When we are focused on the wrong things, we make bad choices. One way we focus on the wrong thing is by comparing ourselves to others. Another is to reject what we have and obsess over getting what they have. A distorted focus can lead us to manipulate situations to gain what we think we are lacking. But in the process, we forfeit far more life.
The story of Jacob, Leah, Rachel illustrates this well. In Genesis 29, we see a budding romance between Jacob and the beautiful Rachel. But the morning after their wedding, Jacob learns he was tricked and is married to Rachel’s less-desirable older sister, Leah. After a confrontation with his father-in-law, Jacob agrees to keep Leah if he can marry his beloved Rachel, too.
Leah’s focus became gaining her husband’s love. She thought giving him something valuable — many sons — would achieve her goal. She sacrificed peace, happiness, and more in this pursuit. Leah birthed 6 sons and a daughter, but there is no evidence that she won her husband’s love or realized her motives and actions were wrong.
Rachel also had distorted vision. She had her husband’s love but was focused on becoming a mother. She, too, sacrificed peace and happiness in pursuit of her own agenda. Jealousy blinded her to God’s blessings and caused her to idolize what she did not have. After years of despair and manipulation she finally birthed a son. But that was not enough; she wanted another one. God did allow that, but she died in childbirth. The very thing she thought would make her life complete caused her death.
We, too, are tempted to think that we will find far more life when we get what we want. If only… When this happens… After this… We focus on the elusive goal, blind to the cost. Even if reaching our goal brings temporary peace and joy, it does not last. Eventually we grow dissatisfied and convince ourselves fulfillment is just ahead. But, like Leah and Rachel discovered, this only leads to bad choices and heartache.
Genesis 37 tells that Jacob favored Rachel’s sons over Leah’s, and Leah’s sons went to great lengths to remove the competition. Not only did these women miss out on far more life, but their example distorted their children’s vision as well.
This family failed to see that far more life is found only in God. He promises:
Who is the man fearing Yahweh? [Yahweh] will instruct him in the way he should choose. His soul will lodge in prosperity, and his offspring will possess the land. Intimate fellowship with Yahweh is for those who fear him, and [Yahweh] makes known his covenant to them. (Psalm 25:12-14, LEB)
A prosperous soul — far more life — is given to those who pursue intimate fellowship with God. Those who lay aside their own purposes to focus on achieving His purpose. This allows us to recognize God’s work in our lives and help those we raise and mentor to see it, too. Jesus explained it this way:
Then Jesus called the crowd and his followers to him. He said, “Any of you who want to be my follower must stop thinking about yourself and what you want. You must be willing to carry the cross that is given to you for following me. Any of you who try to save the life you have will lose it. But you who give up your life for me and for the Good News will save it. It is worth nothing for you to have the whole world if you yourself are lost.” (Mark 8:34-36, ERV)
Imagine there are two life plans you could follow. The first option is the plan you develop. To make this plan you look at your available resources and consider how to make the most of them. You take your desires, skills, and preferences into account. You research the possibilities and choose the one that looks best. When obstacles arise, you assess how to keep moving toward the goal. Or you modify your plan, sometimes shifting focus. The second option is the plan God developed for you that fits within His master plan. He holds every possible resource and can give you whatever you need whenever you need it. He created you with desires, skills, and preferences that allow you to not only complete His plan but to be fulfilled by it. He foresees the obstacles and ensures a path forward is always available. God’s plan is the only one that leads to far more life. Would you give up your plan to focus on His?
We are wise to answer “Yes!” But a distorted view of God or ourselves can prevent us from seeing what is best. It seems better to focus on our own plan if we think God is distant, indifferent, harsh, selfish, critical, angry, or not trustworthy. We cannot believe a God with these characteristics would offer a plan that gives us far more life. Similarly, if we think too much or too little of ourselves, we will seek fulfillment through an inward focus. Believing we are responsible for finding far more life on our own, we disconnect from God to seek the path forward. How do we correct a distorted view of God or ourselves?
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…fixing our eyes on Jesus…For the joy set before him he endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV)
We study God’s Word to discover His perspective. We replace lies with His truth. We reject sin. As we choose to focus on Him, the path to far more life becomes clear.
How has focusing on the wrong thing caused you to make bad choices?
When have you trusted in your circumstances for satisfaction and happiness? Did it last?
Does intimate fellowship with God sound appealing to you? Why or why not?
Is a distorted view of God or yourself pulling you away from His plan? How will you correct it?
Praise God that His perfect plan for you includes far more life!
Copyright 2021, Shari Damaso