This World Seems Upside Down


Imagine if you will, that you took a copy of the morning newspaper, turned it upside down and then tried to read and make sense of it. This example actually comes from the French philosopher Simone Weil when she attempted to describe how we humans experience our eternal reality and our relationship with God, while looking at things through our temporal or worldly perspective. Weil described that when we try to make sense of our relationship with God, it is as though we try to understand it by reading the often-upside-down symbols and printed characters of the daily events of our lives.

Weil explained that when we turn the newspaper upside-down and attempt to read it, all we will see are symbols or printed characters that, presented in this way, do not make much sense.  These unrecognizable symbols are the events of our daily lives. And when they are viewed from our own upside-down vantage point, they simply lead to our confusion and disorientation. Is it possible this might be true for some of us? Do we ever feel as though our lives are upside-down?

Understandably, our worldly perspective is the way we have traditionally come to make sense of our surroundings, it is the basis for how we think about and act in the course of our lives. And, needless to say, our perspective can often be misguided, and it can leave us confused. This is especially true when we try to reconcile it with what we think God may doing in our lives.

In fact, not only are we humans trying to make daily, and sometimes even eternal, sense out of the unrecognizable symbols of our daily lives, but, if you notice, when we turn a newspaper upside-down, we would also be reading the symbols backwards. In other words, most of us look back over the events of our lives, whether those events are good or bad, and we try to figure out what it is God will be doing with us in the future. These events may not make sense when viewed in the moment, and they almost never tell us anything about what God may be planning to do with us going forward.Fortunately, our limited perspectives pose no such limitations on God, or the ways in which He thinks or acts.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)

We need to literally turn our temporal, worldly and human perspective upside-down and try to gain an eternal, spiritual and Godly perspective on the circumstances of our lives. This goes for both the good and what we may sometimes perceive to be the bad events in our lives. No matter what our circumstances, if we are people of prayer, we must come to believe that God always has our best interest in mind. And we must also understand that there is sometimes as much spiritual risk for us in our good times as there is in our bad. Therefore, we must avoid becoming proud in our time of prosperity, every bit as much as we must avoid becoming anxious in our times of adversity.

“Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come?” (Lamentations 3:38)

We must remember that God allows both the good and the bad in our lives, at different times, and for different reasons. Everything is grace, and there is a lesson and a gift in everything that happens to us. God goes so far as to even turn the occasion of our sins to our good. Like a good and caring Father, God uses both blessings and adversity to train us in the way He wishes us to go. The challenge for us, as it was for Job, is to accept both the good and the bad in our lives.

“But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10)

Here in this Scripture verse about Job, we find the key to gaining the proper perspective. We must first acknowledge that we are only human, and we do not have an eternal perspective on things. So we must trust that God not only knows what He is doing and that He has our best interests at heart, but, most importantly, we must believe that He is allowing whatever might happen to us for our personal benefit, regardless of what it might look like through our sometimes-upside-down view of the world.

If we literally want to turn our ‘worldly perspective’ on its head, we must learn to abandon all the circumstances of our life to God’s eternal care and concern. This is a bit like the old parlor game where someone stands on a chair with their back to a group of people with outstretched arms. The person is then asked to fall backwards and simply let themselves go and believing that the group of people below both can and will catch them.

But not to worry, in the case of each our lives, it is not just some group of people waiting there below, it is the Ruler of the Entire Universe. Total trust in God is the only true foundation for living with peace in this upside-down world. This is easy to say, (or write) not so easy to live.

But just relax, release all the pent-up fear, the struggle, the anxiety, the doubt and confusion; we must be willing to turn our temporal and limited view of our circumstances upside-down and let the Lord catch us in the process.

This process, as I am sure you all know, is called prayer. Think of it—what action, from a purely worldly perspective, seems more upside-down than prayer? After all, we speak, but we do not see the person listening; we listen, but there is no one speaking to us (at least not in a way that we can hear); we convey our most intimate thoughts, fears and desires, without any hard proof that we will be heard, or that our expectations will be fulfilled.  The whole process seems to run counter to what the world would tell us to do.

That is a real act of faith, like falling back into the waiting arms of people we are not entirely sure will be there. Such an act of Faith turns most of the modern world’s conventional thinking on its head. But then we are not of this world, our destiny is an eternal one, and we should begin conforming our perspective to that eternal reality.  This is the only way we will be able to live in God’s perfect Will.

“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)


Copyright © 2019 by Mark Danis


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About the Author

Mark Danis

Mark Danis, OCDS, is co-host of the weekly radio program, Carmelite Conversations, which aired internationally for six years on the Radio Maria network. The program focuses on the method and blessings of contemplative prayer practiced in the in our busy day to day lives. Episodes can be streamed at http://www.carmeliteconversations.com.

Mark's primary ministry is providing teaching and spiritual direction in contemplative prayer and removing the obstacles to prayer. He is grounded primarily in the teachings of the Carmelites, most especially St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross.

Mark is a popular speaker and often gives large-group presentations and retreats on Prayer and Carmelite spirituality. He also writes a weekly reflection on prayer for a large nation-wide prayer community, and he leads a weekly prayer group focused on the Teresian Method of Prayer. Mark's most recent appearance was at the 2018 OCDS Congress where he delivered a powerful message to more than 400 Secular Carmelites.

Mark attended St. Michael’s college in Winooski, Vermont, where he received his undergraduate degree in English Literature. He later received a masters degree in theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.

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