Looking Through The Right Lens

Sharon JaynesTrusting God, When You Don't Like Your Story 30 Comments

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)

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.

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.

Paul was a master of lens-flipping. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed,” he wrote, “perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9). Can’t you just see the lens flipping back and forth? Lens one or lens two? Which helps me see the situation more clearly?

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.

How can looking through the right lens help you see your story from a different perspective?

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 new 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?

Click here to watch a short video message from Sharon. Click here to learn about her upcoming online Bible study.

© 2021 by Sharon Jaynes. All rights reserved.

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Comments 30

  1. Thank you Sharon, I consider you to be used by God in such timeliness, a word fitly spoken, I’m tearing as I read this letter because things didn’t turn out the way I prayed and believed God for, there was a move one and a half years ago from one house to the next which included my Mother in-law and the first year in her signing the papers to own the house we presently live in she went from nice to showing the bondage she was in mentally and still is, but I’ve learned through this what’s in me and what had to be removed from me, trusting God for peace, and still believing that we will move into our own home, but during our time here, we’ve gotten closer as a family, pray more, encourage one another, and not cease to walk in love even though it gets tested often, our prayer is for my MIL to be healed, delivered and set free by the power of God. We have confidence that God’s word won’t return to Him void and our move will take place this year!

  2. But… HOW do you flip the lens? I feel like I’m reading devotion after devotion after devotion telling me “you need to do this!” or “you need to do that!” but very few times does someone actually lay out the practical steps for how to do it. (“Just pray, read your Bible and surrender to Jesus” doesn’t really cut it.) When you’re already tired and drained and overwhelmed with life it’s almost impossible to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and manage to do yet another thing, especially if you need to figure out yourself how you’re supposed to do it. And then you just feel like a pathetic failure of a person who can’t figure out what must be so obvious to everyone else.

    Anyways. Sorry for the negativity. Have a blessed day!

    1. When I was stuck and unable to feel God’s love and truly believe his truth I eventually why to Christian counseling and worked on my abandonment issues and childhood trauma that were hindering my ability to truly feel loved and feel joy etc. I didn’t realize how it affected me until I began to unpack everything with my counselor. Sometimes I thought my life was normal but I’m counseling I learned that drive things were very hurtful to me and I still carried then arrive as an adult without knowing it.

    2. Boy do I hear you! Nothing worked for me either when I was so beaten down. I tried all the “supposed to’s” and got nowhere.
      For me, I had to find a good Christian counselor. I kept trying to do it on my own. There were some things in me I needed deliverance from. THEN, when I praised, asked forgiveness, and surrendered to God I saw changes in my life.
      There were hurts/lies in me from my childhood, parents, friends, in-laws that I needed to forgive. It was not a “one and done.” Little by little God helped me release these hurts and I could actually change my focus.
      Sometimes God does it quickly, other times slowly since He knows what we need. But sometimes I find myself unable even with sincere effort to focus as God asks me to. Then I know there is deep hurt or lie that is blinding me and I need help to overcome it, even be delivered to move forward.
      You are searching and asking. Mood will provide a way. Don’t give up. The enemies lies want to stop us fromGods promises.

    3. Hanna, I feel ya! I asked the same question….I am a very practical person (sound like you are as well) and want the steps listed…. in order ! I realized through the help of a friend I was burned out. I am a pastors wife, had teenagers at home and was running a business. I was raised to just put my own needs aside and care for others and that’s just was a “good” Mom/wife/person does. I realized I needed to take a step back and to say “no” to some things in order to stay sane! I needed to add fun into my life and learn to let go of some things. I like control and order but life is not like that most of the time. For a very long time I was angry at God (story is too long for this forum) and when I would hear friends say, “God is so good” I would wisper to myself “is he?” I wondered, if he is good why would….fill in the blank. I even shocked myself with that question!!! Then I would think, we’ll if he isn’t good then why are you following him? Why be “good” and keep trying? I finally had to come to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, 😉 He is working a plan that I am unaware of and that one day I will see the why’s answered but until then trust. There are still things really don’t like about the plan (and I talk to God and tell him that) but I trust that He knows best. So I guess what I am saying is know your limitations and don’t be ashamed or embarrassed by them, we all have them! Find something to add fun to your life, laugh….for me it was singing, coloring and learning about birds! I am praying that the Lord reveals himself to you in a new way and you find rest in him!

    4. Good morning Hanna!

      I read your comment about “how do we flip the lens?” I wanted to comment back and encourage you. I believe that it’s not just as simple as flipping the lens at an eye exam- we have to change our perspective of the situation. Like Sharon said in her post, Paul was in-prisoned but chose to look at what he could do even in the situation he was in. I believe positive affirmations (as silly as they sound” and positive self talk make a difference in our perspective in life. This all coming from someone who didn’t see the good in the bad times, I now know that it’s up to me to decide how I’m going to let the situation effect me. I can let it get me down or let it build me up and make me stronger because of it. I pray you find some peace and positive perspective in your situation. Devotions, prayer and a positive perspective are steps in that direction. I hope this encourages you.

      With love,
      Shari H.

    5. Hanna, I know what you mean but it’s not about pulling yourself up. It’s about surrendering. I had to let go of my view of how things should be. I found that I have to give up my life and allow Jesus to make whatever He wants with it. It’s very hard as we dont see with His eyes. So the step is to write down what you are unhappy with and pray into it. Look and write down any lessons or blessings that come from that “bad thing”.
      Do this first thing every day along with reading The Word , and then live The Word to the best of your ability.
      Sanctification takes time as it is first a change from within that changes everything outside of you.
      It is a lifelong process but like you I was at the end until I gave up my will..
      Blessings Hannah

    6. I really understand what you’re saying Hannah and I I know that it is so difficult in the midst of a trying situation to wrap your mind around the right kind of thinking. It is much easier for people on the outside to be able to tell us what to do but when we’re embroiled and the mess along with our emotions, it’s really difficult to see clearly. So I feel empathy for you.
      As far as the HOW, I would suggest posting some verses on your mirror or committing them to memory. Verses that address God’s sovereignty, His ways that are far beyond our understanding, His timing, and His peace. Cling to the Truth of God’s Word–accept it as a statement of FACT, not something to be debated. I will pray for you right now even as I send this reply. God bless you!

    7. I’m in the same boat Hanna w/dealing with a 25yo son. When is it time to “take action” or move in a new direction, other than just praying? I feel horrible that I feel like this, especially when I preach to others to pray. I do find more Joy in each day, but the potholes are sometimes many. Blessings

    8. Hanna, thank you for asking this question. I too feel the same way. I feel often that I have failed day after day cause I can’t seem to get it or get there.
      I want to change my perspective but am struggling then feel it’s not for me for some reason.
      Just knowing someone else struggles with the same issue makes me feel not so alone in it.

    9. Hi Hanna. Your heart & words cried out to me as I have been there so often. Thank you for your honesty! Many MANY Christians feel this way & are too scared to say it.
      I will say that for me, when I’m in that place as you described, I have kept journals of Bible verses that speak specifically on faith & trust & God’s love & God’s presence. I pray through them. I plead with God to help me trust Him. And then I ask God to show up & show Himself. I beg Him to show me He is here & listening. Every time, some way, God has brought peace & specifically shown that He cares, whether it be through the love of a friend or family member or through giving me calm & peace & assurance that I know I can not cultivate on my own; by changing a situation to bring healing & positivity, or giving me the strength & peace to get through it with my eyes on Him. And it’s not ME or MY strength. It’s His presence. I believe God wants us to be honest with Him. He already knows our hearts & our thoughts. And I often pray to Him, just as the man in Mark 9:24, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

      Peace & love to you!!

    10. I can feel within me your level of frustration with issues of life. This write up that you termed negative is really a window you opened for natural breeze to come in. I pray with you that you ll be guided by God and your love for God to see that the real change is to come from you. As stated flip the lenses to choose the right one. Let the Holy Spirit guide your heart. SURRENDER AND SEE GOD’S MOVE. .

    11. Hanna.. I have felt this way and will still encounter in areas that I haven’t let him in…. all I can say is when we let go… is when we let God. Listen ..”Let It Go” Tenth Avenue North.. (whole album at that is very ministering with where you are) when we lose ourselves we find ourselves… letting go of hurts, habits, defenses, comfort
      ..learning to deny and live life in Christ.

    12. Hanna, you are not alone. I can relate to what you are saying. And you are not – repeat not – a pathetic failure of a person. Believe me, not everyone else has it figured out. You and I can’t be the only two people in this country who seem to be clueless. God hears us and our prayers. I used to think that too “How come I pray to God and I don’t hear Him?” What’s up with that? Other people seem to hear Him, how come I can’t?” The problem is for me I am ranting so much that I am screaming over his still, small voice. Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God. I did hear Him say that to me time and time again, every time I started to rant, to complain, to question, I heard Him. You will too.


    13. Hanna, I can relate and it is not easy. I know what gets me through is to have a conversation with GOD. The same way if I was talking to a therapist. I rant and rave, cry and complain. I really tell GOD what’s wrong in my life. Then after a lot of crying, I ask for forgiveness and than directions. Do I get immediate forgiveness from GOD?, Yes, Do I get immediate directions or instant healing from whatever the issue that has be down? No not all the time. But, what I do know is that after my temper tantrum I get peace in my spirit and that load feels lighter.
      Hanna I pray whatever your load, that GOD will make it lighter and give you peace.

  3. Thank you for this post. Have been trying to find joy in the middle of a seemingly unending journey. I’ve just lost my 5th pregnancy in 3 1/2 years. It’s heartbreaking. I’m waiting for my breakthrough. I will keep moving forward until I get to the victory that God already has for me. This post gave me hope!

  4. What a beautiful and timely message!!
    Joy comes more from my point of view!

    I ended up reading it all to my husband …as he was wondering why I thought to remind him he had wanted to set up an eye Dr. appointment!
    Thank you!

  5. Thank you for these words and this reminder today to look at things in a different lens. It definitely gave me a different perspective.

  6. Thank you for these encouraging words especially today. I need to adjust the lens and think postive about today. God has our backs today and always

  7. I’m in the same boat Hanna w/dealing with a 25yo son. When is it time to “take action” or move in a new direction, other than just praying? I feel horrible that I feel like this, especially when I preach to others to pray. I do find more Joy in each day, but the potholes are sometimes many. Blessings

  8. I love the thought that Paul was “ stationed “ , that really stuck with me ! We could bloom where we are planted OR we can be stationed and find joy !!!!! Such a good word my friend , I love your devotions 🥰❤️❤️❤️

  9. Oh my goodness. Thank you all, so very much ❤ I’m tearing up reading all your responses and feeling the love in every single word. When commenting, I felt like I was just howling into the void and I did not expect this chorus of love and empathy to sing back at me. Thank you for taking the time to encourage me. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your prayers. I’m so moved and humbled by your kindness and I honestly don’t know what to say. For real, this means so much to me. It will take a little time to process each individual message, but I’ve read them all and am so grateful for every one of you. You are beacons of light. Thank you and God bless you ❤

  10. I can COMPLETELY understand your view Hanna! It gets very discouraging when you don’t know how to put things in the order they need to go. Trying to keep the faith isn’t so ready either. Sometimes I think having a good friend to talk with and just be there for you works be helpful but, people have their own lives to live. I’ll pray for you and prayerfully those of us with this kind of struggle will have victory.


  11. Praise the Lord saints!
    Thank you so very much for this piece of encouragement especially in this season. One of the ways I flip my lens is by words of affirmations, hope,trust and the word of the Lord. He is truly faithful to come and He sees our situations and hears the cries of our hearts!

  12. Thank you Sharon for allowing God to use you to speak my situation. Your word has really encouraged me to see things in a very different perspective, then they are. Amen

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