“Be Thou My Vision” is my favorite hymn. God has used it so many times in my life to encourage me and to draw my wandering eyes back on Him. And, for the last several years, whatever church I’m at seems to sing it at precisely the times I need to hear it.
This morning, I went into my church’s service knowing that it would be sung at some point – only, I didn’t really know. I just felt strongly that it would happen – and, every time I’ve had this feeling, it’s been sung. Sure enough, it was the final song we sang before our benediction at the end of the service. When it started playing, I smiled to myself – this song and how it plays at exactly the right times in my life is kind of like an inside joke between me and God.
This post, as you’ve likely gathered from the title, is related to the message of “Be Thou My Vision”. Obviously, our vision impacts every part of our life. The way we see the world impacts how we respond to it – this was some of the focus of one of my previous posts, Missionary Mindset. In the past few weeks, God has been particularly teaching me how flawed our vision becomes when we put too much of our focus on anything besides Him.
Actually, early on in my life, I was prophesied over that my biggest struggle in the coming years would be that I would focus too much on various “good” things that are not God. In hindsight, looking back on the years of my life since college, this has proven to be true. Anything, even a good thing, has the potential to become an idol. Perhaps this is obvious, but I think that all of us still have the tendency to focus our vision too much on the good things in our lives, and not enough on God. At different times in my life, various good things have dominated my vision – I’ve focused too much on music, too much on writing/stories, too much on friendships, or too much on my career. This tendency to put “good” earthly things before God is something I have to fight against on a daily basis – again, I think we all do.
This flawed vision has many consequences. When our primary focus is something other than God, it affects every aspect of our life. Nothing else in my life can, on its own, every bring me true joy. When I set my primary focus on growing in my career, or on friendships, or on the arts, this will always eventually lead to confusion, exhaustion, discontentment, or even depression. As tempting as it is to think it’s necessary to put all of our focus and energy onto earthly “good” things, this will never bring us satisfaction. Something will always be missing when we try to live life without God as the focus, when we don’t rely on the power of the Spirit to fill every aspect of our lives. Making God a “part” of our lives is not enough – He desires to fill ever crack and crevice.
One of my favorite books of the Old Testament is Ecclesiastes – I read it fairly often. Many people see Ecclesiastes as a hopeless and depressing book, but I see it as incredibly freeing. Ecclesiastes talks again and again about the meaninglessness and vanity of many aspects of life. It says that wisdom is vanity, wealth is vanity, work is vanity, and honor is vanity. However, the book also ends with the following conclusion, based on the vanities the author (Solomon) has observed:
“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” ~ Ecclesiastes 12:13b
Life is meaningless, and life is vanity… when it is lived apart from God. Fearing God and keeping His commandments is the whole duty of man. God commands us to love Him, and to love others; and, He commands us to spread the Truth of the Gospel to the ends of the Earth. These commands are all that is essential in life – God is all that is essential in life. Thus, it is only when God is our Vision – and nothing else – that we will see clearly, have meaning and purpose in our lives, and find true joy.
None of this is to say that work, the arts, relationships… etc. are at all bad things. On the contrary, they are beautiful things – when they are approached through the lens of Christ; when He is the center of our lives. My career, when approached apart from God, is meaningless. However, when Christ is my vision and my love for Him informs my career, it brings new purpose and inspiration to my work. He helps me recognize opportunities to serve Him and love people in my role as a librarian. He provides me with ways to use the resources and gifts He’s freely given me to help others. He leads and He guides me every step of the way – both in my day-to-day work, and in my long-term career.
And, when Christ is my Vision, he does the same for every other aspect of my life – His Spirit empowers me to be more effective in my relationships; to know how to love people, and how to put their needs before me own. He provides inspiration for my writing, and He speaks to me through stories. When I play music, my focus becomes on glorifying Him and not on myself. And through anything and everything I do, He brings complete peace and joy that is found nowhere apart from Him. When God is our Vision, He empowers every part of our life.
So, it is fitting that God has given me “Be Thou My Vision” as a sort of anthem for my life. I want to wake up every morning and sing this song to myself internally (or, out loud is okay, too!). For, as long as Christ is the Center of my life, and as long as He is my Vision, my life will never lack purpose or direction. I will never lack peace, and I will never lack joy. His Spirit provides more than sufficient strength, energy, and motivation to fulfill every one of the responsibilities He has given me. On my own, I am weak – through His power and His power alone, I am strong. When Christ is Our Vision, storms and trials will still come – but when He is our Rock, we cannot be shaken.
Thus, this remains my constant song and my constant prayer:
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light!Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one!Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art!
High King of Heaven, my victory won
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heav’n’s Sun
Heart of my own heart, whate’er befall
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all!