Life is full of changes–some that don’t feel so great when they occur. I recently began a new chapter in my life that was one of those changes that brings pain. I had to leave the home I had been living in for ten years, a home where I was about as happy as I’ve ever been. The details are not important because all of us have changes that hurt, so what I want to say here will apply to any circumstances that bring us disappointment and pain.
When a change brings happiness and excitement, it is easy for us to say that God is in it. The difficulty comes in seeing that God is even in the changes that hurt and appear to be “bad.” For many years I have looked at life through the “single eye,” that Jesus talks about in Luke 11:34: “The lamp of your body is your eye; when your eye is single your whole body is full of light; but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.”
“Single” is the KJV word used here, with other versions translating “single” as “healthy,” “good,” or “clear.” I like the word “single” because we can look at other places in Scripture that talk about single and double such as James 1: 8 which talks about a double minded man being unstable. When seeing life and our circumstances through a “single eye,” we see them through God’s eyes and our union with Him. We see that God is in every situation and that there is a reason for all we go through. We no longer call situations good or bad. We call them “God” and wait to see what He is going to teach us through them.
Another example of single and double is in Genesis 3 where we see the two trees there. God called the tree that Adam and Eve were not supposed to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The other tree in the Garden was the Tree of Life. When we do not live from a “single eye,” we live from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, leaning on our own understanding instead of God to determine what is good or bad. When we do this we decide whether something is good or bad by how it looks and feels, by appearances and sight rather than by faith. Sometimes good things feel very painful and bad things feel very pleasurable. Living from the single eye views everything from God’s perspective, the Tree of Life.
Living from the single eye helps our perspective to line up better with God’s but it does not immediately diminish the pain of the situation. It is still necessary to grieve, feel the pain and go through it while holding on to God and His faithfulness, reminding ourselves that He makes all things work together for good. This builds our faith and draws us deeper into His heart. At the same time we are grieving over our changes, we can hold on to Jesus, receiving His comfort as He brings us through and shows us something wonderful down the road.
I learned about the single eye from Dan Stone. He says in his book, The Rest of the Gospel, that God uses the uncomfortable or negative situations that come our way to get our attention. We don’t usually stop and focus on the pleasant ones. When we stop in our tracks because of the negative, we have to exercise faith to look past it and see that God is at work no matter how it looks and feels. In our spirit union with God we see Him as the source and Him as the solution. “Nothing happens in our lives for which there is not a God reason.” (pp. 132-133)
“But what about evil?” we want to ask. Dan explains that it doesn’t matter so much who causes something (Satan or God) as it matters how we take it into ourselves. Positive results come from seeing it as from God. Negative results come from seeing the cause as Satan or some other person. Satan and evil are real and sometimes have to be dealt with, but on another level we go beyond that and talk about our situations as Jesus did when he called his crucifixion, “the Father’s cup.” In Genesis 50:20, Joseph tells his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” That is living from a single eye.
A Biblical example of what Dan is saying takes place in 1 Kings 18. Elijah had just defeated the prophets of Baal and shown them the power of the true God. Then he ran away depressed. God told Elijah that He was going to pass by and Elijah experienced an earthquake, wind and fire. God was in them, but not in them; He brought them, but 1 Kings says, “God was not in them.” Then God came to Elijah and he heard a “still small voice.” Dan summarizes this paradox by paraphrasing God, “Everything of your life is ultimately me, Elijah. I’ve set the whole thing in motion and nothing happens which I am not active in. I take the messes and change them into discipline or blessing. I’m part of the outer things in your life and I use them. They are not the deepest understanding of Me you can have. You are going to miss Me if that is the deepest you can go.” (Paraphrased from p. 76, The Rest of the Gospel)
As I walk through my journey of faith and encounter painful changes as coming ultimately from God, the peace that I experience is definitely beyond understanding. There may be pain, suffering and sadness, but He shows Himself as faithful and I always learn something new.