If you’ve read my blog for any time, then you know I’m big on perspective, because I believe it’s the secret sauce for living a victorious, overcoming life. I’m convinced that our lives are determined not by what challenges life brings our way, but by how we choose to think and subsequently act when faced with inevitable obstacles.
While blogging is one place I hang my hat, I spend most of my time as a missionary working alongside my husband. In addition to our work in the Philippines, we’re also oversee an awesome band of fellow missionaries in Southeast Asia.
Today, I’ve asked one of our missionaries to the Philippines, Lindsay Choi, to share her recent journey and some tips she’s learned to help shift your focus when you lose perspective.
I was in the fetal position in my daughters’ closet, weeping, sweating, terrified, and only able to stammer a few words: “God. Help. Please.”
A week earlier, a wave of inexplicably severe anxiety had crashed over me. Panic attacks sprang on me without warning, leaving me gasping for breath, unable to function, tortured by devastating scenarios that played on repeat in my mind.
What instigated this storm? I honestly don’t know.
As a nation we were facing social upheaval, a contentious election, and divisive opinions about the pandemic… but this anxiety was more personal than all that. The icy hand of fear grasped my heart and conjured up visions of the worst things I could imagine happening to my family.
The anxiety and panic plunged me into depression. While I was never suicidal, I remember thinking, “If this is what my life is now, I can’t do it.” And the enemy of my soul shouted back: “YES! This is your life now. Give up!”
What eventually pulled me back from the brink of despair?…Scripture, worship, prayers and messages from my family… and a lesson I actually taught on perspective back in 2012.
I was teaching English in the Philippines, and we were using the book of Habakkuk to practice reading comprehension. As we watched Habakkuk go from fear to faith, I prepared a simple object lesson to demonstrate how Habakkuk made that leap.
I had each student hold a Philippine peso, a coin about the size of a nickel, up to their left eye while closing their right. When they all complied, I asked the class what they saw.
“The peso,” came the replies.
“Only the peso? How is that possible?” I pressed. “I’m here, and I am a little bigger than a peso.”
There were a few giggles… and then from a student in the back came the one word I was seeking: Perspective.
I reminded my class that day that our focus can warp reality. Small things loom large when we hold them too close. We may be surrounded by beauty, by friends, by opportunities. But if we’ve brought our small, insignificant concerns to the center of our vision, life will shrink and our souls will be threatened by a coin-sized fear.
In Habakkuk 1, the prophet is asking God some modern-sounding questions: “Why? How long?” He vents his frustration and confusion. And God answers:
Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
Notice how God’s response to Habakkuk was not the obliteration of evil nor relief from pain; it was simply an adjustment of focus. Look, God says. Watch. In other words: shift your focus. Raise your eyes. See a different reality.
In 2012, I went to the Philippines as a missionary, leaving home out of a season of disappointment. While overseas, God highlighted Habakkuk 1:5 for me. For years, I had focused on my struggles; I finally realized that it was my focus, not my circumstances, that had birthed the disappointments I was fleeing.
God was calling me to watch what He was doing. And He was right: I would not have believed if I’d been told what He was going to do with me.
Fast forward to that August day in 2020. I huddled in a closet, unable to play with my kids or cook dinner or chat with my husband or consider the future without terror. And this verse is drumming through my mind on repeat: “I am doing something. I am doing something. I am doing something.”
I didn’t feel the truth of that statement in those agonizing moments. But I learned that you can know something is true without feeling it.
So again and again, I dragged my eyes away from the “peso” that had swallowed my vision and I looked up.
Minutes later, I would find my gaze fixed once again on the peso. Almighty God, Creator of all, King of kings and Lord of lords, had been eclipsed by my infinitesimal human fears.
Not once, not twice, but countless times I lifted my eyes until I saw Him once again, seated above the flood. Eventually, the turbulent sea of anxiety stilled and I floated again on the gentle waves of His goodness.
A repeated adjustment of my perspective finally brought me to the same conclusion that Habakkuk comes to at the end of his short book…
Even if the worst things I can imagine do happen, I will rejoice. I will trust. I will invite the Sovereign Lord to be my strength.
If you are in a season where your focus is continually eclipsed by “coins,” I encourage you to do a few things I’ve found most helpful:
You will find proportions drastically changing as your focus shifts. Mountains may shrink down to molehills. Molehills, things that were on the periphery and seemed insignificant or mundane, may swell to become holy mountains.
The right perspective, a heavenly perspective, gives you power to hop over molehills, climb mountains worth climbing, and move forward in God’s perfect plan for you.
If you could peek behind the veil and see how God is working in the darkness of your situation, you wouldn’t even believe it. Lift your gaze to the One who is truly larger than it all… and prepare to be utterly amazed.
I’m Lindsay Choi, wife, mom of 2 princesses, missionary, teacher, and writer. I inhale coffee and doughnuts, and if I have a minutes of free time, you’ll find me curled up in a comfy chair with a book… or five. God has been incredibly gracious to me. I am humbled and honored to share my story with you. If you would like to support my family and me as missionaries to the Philippines, please click here.