Voices of Faith: Your focus can determine your reality

Last winter I did something last winter that I would have never expected myself to do: I bought a light to make me happy. I thought the days of having my mood affected by the presence of a light bulb went away when I retired my last Spider-man night light more than 30 years ago, but that was before I came to Alaska and discovered that Vitamin D deficiency was a very real thing.

Sometime around Christmas, a normally festive time of the year, I found myself to be unreasonably irritable and unmotivated. I love the holidays, love my job, and have a great family, so I was having a hard time discerning the driving forces behind my uncharacteristic mood swings.

It was my wife who suggested that maybe it was just the lack of sunlight. I balked at the idea. Seasonal affective disorders happened to other people, I was far too emotionally mature for that.

When I saw a “happy light” at a thrift store, however, I figured the experiment was worth the $20. As I started using the light in my office, I was amazed at the difference it made in both my mood and my energy level. I discovered (as I usually do) that my wife was right. Just the feeling that I was looking at sunlight, artificial or not, had a tremendous effect on my outlook on everything else.

Psychologists have noticed a similar trend in the way we view life, known as “the focusing illusion.” In his book “Primal,” Mark Batterson shared the study of a group of college students who were asked two questions, in this order: “How happy are you?”, and “How often did you go on dates?” There was no observable correlation between the frequency of dating and the degree of happiness reported. However, when they asked the questions in the reverse order, making the students first focus on how often they were going on dates, there was a higher correlation between the answer to the two questions. The order of the questions changed the answers. 

What you focus on can determine your reality.

Everything we experience, whether good or bad, is altered through the lens of our outlook, and our outlook is determined by our focus. This is why Philippians 4:8 gives us this encouragement: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. 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.” Not everything we experience is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, or admirable. When we choose to focus on those things that are, however, we can discover peace even in the midst of pain and difficulty, a peace that “transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7)”.  

It’s even better than a light bulb. 

 

Pastor Grant Parkki is the Christian Education Associate Pastor at Kenai New Life. Kenai New Life is located at 209 Princess Street in Kenai, with Sunday services at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., with programs for children, youth, and adults at 6:30 on Wednesday evenings. You can find out more about the church and its ministries at kenainewlife.org.

More in Life

People gather in Ninilchik, Alaska, on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, for Salmonfest, an annual event that raises awareness about salmon-related causes. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Unhinged Alaska: Bones

Just as we approached Ninilchik, we remembered that the Salmonfest would be in high gear

File
Minister’s Message: What a Friend we have in Jesus

Can Jesus really be your friend? Jesus said so Himself.

The procedure for this quick kimchi is much less labor-intensive than the traditional whole head method, and takes less time to ferment, making it ideal for first time kimchi-makers. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Garden fail — but kitchen win nonetheless

This quick kimchi technique is less labor-intensive than the traditional method

Kate Lochridge stands by one of her paintings for a pop-up show of her work on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, at the Homer Council on the Arts in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by MIchael Armstrong/Homer News)
Pop-up exhibit shows culmination of art-science residency

The exhibit by Kate Lochridge came about after her internship this summer as a National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration Ernest S. Hollings Scholar and Artist in Residence

File
Minister’s Message: The power of small beginnings

Tiny accomplishments lead to mighty successes in all areas of life

A copy of “Once Upon the Kenai: Stories from the People” rests against a desk inside the Peninsula Clarion’s offices on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Hidden history

‘Once Upon the Kenai’ tells the story behind the peninsula’s landmarks and people

Artwork by Graham Dale hangs at the Kenai Art Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. These pieces are part of the “Sites Unseen” exhibition. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Apart and together

‘Sites Unseen’ combines the work of husband and wife pair Graham Dane and Linda Infante Lyons

Homemade garlic naan is served with a meal of palak tofu, butter chicken, basmati rice and cucumber salad. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Naan for a crowd

When it comes to feeding a group, planning is key

P.F. “Frenchy” Vian poses with a cigar and some reading material, probably circa 1920, in an unspecified location. (Photo courtesy of the Viani Family Collection)
Unraveling the story of Frenchy, Part 6

The many vital chapters in the story of Frenchy fell into place

File
Jesus, God of miracles, provides

When you are fishing or eating them, remember how Jesus of Nazareth used fish in some of his miracles

Sugar cookies are decorated with flowers of royal icing. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
Blooming sugar cookies

These sugar cookies are perfectly soft and delicious, easy to make, and the dough can be made long in advance