Columnist David Guretzki reflects on setting our priority amid pain and distraction.
just had eye surgery – a refractive lens exchange. The procedure removes the natural lenses in my eye and replaces them with permanent artificial lenses that correct my eyesight and astigmatism (Lord willing!) for the rest of my life.
The result has been remarkable, almost miraculous. Although I’ve worn corrective lenses for over 40 years, I suddenly see the world with new eyes, as the saying goes. I wake up at night and see the time on the clock so clearly that I think I forgot to take my contact lenses out!
This whole ophthalmologic experience forced me to think a lot about focus. I noticed how often we speak about focus. We focus on a project, a book, our work, our family, our priorities and the list goes on.
Focus can be lost gradually over time. When I was a boy, my vision was already in need of correction years before I first got glasses because I had adapted to seeing the world out of focus. I was shocked, not to mention slightly dizzy, when I first put those glasses on and found out how clear the world was meant to be.
As I write this the war in Ukraine rages, churches remain divided over the fallout of the pandemic, and individuals and families struggle to deal with pain and loss and financial challenges. It’s a good time to ask, Have we lost focus amid life’s fray?
That’s a good question. Here’s another – Focus on what?
Scripture tells us it is not what we should focus on, but who.
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Hebrews 12:2).
Let’s focus on Jesus, the beginning and end of our faith … so that we will not grow any wearier than we already are, and not lose heart in the face of what appears to be a never-ending flood of problems.
I already sense some objections. Of course, we should focus on Jesus, but we still must tackle the troubles in our world. The war rages on. Some Indigenous communities still don’t have clean drinking water. People have lost loved ones and livelihoods from Covid. And yes, people continue to be persecuted for their faith, die without ever hearing the gospel, or fail to have a Bible in their own language.
These are all heart-wrenchingly true. Agreed. So let me suggest this is not an either-or situation. It isn’t about focusing on Jesus or working through the big issues. Nevertheless, one takes priority over the other.
We can’t simply ignore the scriptural imperative to fix our gaze on Jesus. We can’t, in other words, expect to deal with these big problems in any God-honouring way if we don’t first do this one really, really important thing. Because if we don’t reorient ourselves toward Jesus every day, our ability to find sound theological and practical solutions on these issues will already be hindered. Jesus is, in other words, the best prescription lens in the entire universe. Without Him we see only dimly, and both our descriptions and prescriptions for big problems will fall painfully short.
May I suggest that we – church leaders and laypeople alike – try to get this right before we jump to the problems. How well are we focusing on Jesus?
Let’s do some self-diagnosis. How much time did I fix my gaze on Jesus today? To what extent have we lost the primary focus of corporate worship as being to turn our eyes toward our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have access to the Father? How often do we begin our days, begin (and interrupt!) our meetings, begin our planning and strategizing by focusing on the giver of all wisdom Jesus Christ? How much of our time in past months has been disproportionately devoted to criticizing, strategizing or prognosticating rather than being with, gazing upon, pleading with and hearing from Jesus?
I can admit my own spiritual optometry report isn’t impressive. How about yours?
Lord Jesus, give us eyes to see you clearly and profoundly in the Word you have given. Give us your Healing Spirit by which our hearts are softened and by which spiritual cataracts fall from our eyes. Give us a renewed vision, Jesus, to see the Father as you see Him in your eternal and loving communion. Help us, Jesus, not to become weary. Help us, O Lord God, not to lose heart.
David Guretzki of Ottawa is executive publisher of Faith Today and serves The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada as executive vice-president and resident theologian.