“How ARE you?” people very often ask me, emphasizing the “ARE” as an intention to convey sincerity. You already know that I answer with a brutal (if not uncomfortable) honesty and often with greater detail than they had bargained for. So, I have lots of experience (and I am incredibly grateful for the fact that people care and ask, make no mistake about that) in answering that question. In doing so, I have had a bit of a revelation.
When I am consumed with myself, I’m not great. I don’t exercise enough, am I eating right, how often am I getting up each night, did I say the right thing, did they treat me fairly, is that a hairline fracture or the beginning of arthritis, did I bless them, did I offend them, when is the next great date night, what’s on my to do list, who is sick, who is healthy, what do I have to do for who, am I humble enough, and I too proud of being humble, etc. etc. etc.
However, when I focus outward, things are much better. I look at what I have, what is around me, who I love, what great things they do and who they are, I look at the best in things and people, I see opportunities to make things better, I come alongside those who are hurting, I lend a hand to one in need, I encourage someone who is stuck, I give love to somebody who needs it (however that looks), I see the needs in others, I see and celebrate the achievements of others, I realize that I am most certainly not alone in my trials and travails, I see that this world…even my world, isn’t just about me.
Yet, there is another component involved here. It’s not just as simple as me not worrying about me and looking at the needs and accomplishments of others, it’s seeing how I can be of use to help the life of others. It’s not just a perspective thing, it’s a focus thing. Focus inward and I micromanage life to a point where nothing is good enough. Focus outward and I see myself in the role that God has intended for me, helping, loving, and serving others. In THAT, one can’t help but be in a good way.
In the bible there are many times where God helps us in regards to focus. One such time is when He tells us to not worry. In Matt 6: 25 – 34 God encourages our focus to be on Him and not our present circumstance. I have said it before but the best hour of my week is during church. It is then that I realize how much that God really is in control, how much He has done, can and will do. I am able to take the focus off of my life and direct it to one far more capable than me to make a difference in this/my world.
Another time that we are directed to focus outward and not inward is in Philippians. He tells us to focus on all that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. STOP, think for one moment. How often do you do that? I know that I don’t nearly enough. When I do, the minutia of my issues get placed properly. Notice, they don’t disappear, but they are seen for what they are. Issues that have to…and can be dealt with in manageable fashion. I spend more time focusing on all of the good and less of the bad.
Practically speaking, if I’m worried about my health and focused inward I will fret, obsess, and stress my way into a real condition. On the other hand, if I am focused outward I can realize that in a worst case scenario, God will use me to love others despite and through whatever condition I may have. He may heal me, and I will realize that many others are struggling with similar conditions and very often far worse. This is just one example and there are countless others.
ABSOLUTELY AND IN NO WAY SHAPE OR FORM am I advocating ONLY focusing on others. No, we need to take care of ourselves and let others help in the process. We are useless to help others if we are not caring for ourselves. Probably 70% of this website is focused on making sure that we are emotionally healthy. Yet, we just can’t have the focus only be on ourselves. Not because it isn’t right…it isn’t healthy, or even the least bit good for us.
So, focus outward, look at the world around you. See the goodness, see how God has and continues to provide. Relax and see that you can love anywhere at any time, regardless of your condition. Your health, financial situation, job status, social circle, etc. will all change but your ability to love, serve, and bless will always remain constant.