In the book Change or Die, Alan Deutchman says there are three factors that contribute to change: relationships, retraining, and re-framing. You need to have the right person coaching you (relationship), the right information (retraining), and to see your problem from a fresh perspective (reframing).
These three components are so important if you want to return from exile. Most people think that just getting good information will help. We buy self-help books for this reason. Many people have found how positive relationships help them to change. But what we often lack is the right perspective. The information and relationships don’t help if we don’t have the right perspective and actively reinforce it.
Reframing enables you to be thankful for thankless situations.
The term “reframing” comes from the idea that you can often change the meaning of a picture by adjusting the frame. Imagine a picture of people enjoying a beach but there is a storm building in the distance. You can put the frame around the storm and call it a terrible day. Or you can put the frame around the beach scene and see the joy of it. It’s all in the framing.
There is an example of the apostle Paul reframing his experience in a letter he wrote to the Corinthian church in Greece. The church was encountering great persecution for their faith. Paul too had suffered greatly. He relates to them his perspective on his personal “exile”:
God…comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God…In our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. See 2 Corinthians 1:3-10
Paul reframes his suffering as an opportunity to learn how to be comforted by God so he might pour out the same comfort he has received to others that suffer. He refuses to play the victim and complain or feel sorry for himself. He trusts that there is a greater good that God has for him, even if he can’t see it.
Did you notice what he added about the “God who raises the dead”? Every person in exile needs to believe in the God of resurrection. We always want the resurrection before we are truly dead…before all hope is lost. But resurrection only comes to the dead, people who have exhausted every possibility of their own.
People who are able to reframe their circumstances are positive. They can always find a reason to be thankful. Much research has been done on the power of a thankful heart. Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami did a study comparing people who wrote down what they were thankful for to people who journaled their irritations.
After ten weeks, the group that tracked their thankfulness was more optimistic, felt better about their lives, exercised more, and had fewer doctor visits.
Another study tracked people who showed gratitude to someone in their lives who had previously gone unthanked. Upon thanking the person, all participants had a huge increase in their happiness scores. (Read more here).
Reframing enables you to be thankful for thankless situations. I just finished watching a documentary on Steve Jobs. The narrator mentioned how Jobs softened as he aged. When asked why that was, Jobs said: Failure. His failures made him a better person.
In a recent Time article remembering Nelson Mandela, Mandela was once asked what happened to him after 25 years in jail. He said, “I matured.” My point is that both men were able to see the value in a time of exile by reframing their experience.
How can you reframe the exile that you are in? What is it that God is working in you (or wants to!) that you can start receiving and thanking him for today? Please leave a comment below.