When life is going smoothly we look at the world one way; it’s our default mode. But then, from time to time, we experience difficulties, bumps in the road, that send us into reactionary mode. We generally don’t spend as much time there, so we tend to just return to default mode when the situation passes. Of course, we do actually change our perspective when we have gone through something, but our natural tendency is is to shade it.
Photographers use the term exposure to refer to the amount of light reaching the camera’s sensor. If too much light reaches the sensor, the image is said to be “overexposed.” When this happens, the brighter sections, the highlights, will “wash out.” This means that the details in the brighter sections will lose all of their detail. If not enough light reaches the sensor, the darker areas, the shadows, will become “muddy,” also losing all of their detail. Changing our “exposure” is how we naturally react to difficult times and experiences.
When the stresses of life impact us, good or bad, it impacts the way our “sensor” sees the world. If we come out on the other side of a difficult experience having been beaten down, our worldview can become a little bit darker. If it comes out positively, we tend to forget about it, the details wash out and we’re none the better for it.
What we really need to do is look back on the difficulties with an eye to learn from them and assimilate this knowledge into our worldview. We need to gain perspective.
Perspective is a way of looking at something or our attitude toward something. It’s a frame of reference, a point of view. When we change our way of seeing things, we are storing information about something about which we were previously unaware. We are providing ourselves with perspective, an updated worldview. When this happens, we change the default way we respond to difficulties. Now we have options! Now we can keep from always expecting the worst thing that could happen, for instance, and recall that the last time we were in a bind we looked at it from this perspective, and responded this way and everything turned out alright.
It’s important to analyze our experiences, even for small things. The more perspectives we have stored in our memory, and the more options the various perspectives afford us, the greater the chance that we will maintain the peace of God in our circumstances and successfully walk through our trials.
I don’t mean to infer that perspective will always bring you through something unscathed. There may still be pain. And loss. And suffering. And heartbreak. I do mean that being able to objectively look at your difficulties in different ways and from different points-of-view has the potential to reduce the pain, loss, suffering, and heartbreak. We may not see the results, as it’s difficult, sometimes, to see what we avoided. But we will be stronger and smarter when we have the ability to look back on those times and recognize what worked and what didn’t.
Of course, sometimes our operating system reverts to the previous default. When this happens, and we find ourselves panicked or sinking in the mire of circumstances beyond our control. We must remind ourselves to take pause and change our perspective, and refocus.
Perspective is a tool that can remind us of Who is in charge. God never promised us that we wouldn’t face difficult circumstances. But He did promise that He would be with us in the storms of life, and that with Him we would be able make it through them all. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, ESV).