Attacks On Our Hope: Shifting Our Focus

4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Genesis 3:4-5

Imagine you are living in the Garden of Eden.  You have everything you need:

  • No need for clothes, so no dry cleaning bills or laundry. 
  • Unlimited food at your disposal, and all of it is fresh, organic and free (and since there is no ice cream or baked goods, you can never get fat).  No grocery shopping, no cooking, no dishes to do. 
  • No need for dating – you have a guy there who is in charge of the place and for whom you were especially created (literally the match made in heaven). 
  • No need for shelter or transportation, so no mortgage, no car payment, no fuel or utility bills.
  • No toil or work for man or woman, and no pain in childbirth.
  • Best of all, no wondering what God wants from you or what He means by this or that.  He actually meets with you in person and walks with you, talking to you, answering any of your questions and making Himself understood clearly.

Paradise, literally, just given to us.    EVERYTHING we need is provided.  No worries, no trouble, just relaxation and enjoyment.  So what could possibly go wrong? 

Satan knows our human weakness better than anyone except God.  The devil enters the picture and tells us the one thing our flesh and ego cannot ignore: 

 There is MORE, and YOU CAN’T HAVE IT. 

And our mind starts to wander… “Oh yeah, there was that one tree we can’t eat from.   I hadn’t really thought much of that one.  I was busy simply going about my business in the garden, enjoying life moment by moment, with all my needs being met by God.  I guess I figured I didn’t need that tree or its fruit, but now that you mention it, it does look kinda good…”

Our focus moved from what we had to what we didn’t have.  The fact that we COULDN’T have it somehow made it even more desirable.  The fact that GOD could have it, but WE couldn’t partake of it made not having it suddenly unbearable.

Isn’t that interesting?  A minute ago, that tree wasn’t even in our field of vision.  NOW, it is ALL that we see.  

And here is the most important part:  NOTHING in our life has actually changed.  We still have our basic needs met, and probably some extras as well (they could be relational bonuses or physical conveniences). We went from being satisfied with what we have and happy, to unsatisfied with what we have and miserable.  We went from being thankful for the provision God has given to being angry with God for withholding something.

What changed?  OUR FOCUS.  Satan’s simplest trick to make us miserable is to show us something we don’t have and for some reason or other at this time, cannot have.   If Satan repeatedly dangles in front of us what we want but can’t have, we become mentally obsessed with it. 

Next thing you know, gratitude for what we have goes right out the window.  The God we once thanked for His provision becomes this miserly old codger who won’t give us what we want.  We become like the toddler in the shopping cart who wants everything they see in the aisles and starts to scream, despite the fact that their favorite cereal is laying right there in front of them in the cart.

  • I know women who are single who are focused on the fact that they don’t have a man. 
  • I know women who are married who are focused on the thought that they have the WRONG man. 
  • I know women with decent paying  jobs who are focused on the thought of making more money for less hours of work.
  • I know adults who are focused on not being able to have children. 
  • I know of parents who are focused on all they are missing because they DO have children.

Whatever you focus on grows in proportion until it is ALL you can see in your life.  If you focus on what you don’t have, all of your thoughts will eventually revolve around and be skewed by this mental framework.  You completely lose perspective, because in actuality, your life does NOT revolve around that missing part.  Your life has many more parts – parts that could bring you satisfaction and joy – it’s just the missplaced focus that is screwing you up. 

Now here is where we really get in trouble.  We start to believe the lie that this missing thing is a NEED, and God won’t provide it.  Therefore, God either isn’t good, doesn’t love me, is punishing me, or simply wants me to be miserable for the rest of my life.  You give up hope on God when He’s actually providing everything you need.  And when you give up hope, you cast off restraint and decide to take things into your own hands.

Once Satan gets you to doubt God’s goodness, love for you and desire to provide for your needs, the devil’s got you in his grasp.   And if you dwell on it long enough, you will do ANYTHING to get it – even things outside of God’s will.  Then you will have to deal with guilt and self-condemnation on top of this misplaced focus.

I know, I lived it for years, telling myself I needed this thing I couldn’t have, or this person I couldn’t have, and thinking God was just a big meanie for not letting me have it.  So in one case, He said, “Fine, do it YOUR way.  You want it?  Go ahead and take it.”  And I did.  And it was NOT what I thought, and made me feel even more miserable, because what I had been focusing on for all these years had really just been a big, built-up lie, a mirage, and there was absolutely no substance to it.  Then Satan had a huge laugh at my expense and said, “Got ya!”

This is how I now handle attempts to shift my focus – I ask myself these questions and tell myself these truths:

  • Will you DIE if you can’t have that?  Is it a necessity, or simply a want?   Are you just being tricked into shifting your focus so Satan can make you miserable?
  • Just because you want it, and FEEL like you must have it, doesn’t mean you have to have it.  It is just a DESIRE, and it will pass if you get your focus on something else. 
  • No, Penny, everyone else doesn’t have it.  Everyone else probably wants something they don’t have, regardless of what they DO have.
  • Is everything in your life all right AT THIS VERY INSTANT?  Do you have all you need during this exact moment of your life?   Then FOCUS ON ENJOYING THIS MOMENT.
  • What do you have to be thankful for right now?  What are all of the things God has provided for me?
  • Think of all of the people who have nothing, no home, no possessions, no family, bad health.  If you are going to compare your life to someone else’s, then compare it to THOSE people’s livesEverything is RELATIVE. Get your perspective back!

99.9% of us actually have had God provide everything we need to survive on a daily basis.  True, some of us have real basic needs threatened, but I’m speaking to the majority of us who really have everything we need, but have just fallen into the trap of focusing solely on what we DON’T have instead of what we DO have.   You are in danger of going outside of God’s will to get what you Satan has tricked you into thinking you MUST HAVE, and therefore having to deal with real hardship outside the garden of God.

What are you focusing on?  You can tell because you will think about it many times a day.  Or just ask your friends what you talk about (or complain about) the most.  They can tell you in a heartbeat, if you’ve been honest with them, what you are obsessing over.  

Is the focus gratitude for what you have, or obsession with what you don’t have?  Believe it or not, you have complete control over your choice in this matter.   If you are obsessing, then you have believed Satan’s lie in the matter. Tell yourself the truth to expose the lie.  Take your focus back so you can spend your days in enjoyment of what you do have instead of misery over what you don’t.

Penny Haynes