Recently I heard about a man visiting New York City for the first time. The mass of people walking down the sidewalks in front of the towering buildings, and the cars and taxicabs jostling for position on the streets, seemed chaotic and confusing. “How can anyone get anywhere, or get anything done, in this place?” he wondered.
Then a friend invited him to go up the historic Empire State Building and view Manhattan from the 86th and 102nd floor observatories. From those vantage points the tourist gained a very different perspective of the activity below. Traffic seemed to be moving in an orderly, controlled manner and people (despite appearing no bigger than fleas) were following their respective courses unimpeded by the surrounding crowds.
Over and over I’ve realized the view from above makes things look strikingly different, as I discovered years ago while visiting the picturesque city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany. Below, shops seemed quaint and pleasant. But from atop the courthouse in the centrum, this community sometimes called the most photographed city in Europe took on a much greater scope and more impressive grandeur.
Life has a way of being that way, too. When we’re caught up in the muck and mire of everyday living, life often seems to be lacking any sense of order or purpose. And when we encounter inevitable adversities – family issues, work challenges, health problems, financial struggles and unexpected calamities – we become convinced that pointless chaos reigns.
At such times it helps to take a step back, if possible, to gain a better perspective. Sometimes that “step back” is achievable only with the passing of time. But often we discover the turmoil we are enduring – or have endured – had “rhyme and reason” we couldn’t comprehend at the time.
A job we thought perfectly suited for, only to see it offered to someone else. The baby arrives with problems requiring the little one to remain in neo-natal intensive care for several weeks. The air conditioner quits working, right in the most dogged days of summer. The annual checkup with the physician reveals a condition you didn’t suspect, demanding immediate attention. And so it goes.
In the moment, these crises seem overwhelming. They suddenly thrust your life into turbulence, like a ship wandering into the midst of a hurricane. How do we keep from sinking?
For people of faith, the response is usually a mixture of prayer, perseverance – and panic. Why don’t disasters give advance warning, put themselves on our calendars weeks in advance so we can adequately prepare?
Most times these crises do come to an conclusion and then – and only then – we might be able to get the “view from above,” perspective that was lacking as the storm was swirling around us.
Someone once put it this way: It’s like we’re the ground troops during a battle, while God is flying a helicopter, viewing and guiding the conflict from above.
We’ve heard it said so many times, it’s seems trite, a cliché. But it’s true just the same: Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
In the midst of whatever trial we’re facing, all we can see is NOW, the immediate. The what’s and why’s of things happening are lost to us since we’re too busy reacting to whatever circumstances present themselves at that instant. But God has the overhead view, the Empire State Building vista, where believe it or not, things aren’t as random and chaotic as they seem.
As He promises in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The Lord is saying He understands we can’t make sense of hardships and pain we’re currently experiencing, but He’s working and using them for our ultimate good.
The next time you encounter a situation that seems beyond your capacity to handle, think of yourself as standing on 5th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. All around you are throngs of people, cars and taxis. Craziness seems to reign. Then envision yourself transported atop the Empire State Building, gazing down at the now almost serene-looking scene you just left. That’s God’s perspective, the one that matters.
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com
, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com
. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.