I heard of a professor who presented her class with a surprise test. She passed out the test face down on each student’s desk, as she customarily did, until all tests had been distributed. When each student possessed a test, the professor instructed them to turn their paper over and begin an essay regarding what they saw on the front of the paper: a single small black dot in the middle of the white piece of paper.
The students glanced down at the page then up at the professor, then at each other with unspoken questions in their eyes. She offered no further explanation before sitting down at her desk. Each student began writing.
After the allotted amount of time, the professor collected all the tests and much to the students’ surprise began to read their essays aloud to the class. When she exhausted the pile of essays, the professor explained that she would not grade this exam, but she hoped each student would learn from the experience. Each student focused on some aspect of the black dot: they had written about the size of the dot, the color, the diameter, and the way the dot blemished the otherwise clean white page. Yet not a single student focused on the white space surrounding the dot, which encompassed much more space than the small black dot. She went on to explain that so often this is our tendency in life: we focus on the few things that go wrong, are negative, or that bother us, rather than the many good, positive things we could choose to make our focus.
Shift your focus
Ever since hearing that story, I’ve challenged myself to intentionally shift my focus to the positive aspects of situations, because otherwise the negativity will overwhelm and override my focus and my attitude, and result in a cascade effect where I become negative and feel defeated about other, unrelated situations as well. Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT) encourages us to “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you” (emphasis added).
How to experience peace
There is a direct correlation between our thought life and the degree to which we experience His peace. Here Scripture shows us that if we will keep our thoughts on the positive things from Him, things worthy of praise, then we will experience peace. So rather than focusing on the negative black dot like a thorny weed, let’s pay more attention to the beautiful, praise-worthy white space all around us that is the open field of peace.
In Him, #PeacePrevails!