If you are asked to describe what you see, what would you write? Would you describe the black splatter of ink, or would you write about the white part of the paper?
Psychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson shared that the human brain is hardwired to focus on and recall the negatives more than the positives. Hence it won’t be a surprise if your eyes were drawn to the black splatter of ink.
This behaviour was seen in the book of Numbers chapter 13, when Moses sent spies to the land of Canaan as instructed by God. Even though the Israelites saw how fruitful and blessed Canaan was agriculturally, they were focused on how strong and big the Canaanites were. They told Caleb, “We cannot attack these people; they are stronger than we are… We felt like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” (Numbers 13:31, 33). They had forgotten how God had taken them out of Egypt and provided for them, the many miracles that God had performed throughout their journey. They didn’t trust God to be with them, to deliver them from these Canaanites, and give them the promised land flowing with milk and honey. Their focus was not on God, but on their problems.
Like the Israelites, we often feel defeated when faced with our negative situations and are unable to see or remember God’s hands in our lives. Instead, we only see everything that had gone wrong, focusing on our fears, burdens and trials.
As Christians, what then should we do when life throws a spanner in the works?
Be like Daniel in the Old Testament.
In the book of Daniel chapter 6, Daniel was thrown into a lions’ den by his enemies who wanted him dead. Daniel’s eyes weren’t on the lions. He had his focus on God. He said, “My God sent his angel and closed the lions’ mouths so that they have not hurt me.” (Daniel 6:23) God delivered him from the lions and “he was found to be unharmed because he trusted in his God”. (Daniel 6:24)
Although our innate nature tends to zoom in on the negatives, we need to cultivate our minds to look upwards to our heavenly Father: to focus on His possibilities, and not our adversaries; to rely on His Grace and not our own strength; and to listen to His promptings and not our insecurities. Together with the psalmist, we declare:
“I trust in God, I do not fear. What can mere flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:5)
Written by Christina Teh
Hanson, R. (2013). Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence. USA: Harmony