“There is enough light for those who choose to see, and enough darkness for those who are of a contrary disposition,” so said Blaise Pascal. The French philosopher was noting something about the significance of perspective. What you focus on has a massive impact on how you live. Laurie Polich Short wants to help readers focus on the right things. Despite an abundance of clichés, overall this book is a decent work on “reframing your life.”
The book is developed by exploring what Short calls “four lenses” which can “open up a multidimensional view of your life” (9). The problem for most of us, she notes, is our one-dimensional view of circumstances. We focus on what we don’t have, or what we don’t like, but there is much that we do have for which we can learn to develop great appreciation. Our focus is key. “The secret to living your best life lies largely in your ability to see all that is in front of you,” says Short (11). There’s more to life than a one-dimensional view can capture.
The four lenses that guide the reader consist of four different perspectives that can reshape how we view our life and experiences. The Big View, reminds us that we are part of a bigger story. We may not always see how our little story fits into that, but it does. When we fix our eyes on the bigger story it can help us to think differently about our small story. This big picture, says Short, is best seen through the lens of “The Lord’s Prayer.” Here we learn to view our needs in light of God’s agenda. We also learn to think about difficulties, even death, in a different light. The Big View allows us to see that even struggle and sorrow can serve a purpose when we look up from the immediate circumstances and see the larger story. How we view our suffering, then, can shape its impact on us.
The Present View keeps our eyes focused on what is happening right now. Short reminds us that living in the future or the past means to be there without God, for He is operating in our present. We all have a desire for what we think we have to have, what we can’t live without. God is working, however, in the present to give us our “best future.” We will miss it, however, if we ignore the present. “Your best future unfolds,” says Short, “by staying tuned-in to the present” (71). Often, God is using the present to “pry our fingers from things we think we cannot live without” (74). She turns readers’ attention to Exodus 3 and God’s self-disclosure as the Great “I AM,” present tense. The focus here is to rest in God in the present.
The Rear View plays an important role in helping us to address issues of the past that will hamper our future.The rear view sharpens your present view. “Looking back helps us to choose the things we want to take into our future rather than finding things hidden in our carry-on bags” (98). For example, looking back can help us to see how “some things are not what we thought they were” (108). That is to say, we had experiences in the past that are similar to current struggles. At the time we thought that such struggles constituted the whole picture, but we see now that there was more to the story. Likewise, there is more to our current story than we can currently see. The past helps us to remember that “we are not seeing our circumstances for all they are” (108). The past reshapes our present.
The Higher View invites gratitude for all the gifts that God has given us. Gratitude helps to reshape our perspective by shifting focus from what we don’t have to what we do. This can reshape our view of inconvenience and pain too. For often God’s bests gifts come through these means. The ultimate example of this principle is, of course, the gospel, but Short seems to have missed that. In fact that is one point of criticism with the whole book: the gospel is often missing.
Short does not present us with a prosperity gospel approach to life, that is evident in her honesty about pain, struggle, brokenness, etc. Yet, she doesn’t quite give us a full picture of the Christian life lived in light of the gospel. In fact, the death and resurrection of Jesus are mentioned very sparingly and never in a developed fashion. When she writes about overcoming problems of the past she mentions that God offers us help, but does not specify how, and misses the opportunity to connect the pain of our past to the redemption of Christ (104). Likewise, her interpretation of the story of Zacchaeus focuses entirely on Jesus’ ministry to someone who others had completely written off. So, she concludes:
This short story in Luke 19 reveals that the way we treat people may unlock something inside them that can influence what next happens in their life. (84)
Such a conclusion is a possible implication of the story, and one worthy of some reflection, but it is not the point of the passage. It is not the major concept we should draw from Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus. The point is that this little man had an encounter with the Divine Son of God and it changed him forever. That’s the point! That’s the message we need to emphasize. Short misses that completely in her explanation.
The book does have some other shortcomings too. It has an abundance of clichés, and pithy little statements that make concepts seem more simple than they really are. At times it reads more like a typical self-help book than a gospel-fueled book on transformed living. It is full of stories which can help to illustrate the point, but which can also overly simplify things. Yet, the book should not be completely disregarded.
Popular level works on changing your perspective abound in the marketplace today. Yet, Short does add a few things to her work that make it decent. Her interaction with psychology and science make for some intriguing contributions. Her discussion of memory is particularly fascinating. Her use of Scriptural accounts to highlight principles was also welcomed. I might nitpick with the way she does some of her exegesis, but overall she is able to give helpful Biblical support for ideas. So, When Changing Nothing Changes Everything is not the best book on the importance of reframing your life, but it is a decent book. I might recommend Steve Viars’ Putting Your Past in Its Place or Keller’s book on Suffering (Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering), over this one. But if those works seem daunting this will give you some helpful tools to consider.