That fantasy you have in your head—it’s not real. You know what I’m talking about, the Instagram filtered version of your future where everything your life now lacks will finally be in your grasp. You’ll be an adult and free of your parents demands on you, or you’ll be done with classrooms and test taking and on to your dream job, or Ryan Reynolds will have finally realized what a doofus he was for not finding you and marrying you sooner. Yep, it sounds nice. The problem is, it’s the daydream equivalent of a selfie. The foreground consists of the best version of yourself (you know it’s the best version because you took the shot fourteen times to make sure) and everything else is just staging material. Ugly bits are cropped out and poor lighting is brightened by filters. You appear at your best angle and the world you’re standing in exists to facilitate your fantasy.
In real life we don’t get to crop the ugly bits out. We find that our circumstances aren’t just props in our one woman show, they bring genuine difficulty and disappointment into the picture which we cannot filter out. Reality shines down on our existence like the unforgiving lumens of a fluorescent light bulb and we are dreadfully aware of every blemish. This light exposes the fact that maybe we didn’t know better than Mom and Dad, that dream jobs are called that for a reason, and apparently Ryan Reynolds is already married, twice over, and though his pretty face may have made an appearance in your daydream, his foul language was probably edited out.
Finding Your Focus
So here’s the deal. Narrowly focusing on yourselfie is not going to help you get through life—not real life. Zooming in like that will only leave you frustrated and confused. We have to back up more than an arm’s length to bring things into focus. We are not the center of anything, so when we don’t step back far enough to get God in the frame we just keep snapping distorted pictures. He isn’t orbiting around us, He is the sun around which we all spin. Even those who hate Him cannot escape the gravitational pull to serve His purposes. They rage and plot in vain against the Anointed One.
Though God faithfully cares for His own people, calling us His children, He doesn’t position us in the center. If we try to understand the world while looking through a lens trained on ourselves, the picture will remain always fuzzy. The only way to bring life into focus is to zoom in on God like the prophet Habakkuk did:
Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.
Habakkuk’s prophecy bewailed the injustice and idolatry he saw all around him and then declared the coming judgment of the Lord in the form of invading armies. He didn’t expect to skip away free from the effects of living within a lawless and idolatrous generation. No, he trembled because he understood that the LORD is a holy judge.
In my place I tremble.
Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress,
For the people to arise who will invade us.—3:16
He expected to see God’s judgment on the land by invading armies and a choking off of the fruitfulness of their labor. He saw these things coming into his life and he knew they were brought by the Lord. He chose to respond with rejoicing. How is this possible? He wasn’t viewing the stage of history or his own place in it through a selfie lens. This isn’t the stuff of daydreams. Sepia-toned visions dull our senses to the possibility that the future might hold an onslaught of, “fierce and impetuous people who march throughout the earth to seize dwelling places which are not theirs,” who “come for violence.” Why do they come for violence? Because the Lord sent them, He “appointed them to judge.” This was the reality that was breaking into Habakkuk’s world.
Reality Shatters Daydreams
Bad things happen. Sometimes we suffer like the man blind from birth, “that the works of God may be revealed in us” (John 9:3). Sometimes we suffer because we are sinners who reap what we sow, like the broken relationships surrounding the drunkard (Galatians 6:7). And, sometimes we suffer, like the prophets did, because national lawlessness and idolatry brings judgment on nations.
Habakkuk knew all this and he saw the coming trouble, yet He rejoiced in the Lord. His distressed spirit trembled, the invading armies were savagely real, after all. Still, he knew his God well enough to know that the God who was sending the violent invaders was still the God of his salvation. No matter the difficulty of the coming season, he would have joy and strength in the Lord.
Daydreams are not where we live. There are greater purposes at work in the world which we are a part of. Christ has won the victory, all authority in heaven and on earth belong to Him, and His rule is not a fantasy. The great reality of His kingdom pushes our daydreams of personal comfort into the blurry background. Sure we like to be comfortable, but when our focus turns to seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, we find our assumptions of ease in this life are dramatically reduced while our hope for the future accumulates fast. This reversal of expectations is just what we might expect, if we know our God like Habakkuk did and learn to place our hope in Him.
When we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our hearts. Psalm 37 tells us that. This isn’t a promise that we will have every pony or Porsche we ever dreamed of. We mustn’t waste our delight on selfie-ish delusion. A heart that delights in the Lord is a changed heart, one that rejoices in who God is and what He is doing in the world and the cheerful prospect that we have a place in His plan though that place may not be one of physical comfort. This life is not about us. When our minds take to wandering it will do us well to remember that Jesus said, “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it,” and what He says is always true.