The apostle Paul would certainly have agreed with that little saying. As someone who went from being one of the greatest persecutors of Christianity to one of its greatest servants, Paul knew, perhaps more than most of us, what a difference “changing the way you look at things” can make.
Paul came to see very clearly how conversion and coming to faith changes the way we see things entirely. Notice what he wrote to the Christians in Corinth regarding this change:
“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer” (2 Corinthians 5:16).
Here, Paul shows how we begin to see not only God, but one another in a different light, to see with love rather than lust, jealousy, resentment, hatred and all the other ways in which our human nature, left to itself, can twist our view of the people around us.
But changing our viewpoint doesn’t just stop at initial conversion. It is an ongoing process. There are many times in the ongoing path of growth and transformation that we begin to feel that perhaps we should change in some way or do something we have not been doing. It is as if we feel a continuing pull to make the change, but we are not entirely convinced in our own minds that we want to do so. Perhaps we are not sure we want to give up something, or we are unsure of what the repercussions will be if we make some important change.
It’s at times like these that we need to remember that often we have to change before we see why we needed to change or realize that the changed situation is in fact better. There is nothing mystical in this – it just means that we need to step out and act, and then we begin to see the situation differently once we do. That’s when “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change“ comes in to play. Once we begin to turn from something we are coming to see is wrong, the more we stop wanting whatever it was. Once we begin to view a person we had disliked with an attitude of love, it’s surprising how often they seem to change for the better. And once we try doing something we may have feared or not wanted to have to do, we may find ourselves very happy that we did.
The important thing is to remember that spiritually we cannot wait until we see things differently – we must change, and then the different view develops naturally. It is very much like the situation Mark Twain described when he wrote: “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” When we change, we change the way we see things – and it really is amazing how those things then change.