We have all had one of those experiences when looking at an optical illusion: we don’t see what others see. They may try and help us—stand to the side, stare at it, focus on nothing—but we can’t seem to see what others clearly recognize.
There are literally hundreds of examples on the Web, perhaps thousands.
“Look at an optical illusion and you may think you’re seeing things – such as a curved line that’s actually straight, or a moving object that’s standing still. You wonder if your eyes are playing tricks on you,” is how one author describes the effect.
Conversations at these times can be very interesting. While two people are looking at the image, the dialogue might go something like this:
“So you can see it, right? It’s right there.”
“I see dots. What are you talking about?”
“OK. Stand back and try again. Her chin is right here, and these are her eyebrows.”
“I don’t know what you are talking… OHHHH, I see it now!”
I Just Can’t See It
If you can’t see the image others are talking about, don’t feel bad. It happens to all of us. None of us sees everything clearly all the time. Most everyone is familiar with the image of the old woman (or wait… maybe it is a young woman). At one minute you see the one, then perhaps in a flash you see the other.
Suddenly, the first image is nowhere to be found. Some people see the anticipated reflection in the image and others do not. There are volumes written about why this occurs in an attempt to explain the cause-and-effect relationship.
But the point of this article is not to explain why we see things differently, although the fact that we do perceive stimuli in different ways has made images like this one very popular. Almost everybody has seen this depiction and tried his or her hand at deciphering it.
Rather, the point I am trying to make is that we do see things differently, and what is obvious to one person is not necessarily apparent to someone else — and that’s OK. Something that is very clear to one person, another can’t seem to picture or understand. So if that is true for optical illusions, is it possible that this principle applies to other life situations as well? As you consider this possibility, I have a true experience to share with you.
We have heard recently of more school shootings, tragedies, pains, and hardships. Difficulties in life just seem to get more challenging, and we look for answers to explain these baffling situations. But with each new obstacle that we face, the overarching answers don’t change.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ Sheds Meaning on Our Lives
In the gospel of Jesus Christ, the answers never change because they are right and true from the beginning, and they always will be. When we understand the plan that God has prepared for us, the obstacles in life are still difficult, but they have meaning and purpose, too.
So does that mean we just breeze through life without challenges; that we are happy all the time? I would like to think that my faith would allow me to do that, but the truth is that life is still difficult and sometimes painful. So what do we do in those cases?
For me, when I am struggling to muster spiritual confidence on my own, I often rely on others’ testimonies, others’ good attitudes, and even others’ faith. Is that wrong? Is that an excuse? No. It is none of those things. It is actually a strategy.
Let me explain:
When I listen to beautiful music or hear an accomplished singer, my tendency is not to wish that it was me performing or to attempt to imitate the presentation. I can just listen to the chords gratefully and revel in their beauty because the Lord has given us the opportunity to rapture in the talents of others.
I imagine that is at times true for all of us. But in a very real way, that principle also applies the faith and courage of others. When I need to rely on others’ convictions and testimonies, the antidote to anxiety and the fix to fear is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and understanding the great plan of happiness.
Admiring and Learning from Others’ Testimonies
When you are having a difficult day or month or year, remember the resources of faith you have been given. Take advantage of leaning on others’ faith while you get your footing. I did that regularly with my father, and because of his memory and personal history, I still do.
Likewise, at one time or another, I have admired many others and received strength from following their examples. I regularly lean on the words of the Brethren and the thousands of resources now available online and otherwise from Church leadership.
“Every teacher in this audience remembers the legendary story of Brother Karl G. Maeser taking a group of missionaries across the Alps by following a homely set of sticks positioned at crucial points on the path, marking the safe way of passage. The sticks weren’t much to look at—all of them irregularly shaped, some weathered and worn, none of them anything to write home about—but their placement, the course they marked, and the silent message their very presence communicated was the difference between life and death.
Brother Maeser’s lesson that day was that these sticks were like the presiding Brethren of the Church—some tall, some short, a pretty homely bunch in a beauty contest—but following their path was to follow the path of safety. My point with you tonight is that this is what true doctrine (which is what the Brethren teach) does for us all day, every day. Someone has to plant those doctrinal guide posts. Someone has to say, “Here is the truth, and here is safety.” Someone has to guide the way of those who are traveling narrow, often dangerous paths, perhaps for the first time, as many of our high school- and college-age students will be doing. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you are very prominent among the ‘someones’ God has asked to mark the path of salvation.”
These words are those of Jeffrey R Holland in a masterly discourse entitled “Be Not Afraid, Only Believe.”
As Helaman 5:12 instructs, it is upon the rock of our Redeemer that we must build.
So if you are struggling with something that is not yet clear to you, rely on the testimonies of others until you have a full understanding. If that is true for optical illusions, is it possible that this principle applies to other situations in life as well? Absolutely.
“Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us . . . [F]ear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.” – Thomas S. Monson, “Be of Good Cheer” April 2009
And that is how I face every day.
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.