“We might have severe weather this afternoon,” Mark said at breakfast. We both looked out our windows and the sky was clear blue. After we cleared the dishes, I put on my running shoes and sunglasses, then headed out the back door.
I took another look at the sky and realized it had turned menacing. My usual running route takes me past ponds with turtles and fat bullfrogs, white ducks and the occasional blue heron. This was where I really wanted to go. But the clouds were getting closer and I decided to do what seemed safe. I ran small laps around the same block. I stuck close to home. I chose not to go as far.
When I neared our house, I pulled off my sunglasses to wipe sweat from my eyes, and I got a surprise. The sky wasn’t stormy after all. Oh, sure, there were a few gray clouds scattered around but nothing actually threatening.
My glasses are new, and I forgot the lenses make everything look darker. I realized, suddenly, that I had based my actions not on reality but on perception. I could have gone on my usual route. It’s hours later now as I write this and it’s still not raining.
I stood on the trail behind our house and asked myself, “How often have I done the same in other areas of my life? How often have I looked through the lenses of fear and let what I saw hold me back?”
We all do this as humans. Our brains are wired with a negativity bias. In other words, we naturally notice what’s negative more than what’s positive. This helps us survive, but if we’re not careful, it can hold us back from our best lives. When we catch ourselves thinking negatively, it’s easy to be harsh or critical of ourselves. We might feel guilty or wonder if something is wrong with our faith. But that only perpetuates the cycle. Instead we can simply pray, God, thank You for giving me a wonderful brain that is trying to protect me right now. While it can give me helpful information, I only want to take instructions from You. Help me shift my perspective and refocus on truth.
Then we can do a reality check to make sure we aren’t looking through lenses that are distorting what we see. To do so, we can pause and ask these four questions:
- What am I telling myself right now? If I do this, I’ll fail.
- Am I 100% sure that’s actually true? No, I won’t know until I try.
- If not, what do I know for sure is true? I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13 NLT).
- Based on what’s true, what’s the next thing I will do? For example, I will apply for the job in spite of the fear I feel.
Even if the person in this example didn’t get the job, they’re still not a failure. They may feel like a failure but that’s only the lens they’re looking through — it’s perception, not reality. Thankfully, God never commands us to feel a certain way; He simply invites us to obey. It’s okay if it takes time for our emotions to catch up with what’s true. What we feel also isn’t our identity. A distorted perspective says, “I’m a failure.” A truth-based perspective says, “I’m a beloved child of God who lives in a world where things don’t always turn out the way I hope.”
Is it hard to practice this process of questioning our perspective? I can say from personal experience, absolutely. Expect inner resistance. And sometimes there will be storms and setbacks in life. That’s unavoidable in this world. What matters over a lifetime is that we don’t let what we perceive have more of a hold on us than what we believe, what we know deep down is true.
Let’s move forward with more courage and clearer vision today.
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Printing this out to keep, great article, thank you Holly.
Ariel Krienke says
Glad God sees me even if no one else does. Thankful for a home in heaven waiting for me.
Kathleen Burkinshaw says
Thank you so much Holley for sharing your heart and your faith.I truly need these words today. I’m having a painful (emotional and physical) recovery from spinal surgery in February. As well as a setback when I received an electric shock from my spinal cord stim device replaced (I have Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy)in February’s surgery,which has been traumatic. I have been perceiving myself a failure because I can’t get past this new burning pain in my right leg(my left leg has been like this for 20 years) and anxiety attacks. I’ve been seeing myself as a big lump of pain and failing as a person. Your words were a hug to my soul. God Bless. ❤️
Holley Gerth says
Sending you a virtual hug too and saying a prayer for you, Kathleen!
I feel like this was just what I needed to hear. I’ve been up since 3 am stressing out. I feel like I have been making mistake after mistake over the last few years and now I am so confused even prayer hasn’t helped. I am a retired mental health clinician- go figure that I can get my act together. So, I am at least smart enough to have made an appointment with a therapist. And I need to remind myself constantly I have a roof over my head, and I have food to eat, a church that I am so thrilled to be a part of, friends and of course family. But still, I need help and I need to see the truth.
Holley Gerth says
Well done for reaching out for help, Madeline. I can so relate to stressing out and feeling stuck in my thoughts. Praying for you today!
Thank you for this. I think many of us can relate to fear, anxiety and perceptions. I have found that many times when I’ve become anxious that after I face it, it wasn’t so bad afterall.
Soooo needed this today. Thank you! May God continue to give us peace, courage, and faith as we face our fears. Put my trust in Jesus!!!
Tisha Jarrell says
Wow. God knows what we need at exactly when we need it. This article spoke to what I’m going through right now in a mighty way. I am going back into a career that I know God called me to…but I’ve been a little fearful lately. After I had such a peace about going back- which I know was from the Lord because He showed me so many reasons to say “yes” to the position- I’ve been having nagging thoughts going through my mind. Will I be as good as I used to be at this? Will people resent me for leaving and then coming back? Will I be able to juggle this monumental task that is up ahead with everything else that is expected of me and come out successfully, but even more important- joyfully? Will I be able to keep the negativity of others out of my mind and focus on the Joy of the Lord and let that be my strength? The answer to all of these questions are a resounding YES, but not because of my doing- because of God’s. Just as your article pointed out- and this hit me like a ton of bricks in the BEST way- “What we feel also isn’t our identity.” I am a child of God, loved and seen in ways I could have never imagined. Jesus is with me through this huge adventure, holding my hand through it all. I want this time to be different than the first time. I want to seek Him before ever listening to these detrimental negative thoughts or hurtful words of others. His Truth is simply that- the Truth. It’s what I need to hear and meditate on. Thank you for this reminder and encouragement! I will be printing this off to read as a reminder of Who I belong to.
Connie Overby says
Tisha, I’ve learned the hard way that we, in Jesus, have an enemy who wants to weaken or destroy our witness for Jesus. He taught me to be alert to Satan’s attacks. And immediately stand against the negative thoughts in Jesus name that Satan puts in my mind by putting on the armor of God. This is something I’m still working on daily. But God is so-o-o GOOD. HE’s so-o-o merciful. I’ve learned the meaning of “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. Because at 76 years old, that kind of thinking has become a way of life. But GOD has shown me with HIM all things are possible. What I thought was impossible has NOW become possible. So Tisha go forth in Jesus name with Jesus confidence. GOD bless you and may HE keep you in the palm of HIS hand.
Holley Gerth says
So well said, Tisha! Cheering you on and saying a prayer for you as you step into this new season!
Pearl Allard says
Holley, thank you. Great reminder. Fears of all kinds have kept me from living more days than I care to admit. Your questions are similar to one I use now too: If I wasn’t afraid, I would (fill in the blank). It is empowering realizing that I can still choose to do something even when anxiety tells me otherwise.
Holley Gerth says
That is such a great question to ask yourself, Pearl! I’m going to start asking that too! Thank you.
Thank you, Holley! You always give me food for thought and encouragement to self examine.
Thank you, Holley…you truly struck not one, but several nerves. I was having trouble focusing on where to apply your words, so I will use them in all instances that they apply. Thank you again so very much! God Bless!!
Paula Schlotterbeck says
I did not know why I always seem to think about the negative things that are going on in my life. Thank you for the information that our brains are wired with a negativity bias. That explains so much-thank you Holley! I also want to keep my mind on what God says and not base truth on what my brain is telling me.
Holley Gerth says
So glad it was helpful to you, Paula!
Beth K Vogt says
“What matters over a lifetime is that we don’t let what we perceive have more of a hold on us than what we believe, what we know deep down is true.” Mastering this may take a lifetime, but it is worth the effort. Thanks, Holley!
Beth Williams says
Love your posts. You always have such great wisdom to dispense. Our world today makes it easy to feel like a failure. If you don’t own a home or nice car, good paying job, aren’t skinny, the list goes on then you are a failure. That is totally upside down to God’s economy. He sees each one of us as a beloved Child & an heir with a super inheritance in Heaven. Ask yourself those four simple questions, change your perception, trust what you know deep deep down & you will see yourself as a winner.