Five life-controlling perspectives

The five life-controlling perspectives below are far too common. Each one summarizes a way of seeing things or an outlook on life.

Life-controlling outlooks usually have a history. They’re shaped by parental examples and the circumstances of life. Temperament and personality also play a role — as does our fallen and sinful nature.

Five life-controlling perspectives:

  1. DiscouragementMaybe you’re discouraged and discouragement has become your primary lens for life. Hardships and trials can have a way of shaping our outlook or disposition toward life. Discouragement, at a deeper level, is a loss of perspective.
  2. NegativityDo you expect the worse to happen? Do you tend to always see the dark side of things? Perhaps you’ve allowed the setbacks and disappointments of life to make you negative, cynical and sarcastic. You’re looking through a lens of pessimism while you tell yourself that you’re “just being realistic.”
  3. Anger Perhaps resentment and anger are your primary lens for life. You maintain a slow burn under an outwardly pleasant veneer that can erupt into anger at any time and rule your life. Is anger an occasional disruption for you or the way you process most of life?
  4. Complacency Have you become complacent? Perhaps you’ve stop caring because you feel that caring doesn’t help and often hurts too much. Maybe you’ve drifted from God and you no longer take spiritual matters seriously.
  5. Self-absorbed Are you all about you? Is life about how you feel, about your comfort zone, what you want —  you, you, you? Does it always have to be your way and about you?

Perspective is a key word when it comes to the quality of life. It’s also something important to God’s will for our lives. One of the primary practical functions of Scripture is the way it shapes our perspective.

The Bible offers the panoramic view of life from creation to eternity. Where did we come from? Why are we here? What went wrong with God’s good world? Where are we going? Is there hope for the future?

Each time we enter Scripture, we should see it as a perspective session with God. It requires us to ask how we’re seeing things and what we are leaving out in our perspective.

The five perspectives above leave out important truths about God and his will for our lives. They violate the Creator-creature order, deny the great truth of God’s love for us in Christ and leave out God’s hopeful future promised to His sons and daughters.

Scripture confronts us with

  • Vertical truths for the horizontal circumstances of life
  • Eternal truths for the temporal realities of life
  • God-centered truths for the self-centered default of life.

Scripture is compared with a lethal weapon capable of piercing deep into our lives

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).

II Timothy 3:16-17 – “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to

  • teach us what is true and
  • to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.
  • It corrects us when we are wrong and
  • teaches us to do what is right.

God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (NLT)

Challenge:

Loss of perspective must be challenged through daily perspective forming sessions with God.   

* Audio message on this theme here.

Steve Cornell

Suffering in silence

They try to force themselves to appear cheerful as they struggle to survive. But, under the surface, life feels anything but happy as they suffer in silence, shame and confusion.

This was the story for a bright university student who attended our Church. She appeared to be happy and was eager to participate in Church activities. But inwardly she was fighting a losing battle with turmoil, fear, confusion and depression.

As she slowly weakened in her efforts to maintain control, she hesitantly agreed to the recommendation of a friend that she should meet with me to talk about her struggles. In this meeting, she finally gained the necessary courage to tell me a story that she had kept to herself until that point. She had been sexually molested by a family member when she was a little girl and, to my surprise, I was the first person to hear her painful story.

This began a challenging yet essential path to healing and rebuilding. Today she is doing well and able to help others facing similar circumstances.

A time to learn

Several years before this encounter, I was taking a graduate course in pastoral psychology and I impatiently asked myself, “Why do we have to spend a whole section on sexual abuse?” We even had to read a book about it and listen to a guest lecturer. Although I knew little about the subject, I didn’t expect to encounter very often. I was very wrong — and very humbled by God’s grace in equipping an impatient pastor.

Over the next couple of decades, I counseled more people dealing with a history of sexual abuse than I ever imagined. I’ve also repeatedly recommended the book I was assigned in the class. I remain humbled by the kindness of God to equip me to help those struggling to overcome the life-debilitating effects of sexual abuse.

During my graduate class, my eyes were opened to a world of darkness that holds many victims in silent pain. The more we learned about the issue, the more my heart grew heavy for the victims of such evil. 

Most of my counseling has focused on those who were sexually abused as children by family members. They come to me as adults who are struggling to live normal lives. They battle feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

Since their abuse included manipulation and force, they long to feel a sense of security and control. They often substitute excessive and controllable behaviors to feel a sense of normalcy. Extreme exercise and dieting are two examples. Yet they easily spiral out of a sense of control. Inability to function and overall lack of motivation can inexplicably grip them.

It’s not unusual for survivors to experience significant loneliness, loss of appetite and need for unusual amounts of sleep. Mood swings plague those battling the grip of sexual abuse. Unusual gregariousness can give way to unexplainable depression and crying. Other waves of emotion include self-hatred, panic attacks, irrational phobias, guilt, shame, overall sense of humiliation, unexplainable anger and rage, lack of normality and a feeling of being trapped.

Survivors of sexual abuse sometimes turn to other forms of abuse to escape their pain. Obsessive behaviors rang from alcohol and drug abuse to sexual addictions and promiscuity. Sometimes victims engage in self-mutilation and battle suicidal thoughts.

Without help from a caring friend, most victims don’t recognize how badly they’ve been affected. They tend to suppress the past to survive in the present. Victims often conceal their pain and keep others at a distance. Relationships don’t come easily to these adults. Trust, one of main chords of healthy relating, feels out of reach because of their experience of betrayal. Yet they long for close relationships as much as they fear them. They fear that allowing someone to become a caring friend will cause suppressed feelings to emerge. Vulnerability is risky but necessary for gaining freedom.

Marriage and sexual abuse

Those who enter marriage relationships without first addressing their history of sexual abuse rarely do well. To flourish in marriage requires vulnerability, transparency and trust — painfully difficult qualities for victims of sexual abuse. Marriage can also provide a helpful context for recovery and renewal through the love and devotion of a spouse. But it typically requires assistance from a wise counselor.

The person who marries a victim of sexual abuse is often surprised by the effects of the abuse. It’s not uncommon for the mate of a victim to feel frustrated, confused and helpless. Making matters worse, they typically interpret the behavior of the victim as a personal affront when they don’t know the source. When victims put up walls or shut down their emotions, their mates often interpret it as rejection or personal failure.

The intimacy and closeness of marriage requires a level of vulnerability survivors feel unable to give. Adults who are victims of child sexual abuse must seek wise counsel if they want to enjoy healthy relationships.

Overcoming the past

The only thing we can change about the past is how we allow it to effect us in the future. One victim of abuse expressed her pursuit of freedom as a refusal to tie her soul to her abuser. As hard as it will be, victims must courageously acknowledge their pain and confront their past.

The path to freedom requires dealing with the past but the most formidable obstacle is often fear. Those who have been abused should remember that they have been victimized by the evil actions of others. They must reject self-blame and all blame that others try to project on to them. Although difficult, they must reject the powerful emotions of shame, guilt and fear that hold them in bondage.

The book I was assigned to read, “A Door of Hope: Recognizing and Resolving the pains of Your Past” by Jan Frank, emphasizes the importance of confronting your past. As Jan Frank explains, this must also involve some form of confrontation of the abuser. After counseling others through this painfully necessary process, I know with certainty that the freedom awaiting the victim is worth the challenge of confronting the past.

Relating to God

Relating to God is another difficultly for victims of sexual abuse. “How can I trust God if He didn’t protect me when I was vulnerable?” they ask. It is hard to fully understand how God’s control relates to the evil actions of people. And these kinds of questions mixed with feelings of worthlessness and anger combine to obstruct faith in God. Such hesitations and struggles must not be treated lightly. Scripture reminds us to “be merciful to those who doubt” (Jude 22).

Adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse need merciful and wise guidance to help them in their struggle to trust God. They especially need help to understand the difference between forgiveness of their offender and reconciliation. See here. 

Many others (like the student who entered my office) have walked this path. It is possible to know the joy of freedom from bondage to a painful past.

Steve Cornell

Answering God’s call beyond the walls of the Church

 

“We make a huge mistake when we define a person’s ‘call’ in terms of participation inside the church.” (Tullian Tchividjian)

While on a writing retreat in Brewster, Cape Cod one summer, I had a great time meeting different people. But I have this little problem in getting to know people when the dreaded question comes up. “So, what do you do?” they inevitably ask. If I want to continue the conversation, I have to be careful with my answer.

If I say, “I am a pastor” it immediately changes the conversation – or, more likely, ends it. It’s a real dilemma. One night, for example, a group of people doing a restaurant limousine tour saw me in the lobby of the resort working on my book. They asked what I was doing. “Writing a book,” I answered. “Really, what’s it about?” they asked. “It’s about how your upbringing affects your life.”

Immediately the three couples gathered around me to engaged in lively discussion about the subject.

In the middle of some rather deep conversation, one man blurted, “Who is this guy?!” “How do you know this stuff?” “Are you a psychiatrist, or something?” “No” I answered, “but I do a lot of counseling.” “You’re a counselor?” “Yes, I am.” He quickly tried to sign up his wife for a few sessions.

What I said about what I do was true even if I am not solely a counselor by occupation. I was doing what I could to avoid the conversation stopper: “I am a minister.”

Ten minutes after the group left for the dining room, a waiter told me one of the men who was talking with me would like to buy me a drink. Later in the evening, his wife came to tell me how exceptional it was for her husband to order a drink for someone. “You made a big impression on him” she assured me.

All of this to say that had I announced I was a pastor, the evening would have proceeded much differently. People recoil and become guarded when they learn that you’re a minister. After all, “What do you say to a pastor?!” It’s a real occupational liability for someone who works with people!

I thought about this encounter when I read a blog piece by Tullian Tchividjian.

Under the title, Our calling, Our Spheres, he shared thoughts about how leaders in the Church “need to help our people see that their calling is bigger than how much time they put into church matters.”

Of course, serving in your Church is important but it could be wrongly exalted over serving God in your career. Here are some good thoughts on glorifying God in all you do:

“As Christians, we can serve God in a variety of vocations. And we don’t need to justify that work, whatever it is, in terms of its ‘spiritual’ value or evangelistic usefulness. We simply exercise whatever our calling is with new God-glorifying motives, goals, and standards.”

“Outwardly there may be no discernible difference between a non-Christian’s work and that of a Christian. A transformational approach to culture doesn’t mean every human activity practiced by a Christian (designing computers, repairing cars, selling insurance, or driving a bus) must be obviously and externally different from the same activities practiced by non-Christians.”

“Rather, the difference is found in the motive, goal, and standard. John Frame writes, ‘The Christian seeks to change his tires to the glory of God and the non-Christian does not. But that’s a difference that couldn’t be captured in a photograph.'”

“So, while Christians are to separate from the self-glorifying motives and God-ignoring goals of the world (our spiritual separation), we’re not to separate from the peoples, places, and things in the world (a spatial separation). We’re to be morally and spiritually distinct without being culturally segregated. In the famous words of Abraham Kuyper, ‘There is not one square inch in the entire domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’”

“For church leaders, this means that we make a huge mistake when we define a person’s ‘call’ in terms of participation inside the church—nursery work, Sunday school teacher, youth worker, music leader, and so on. We need to help our people see that their calling is bigger than how much time they put into church matters. By reducing the notion of calling to the exercise of spiritual gifts inside the church, we fail to help our people see that calling involves everything we are and everything we do—both inside and, more importantly, outside the church.”

“I once heard Os Guinness address a question about why the church in the late 20th century was not having a larger impact in our world when there were more people going to church than ever before. He said the main reason was not that Christians weren’t where they should be. There are plenty of artists, lawyers, doctors, and business owners that are Christians. Rather, the main reason is that Christians aren’t who they should be right where they are.”

“’Calling’, he said, ‘is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction.’ When we reduce the notion of ‘calling’ to work inside the church, we fail to equip our people to apply their Christian faith to everything they do, everywhere they are” (Tullian Tchividjian).

Steve Cornell

Your 18 Year Factor

I am convinced that most personal and relational problems have strong connections with what I call the eighteen-year factor. This refers to the time lived in your family of origin. These years have defining influence as in them we learn and experience many things that we carry with us for life. 

You had an increasingly rare experience if you grew up in a functionally healthy home.

If, on the other hand, your eighteen-year factor was disrupted by a significantly negative experience, you can be sure that it affected your security, identity and approach to relationships. The loss of a parent or sibling, the divorce of your parents, sexual abuse as a child are examples of life-altering experiences in an eighteen year factor. 

You must be honest about your past and the way it affected you if you hope to have a healthy future. 

Families plagued with severe dysfunctions are very damaging to children. If you lived under an alcoholic parent or in an atmosphere of physical or emotional abuse, or with significant neglect of nurture and discipline, your life has been deeply affected – usually beyond what you realize.

I’ve observed how emotionally aloof fathers or parents who withhold affirmation and acceptance leave deficits in the lives of their children. It’s not uncommon for men of all ages to battle issues related to bad father-son relationships. Women are especially vulnerable to future instability when their fathers withhold affection and affirmation. Many pursue unhealthy male relationships. Some battle deep feelings of inadequacy and a continual sense that something important is missing. Others struggle with anxiety, low self-esteem and depression.

Children in such homes tend to develop protective mechanisms to shield themselves from pain. When forced to deal with things that they lack the maturity to handle, they find a means to protect themselves. But they’re typically unaware of these protective instincts when they carry them into adulthood. They don’t understand how protective mechanisms no longer protect you in adult relationships.

A tendency to shut down emotionally may protect a child in an abusive home, but the same response is harmful to adult relationships. Children of alcoholic parents often become enablers and co-dependents — the need to be needed. Others find relief in anger or excessive efforts to control their lives. All of these protective responses are damaging to future relationships.

Those who carry protective mechanisms into adulthood usually don’t understand why they feel and act as they do. They remain unaware of the significance of their upbringing until they enter an intimate relationship like marriage. The walls used to shield them from hurtful experiences in childhood hinder them from enjoying meaningful and mature adult relationships.

The damages from an unhealthy eighteen-year factor must be identified for the path of healing and restoration to be effective. Although it seems easier to pretend that you have not been affected by your upbringing, denial always makes matters worse. Denial will likely assure that the next generation will experience the hurt and perpetuate the damage.

Overcoming the past can only begin when we admit the hold it has on us and recognize how it’s affecting us and those around us.

We need to confront ourselves with truth. We must fight against the drift into an emotional state of loss, self-pity, self-hatred, anger or guilt by dealing honestly with the damage. Many make the mistake of trying to hide behind superficial clichés that sound noble or spiritual. But change is rarely an overnight accomplishment and rarely attainable alone.

Overcoming a significantly dysfunctional past usually requires assistance from a wise counselor. But first you must allow those closest to help you see the walls and defense mechanisms you’ve allowed. Usually the hardest part of this is the vulnerability it requires. Fear and a desire to be in control are typical obstacles to true freedom.

Those who have lived with neglect or abuse find it difficult to trust others and often allow their fears sadly to hold them in defensive postures. Their loss is then multiplied as they never learn the joy of intimate relationships.

One of the biggest dangers in identifying the failures and neglect of one’s parents is a temptation toward a combination of self-pity and resentment. Resist the strong temptation to wallow your pain and allow the past to ruin your future.

Remember that the only thing we can change about the past is how we let it affect us in the future.

It’s sometimes hard to recognize that when we choose anger and bitterness, we double our loss and extend the effects of the evil done against us. I’ve observed far too many people who hold cherished resentments as a means of dealing with their painful experiences.

I encourage people to recognize that resentment at least indicates a level of emotional connection with the reality of one’s past and could become a catalyst to freedom. But resentment also offers a false feeling of control through a kind of emotional retaliation. Feelings of resentment can only lead to freedom and true control if processed in God-honoring ways. But this often requires assistance from a wise counselor.

Seek help before the years of damage accumulate and spread more misery.

Steve Cornell

 

Personal Update

My primary work is the role of senior pastor of a growing and thriving local Church. Over the years, however, I have had many opportunities for outreach beyond the Church. I am grateful for these ministries but they keep me on my toes.

This blog is one of the most recent extensions of ministry and I appreciate all those who read it or find helpful resources through it. I share this little personal update to ask you to continue to pray for me as I try to keep up with everything. 

Radio

I have been privileged for many years to produce daily and weekend radio programs for WJTL, a station with a very large listening audience.

Newspapers

For just as many years, I have been privileged to write for two newspapers that cover a combined readership of more than 400,000 people (266,000 for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pennsylvania and over 200,000 for the Sunday News of Lancaster Pennsylvania). I write twice each month for the Sunday News and six to eight times a year for The Morning Call. 

As you might imagine, I get a lot of feedback from radio and newspaper outreach. We have given many free resources to people and churches through radio offers and the feedback has been encouraging. Although I get my share of angry letters from newspaper readers, I am often blessed by hand written letters from older readers who offer heartfelt encouragement for me to keep speaking the truth. I just submitted my next column for the Faith and Values section of The Morning Call.

University

Our Church offices (where the ministry began almost 30 years ago) are located across the street from a Sate University. We also have a student ministry center on our site. Since the beginning of our Church,  I have been involved in many kinds of student ministries. I recently returned to my involvement with athletics as a voluntary Chaplin for the football team. The opportunities for ministry in this town are endless! 

Book

I will be looking for get-away time and place very soon to put the finishing touches on my book, Your 18 Year FactorHow your upbringing affected your life.This has been a project in the works for too long. 

Please pray for continued effectiveness in these extraordinary opportunities! The work is great but, like all others, I need to be encouraged through your partnership in prayer! 

Steve Cornell

 

6 step detox for a painful past

The early years of life are the most foundational to the formation of our identity and character. These years chart a direction for our future health and stability.  

If you’ve experienced a healthy and functionally stable upbringing, you’ve received a gift that has become increasingly rare. But if your 18-year factor was marked by a significant disruption or a serious dysfunction, it will have a definite effect on your identity, security, and relationship skills.

You had what I call a toxic background if there were significant disruptions – (like sexual abuse or your parents’ divorce) or serious dysfunctions (like a domineering father or mother, a parent who walks in and out of your life, abuse from a parent, an alcoholic parent or an emotionally distance one). The toxicity of your past must be addressed if you desire to have healthy adult relationships.

The protective mechanisms children practice to shield themselves from hurt do not protect them when carried into adult relationships. The walls, defensive postures, alternate realities, and over compensations potentially alienate people and typically hinder true intimacy in adult life.

If you identify with such an 18-year factor, may I suggest a six point detox plan for you? 



#1- Redemption:

Change begins with God. First we need God’s gift of salvation. God is the one who redeems us “…from the empty way of life handed down to you” (1 Peter 1:18). Many times God uses the pain of our past to make us see how much we need His love, forgiveness and help. But change and transformation is a process. It is described in Philippians 2:12-13-”…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

This transformation will cut deeply into the things that run deeply into our character– especially the 18-year factor stuff.



#2 – Respect:

Don’t minimize the significance of how your life was impacted by your 18-year factor. Sometimes it’s not a matter of “Just get over it!” or “Put it behind you!” To minimize these matters is to belittle God’s ordained role for family.  Denial or distortion of your past is not the way to gain true freedom. Failure to take seriously your 18-year factor is not good for you or those close to you. So often, generational sins continue because of a refusal to stop, listen and learn from the past.

#3 – Revisit:

Take a trip down memory lane — even if it is painful. Don’t allow suppressed feelings and buried memories to stay hidden. Talk about your father and mother and family of origin with people who have godly wisdom. Recognize and reflect on ways you were impacted by your upbringing. Do not do this to wallow in self-pity or anger toward your parents. Do this with humble honesty and with deeply reflective prayer (Psalm 62:8; Philippians 4:6-7).

Be honest about the trigger issues that set you off or close you up. Look closely at the walls and defense mechanisms you use. Why do you choose cynicism or use sarcastic humor? Self-perception is often distorted so let others help you. But avoid selective disclosure and remember that the only thing you can change about the past is the way it affects you in the future. Be balanced in your perspective by following my next point:



#4 – Reaffirm/reinforce



Try to think of some good things from your home of origin. Perhaps through your parents you’ve learned only a few good things but reaffirm them. It is unhealthy to be too one-sided in perspective. Even if you can only be grateful for food and shelter, find something to affirm. Perhaps you could rehearse ways you learned through the difficulties. This will help you think more clearly about other matters from your past.

The next step is more challenging:



#5 – Renounce/repent


Significantly disrupted or seriously dysfunctional 18-year factors leave deep tracks in our hearts and minds. Thought patterns and heart postures must be examined closely. We must clearly and directly renounce wrong and hurtful ways of thinking about ourselves, others, life and God.

Reject false perceptions, self-blame, guilt; the need to be in control, wrong ideas about all men or all women. Reject wrong thoughts about God by choosing to see how he has revealed Himself in Scripture. Give blame and responsibility to those to whom it belongs. Address your unwillingness to trust or determination to be self-sufficient–needing no one! (Life in this world is vulnerable)

Unhealthy fear of vulnerability keeps you from allowing your heart to love another person. A  fear of loss and betrayal can destroy your ability to enjoy loving relationships. Renouncing these things takes patience and resolve. Identifying destructive thought patterns is a process that usually requires the help of others. Don’t be threatened by learning painful truths about yourself. Repentance is a change of mind or outlook. It requires a new way of seeing things—God’s way. It begins the path to healthy and joyful living.



#6 – Renew
-


This is what God does in our lives. “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close” (Psalm 27:10, NLT). He said to His people: “I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,” (Jeremiah 30:17). God is the one who can “….restore to you the years that the locust have eaten” (Joel 2:25). Like the Psalmist, we must pray, “Renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Resolve to commit yourself to a renewed mind. Change the way you think by learning to think godly thoughts from Scripture. “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds” (Ephesians 4:23).

Change comes through a disciplined practice of renunciation and renewal. 

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you (Romans 12:2-3).

This pattern of renunciation and renewal—“do not be conformed….but be transformed” is essential to overcoming one’s past. It’s also a daily practice that over time yields long-term benefits.

Notice that the mind is what must be renewed. The mind is the center of thought, perception, understanding, and consciousness itself. Change must begin with a new way of thinking. The word repentance refers to this change of mind that leads to other changes. God uses Scripture to effect this change in us: (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3; Psalm 119:11;II Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 4:12; James 1:22-25).

The command is in the present tense indicating continuous action – “Continually renew your mind.” This means that we cannot accept defeat. Complacency, stagnation and pride of achievement must be viewed as threats to needed progress. We never arrive at a place where we no longer need to continually renew our minds.

Interestingly, one of the first changes in thought mentioned in Romans 12:3 is concerning self-perception (how we see ourselves): “Do not think of yourself ….rather think of yourself.”

Disrupted or dysfunctional 18-year factors can badly distort self-perception and hurt future relationships. God calls us to sober (and humble) judgment in how we view ourselves.

Take time to prayerfully work through each of the six steps. Engage a trusted friend in the process.

Steve Cornell

Get perspective!

It’s easy to lose perspective in a fallen world. Have you ever had a time when processing life became difficult? A time when you found it hard to keep a healthy and godly perspective?

There are many examples in Scripture of godly people who lost perspective about God and life. Servants of God like Job (Job 3:10-13,16); Moses (Numbers 11:13-15); Elijah (I Kings 19:1-4), and Jonah (Jonah 4:1-10), all lost perspective so badly that they wanted to die.

Perspective (or how we choose to see things) can make a big difference in the quality of life.  We can’t always choose our circumstances but we can usually choose our perspective toward them.

Some life-controlling perspectives

1. Discouragement

Maybe you’re discouraged. Life has been hard and you’re having trouble seeing through your difficulties. Discouragement, at a deeper level, is a loss of perspective.

2. Negativity

Do you expect the worse to happen? Do you tend to see the dark side of things? Perhaps you have allowed setbacks or disappointments to make you negative, cynical and sarcastic. You’re looking at life through the lens of pessimism but you feel like you’re being realistic.

3. Anger

Are resentment and anger your primary lens for life? Perhaps you do a slow burn under an outwardly pleasant veneer. Anger can erupt at any time and rule your life. Is anger an occasional disruption or the way you process life?

4. Complacency

Have you become complacent? Perhaps you’ve stop caring because you feel that caring doesn’t help and often leads to hurt. Maybe you’ve drifted from God and you no longer take spiritual matters seriously. 

5. Self-absorbed

Are you all about you? Is life about how you feel, what you want —  you, you, you? Does it always have to be your way and about you?

All of these involve perspectives — ways of seeing things or construing life. What is your general outlook on life? Does you feel like your attitude is caught in a bad flight pattern? If you’re stuck in one of the perspectives above, you might need some counseling to help you move forward (some perspective sessions). And please remember that your perspective not only affects you. All of those who must relate with you or who are under your influence are affected by your perspective.

How to keep a good and godly perspective

My recommendation for maintaining a good and godly perspective is as simple as it is profound. And it might change the way you approach the Bible and thus change your whole outlook on life in a way that conforms to God’s will. We simply must recognize that all Scripture was given for perspective formation. Consider what the Apostle Paul taught about the origin and role of Scripture: 

II Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to:

  1. teach us what is true and
  2. to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.
  3. It corrects us when we are wrong and
  4. teaches us to do what is right.

God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (NLT)

God’s Method

God’s method for changing you is that you “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). 

Ephesians 4:23 describes it as being “made new in the attitude of your minds.” God is committed to changing your outlook, attitude or perspective! (cf. Philippians 2:3-5).

Romans 14:13 specifically challenges us regarding this:

“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about (προνοιαν) how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” 

The italicized words in english come from a greek term which means “a pro-visionary way of thinking.”

Another translation says, “make no provision for the flesh” (NASB). Another says, “don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires” (NLT)

To overcome sinful attitudes, perspectives and emotions, one must see things differently. One must “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

How does an appropriation of Christ to one’s life (clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ) offer a different pro-visionary thinking?

How does it provide a gospel-based outlook that counter-veils the wrong way of thinking?

Two Provisions from God

Perspective is often closely associated with personality or temperament. Transformation in this area doesn’t mean that we all become the same personality type or temperament, but that we all yield our personalities and temperaments to the transforming influences of two divine provisions:

  1. The Spirit inspired Word – all Scripture.
  2. The Spirit indwell community – the reinforcement of godly perspective through connection with our local Church.

Notice that the Holy Spirit is the agent of spiritual transformation (see, II Corinthians 3:18) and His two primary instruments are the Word (Scripture) and the Church — the community of believers (see, Hebrews 3:12-13; 10:24-25).

We believe that Scripture is God’s revelation of Himself and His ways of dealing with His creation. Apart from it, we’re reduced to subjective human opinion and mere speculation about God, life, suffering, death and eternity. 

Without God’s revelation of himself, we would have nothing that offers universal authority transcending human culture and opinion. We would have many human stories but no original story to shape our perspective. The Bible provides this for us!

Of course, the Bible was not originally written to us – but it was all written for us. And it presents God’s dealings through different times of history — which means we do not apply all of it the same way. We must “rightly handle it” (II Timothy 2:15).

So when reading the Bible, some things relate specifically to the original recipients (and seem foreign and strange to us) —-but from the text emerges truth that transcend time and culture! (Examples: II Corinthians 1:3-5, 8-9; 4:16-18; 12:7-10; James 1:1-5).

When we enter the Bible, we should see it as a “perspective formation session with God.” Your personal devotions offer a time to get perspective or to maintain godly perspective.  Again, all scripture is given for perspective formation.

Three unique perspectives  What the Bible offers is different from positive thinking books or other material because it confronts us with:

  1. Vertical truths for the horizontal issues of life
  2. Eternal truths for the temporal circumstances of life
  3. God-centered truths for the self-centered default mode of life.

The Bible also answers really important questions about origin, meaning, morality and destiny. 

Remember that behind actions, emotions, and attitudes are ways of thinking (perspectives) that fortify the actions, emotions, and attitudes.

Why do I do this? (you’re struggling with habits and actions). 

Why do I feel this way? (you’re struggling with emotions). 

What we need is counter-veiling ways of thinking (perspectives) to confront ways of thinking that hold us in deceitful and destructive ways of life. This is the role the Bible fulfills.

Loss of perspective must be challenged daily by daily perspective forming sessions with God.                                        

Don’t try this alone

We cannot do this alone. God designed that we flourish in community not in isolation. We must allow others to speak into our lives to reinforce vertical, eternal, God-centered perspectives.

The Church is God’s ordained place for this to happen.  When we lose perspective, we’re tempted to travel in the company of those who share our outlook. “Misery likes company.” To maintain good and godly perspective, we need to travel with people who reinforce it (see: Hebrews 10:24). 

Steve Cornell

Audio clip: Heart, mind and emotion