How Can I Keep My Eye on the Goal When I Can’t See Past the End of My Nose?

Some people are all-stars in planning and goal-setting. They see their top priorities clearly and stick to them firmly. They know what to concentrate on and what to leave out. They’re always busy but never in a rush. They accomplish more in a week than the average working stiff does in a month.

And they’re confident throughout that they know exactly what they’re doing.

Then there are those of us for whom the mere thought of planning is a nightmare. Everything looks good, nothing stands out. However we edit the To-Do list, we always end up needing more time than we have. We’re constantly running in circles and banging our heads against walls.

And however things turn out, that permeating “I never accomplish anything” despair refuses to die.

Most life-organizing systems  fall short on acknowledging the real starter point (getting adequately out of “hopelessness” mode) for those who are seriously confused and beaten down. Even most Christian-based systems seem more than a little simplistic. “Seek first the Kingdom and all things will be given you” is hardly encouraging when you’re bewildered on where or how to seek. Indeed, our obsession with “how” causes half our frustration; we desperately want things to work like the step-by-step instructions for installing a computer program, or like a story where someone is permanently freed from the tears of frustration by acknowledgment of the one thing he’s been doing wrong. That seems the simple, even logical, route to satisfy our craving for a better life purpose than survival mixed with occasional random pleasure.

The truth is, God rarely uses the “neatly laid out” approach. He’s more likely to place us in a Numbers 13-14 situation, showing us the big job He has for us–which may well be to find His plan for our lives–without many more specifics than “go up and take it.” All too often, we react exactly as the Israelites did: we take an initial look at the situation and wail, “It’s too big and I’m too small. Why are You setting me up for failure?” Then we either slink back to the bondage of old habits, or make a halfhearted effort with all the wrong attitudes. We end up driven back to the wilderness of mediocrity and futility, resigned to staying there for life.

And it’s true that when the Israelites finally did enter Canaan, their goal of settling the land was achieved neither overnight, nor with constant clear understanding of what would happen when, nor without struggle and setbacks. The main difference between the quitters and the achievers was that the former looked at the size of the obstacles and the latter at the size of their God. The real secret of most achievers, Christian or otherwise, is that they pay more attention to their goals than to their worries.

If your biggest problem is that you have no goals big enough or clear enough to overpower your problems, why not start by daily asking God to make Paul’s goal from Phil. 3:10-11–“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead”–a reality in your life?

While you’re at it, read the whole chapter those verses come from. It makes clear that often the goals we can’t systematically lay out, or schedule on a ten-year plan, make the biggest difference.

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  1. This comes at the perfect time to ease the frustration of going nowhere alone. My pastor always said that focusing on the problems makes them bigger. Focusing on God makes them shrink dramatically. Just wish I didn’t need so many reminders. But God is good to keep them coming. Thank you.


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