Huffing and puffing up the mountain trail, every stride had been shortened to a mere foot, just enough inches to keep making a bit of progress without the lungs giving out. Every large rock in the way was to be avoided or surmounted by the aid of a handhold and arm strength. Finally, huff-puff finally, we broke out on top and looked down. Wow! What a change in perspective! From the top, those huff-and-puff hills looked like mere berms. From up high, vehicles look like toy cars, moving people like ants or, as the prophet Isaiah put it, like grasshoppers.
It is He who sits above the vault of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
He it is who reduces rulers to nothing,
Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. (Is 40:22-23)
This passage is intended to give hope. The bad news was that the nation of Israel was going to be disciplined severely by seventy years of exile in Babylon. The good news was that the Lord would deliver them. So when the time for chastisement came they ought not despair but take comfort in God’s will and ability to deliver them at the right time.
How could they believe this? From the perspective of Israel, the Babylonian empire would appear to be an invincible giant. So God wanted them to see it from His perspective. He is so powerful and vast that He not only made all of creation, He sits above it. From His vantage point men appear to be mere grasshoppers. Could any mighty emperor, being a mere grasshopper, prevent God from carrying out His divine plan? How silly! “He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.”
Perspective shapes our understanding of reality and, therefore, of trials. It molds our hopes and prayers. From ground level, the troublous weeds of living in our day can look immense, shrinking hope and erasing praise from prayers.
I don’t know about you but I too often see difficulties from a grasshopper view. I’m too quick to magnify my problems bigger than they are to God. That’s why I wanted to focus on this passage awhile and ask myself some questions.
So whose perspective of reality is accurate?
All we see is an eye-level view and at that not even all the details. It is God who sees reality with perfect perspective and, therefore, God’s viewpoint that is accurate.
How do we attain God’s perspective?
Our problems can seem larger and more difficult to surmount than Mt. Everest. We need to read in the Bible God’s view of trials so that we can look down upon our troubles rather than up at them. Rather than believe our feelings or experiences, we choose to believe what God says about troubles and about Himself. Rather than doubt God’s goodness we remember His love. Those who follow Christ may be as small and insignificant as grasshoppers, but God loves us and will take care of us and one day make all things right. Christ loved so much that He came and endured the ultimate suffering to pay the penalty of sin on our behalf. Rather than imagine that the world is out of control we believe the Bible’s message that God is in control. One way to renew our minds is to memorize and meditate on passages like Isaiah 40 and others than magnify the greatness of God. Easy? No, but the hard work of changing our perspective to match God’s produces rest and joy.
How might this apply to trials in our lives?
Consider, in light of how big God is, how big can the problems of a grasshopper be? In light of eternity, how long do they last? In light of His power we can stop trying to control and instead trust God. In light of His immense love, we can submit to the trials He lovingly ordains for us. We can cooperate so as to bring Him glory. In light of the joys of seeing Christ in heaven, we can shift our gaze from the hardships here below to the beauty of Christ.
James 1:2-3 says to “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” When we see trials from God’s perspective we can count them a source of joy. We can assume the best of Him, that He is good and has a good purpose for this trial. We can commit to endure with attitudes and behaviors to glorify Him. That means putting off self-pity and putting on words of gratitude and actions of obedience and service. We can set our mind’s eye on the hope of being with Christ in heaven.
How might this apply to prayer?
Trials can discourage prayer. We don’t know what to ask. We ask for selfish things. Prayer seems futile. We let ourselves be discouraged from praying at all. But if God “sits above the vault of the earth” and is able to reduce rulers to nothing, we can choose to pray with faith. “He is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20). We might pray that we would see our problems as He does and that we would trust Him despite our lack of perspective. God sits above the vault of the earth, stretched out the heavens, yet inserts Himself into earthly history and overturns the declarations of kings and judges who think to rule the earth. With His greatness and our smallness in mind, in the midst of our trials we can trust Him and pray, “to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus…forever and ever” (Eph. 3:21).