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It was a typical chaotic Monday morning. As I stumbled out of bed, my feet hit the floor, and I wandered to the bathroom. With a splash of cool water, I was off to the races. Stress, anxiety, and fear soon flooded my heart and mind.
At the end of a busy day, I wanted nothing more than to rest at Jesus’ feet. I was frustrated at my inability to focus on His Word that morning before I started my tasks, but I was now eager. The devotional I had been reading talked about shifting your focus and perspective. Throughout the day, I’d easily forgotten this principle, but maybe I hadn’t been listening in the first place.
When I was a small child, I loved to look at ISPY magazines while waiting at the Dentist’s office—scanning the page for items or Where’s Waldo was an adventure of hiding and seeking. I was eager to look for all the red things before I was called back or felt proud when I found Waldo’s striped shirt seconds before my appointment time. As an adult, I didn’t realize that I was still playing this game, but it was no longer a feeling of enjoyment but dread.
If I were to tell you to look around your room and pick out five red items, could you do it? Five minutes later, would you be able to recall them? Probably so. But suppose I asked you to pick out five red items and remember all the blue ones. What are you talking about, you might ask! You told me to focus on the red, and now you’re asking about blue; you are crazy.
Today, the same applies for shifting our gaze or perspective from worries, concerns, and trivial affairs of life on Earth to the joys, blessings, and eternal values of a Heavenly realm.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:14-18, Paul wraps up his address to the Church in Thessalonica by encouraging them to press into the peace that Christ offers no matter the circumstances, trials, or problems that come their way. In a sense, he asks them to shift their gaze from all the red items to the blue ones not as visible to the human eye.
“Now may the Lord Himself, the Lord of peace, pour into you His peace in every circumstance and in every possible way. The Lord’s tangible presence be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:16, TPT).
As a sufferer for the Gospel himself, Paul knew what it’s like to be in plenty and need. He was familiar with what it meant to be with and without wherever the Lord led him. So the struggle of humanity was not only natural to him, but much more complex than any of us will ever face in our lifetime. Yet, while he may have endured shipwrecked shores, persecution, beatings, and trials, his focus was on God and not the problem at hand. His vision was set on unseen things, though what was seen pricked him like a thorn in the flesh.
“So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18, CSB).
Essentially, Paul longed for this view and mindset to inhabit the beliefs of every Church he spoke to, no matter the location. In 2 Thessalonians, he desired the guidance, influence, and power that comes from God’s presence to be fundamental to the Thessalonian believers. He wanted them to see that when we focus on Jesus above all else and have that personal relationship through intimacy with Him, it doesn’t matter what life throws our way because we have His peace living within us. We have Jesus Christ driving our life from the inside out.
The Amplified Version of this verse translates the meaning and illustrates it as follows:
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself grant you His peace at all times and in every way [that peace and spiritual well-being that comes to those who walk with Him, regardless of life’s circumstances]. The Lord be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:16, AMP).
Philippians chapter 4 explains this struggle as a blessing and not a curse to a people very much like the Thessalonians:
“I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles” (Philippians 4:10-14, NIV).
From the Philippians to the Corinthians, Thessalonians, and more, Paul’s mission was to shift their problematic focus to a peace they could not see.
In her YouVersion Devotional, The 7 Day Anxiety Detox: Practical Tips For Biblically Overcoming Anxiety, Brittney Moses writes that the reason we often struggle to give our worries and fears to God entirely is because of our inability to shift the focus. If we are so focused on all of the red items in our life, the things that are heavy and weigh us down, not only will we be unable to recall the yellow, the good, the positive, the blessings, but we won’t see them at all.
Both red and yellow items exist in life. Every day, good and bad things happen as quickly as you breathe or eat your breakfast. What changes, however, is how you react and choose to see these blessings or ever-shifting circumstances. As Brittney notes, “We will either look for ways to affirm our anxieties or seek ways to trust God and be grateful for what we do have.”
Today, I pray that in the ISPY moments of life, when we are tempted only to see the red, God’s peace will enable us to see the yellow. I ask that no matter the circumstance or shifting shadows, the Lord’s presence will fill our hearts with guidance, direction, hope, and tranquility that surpasses all understanding. Shifting our focus from the problem to praise and chaos to the Creator is not easy, but I am confident that when we focus on Jesus, everything else will come into view with a clearer vision.
“Perfect, absolute peace surrounds those whose imaginations are consumed with you; they confidently trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3, TPT). “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3, NIV).