therefore, I do not lose heart. I may be outwardly struggling but inwardly I am being renewed. My light and momentary troubles are helping me to achieve an eternal glory. The serious problems faced by our United Methodist Church, over time, will be resolved.

So, today, I will fix my eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. Today, I will fix my eyes on Jesus and trust that even in the midst of serious problems and bad days, I am being renewed.

REV. LARRY E. DAVIES can be reached at larrydavies@sowingseedsoffaith.com.