A friend of mine who took a class on motorcycle safety told me that the instructor repeated the following refrain many times during the course: “The bike will follow your eyes.” The basic idea being that if your eyes wander to the side of the road, your bike will very likely drift in that direction. Thus it is very important to keep your eyes fixed on where you want the bike to go.
What a striking metaphor! There is a lot of truth in this little phrase. Where we focus our mind will have a tremendous impact on where our heart goes. If we focus all the time on what is going wrong, and what is unfair, and what we do not have, then our heart will be formed in concert with those feelings of scarcity and misfortune and deprivation. But if we focus our mind on whatever is good (Phil.4:8) then our heart will become more grateful, more expectant of God’s goodness, and more open to new possibilities for good.
So how do we do that? Especially when we are in distress? And how is this different from denial?
Honesty, for starters. Wisdom does not turn a blind eye to the evils in our life. It just puts all wrongs in their rightful place, in subjection to all that God is doing to bring life to this planet. Our overriding narrative of life must be that God has reclaimed the earth for Himself, and that He is in the process of redeeming it — one person at a time. We can hold both parts of this at once — the goodness of God and His mission, and the evils that are yet to be vanquished.
Secondly, we can take ques from the Psalms. In many of these hymns, the writers express the distress they are in and at the same time focus their attention on God. There is much that could be said about this process, but we must learn to focus on God-With-Us no matter what. See Paul’s experience in the Philippian jail.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we are not alone. We must seek to never lose site of God’s presence. And when we do, reconnecting must be the most important matter before us. For it is in God’s presence that we can find peace that makes no sense in bad times.
If at all possible, we need to practice directing our focus when things are going well, so that we know how to do that when life gets difficult. Where our heart is makes all the difference in how we experience both good times and bad. And we must never forget, that our heart will follow our eyes.