Introductory Note:

The essay “Focussed” (changed here to “Focused” so as not to be distracting) was written by missionary, artist, and author Lilias Trotter during her long years of ministry in the North African desert. 

“Focused” was later distributed as a devotional pamphlet, and its description of discipleship caught the eye of Helen Lemmel—especially this line: “Turn full your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him.” Lemmel was so taken by this way of viewing the with-God life that it prompted her to compose lyrics and music for the famous hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” 

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” by Helen Lemmel

1. O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

2. Thro’ death into life everlasting,
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion--
For more than conqu’rors we are! 

3. His Word shall not fail you--He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

You can read more of the inspiring story of Helen Lemmel and Lilias Trotter here.

Grace Pouch
Content Manager

It was in a little wood in early morning. The sun was climbing behind a steep cliff in the east, and its light was flooding nearer and nearer and then making pools among the trees. Suddenly, from a dark corner of purple brown stems and tawny moss there shone out a great golden star. It was just a dandelion, and half withered — but it was full face to the sun, and had caught into its heart all the glory it could hold, and was shining so radiantly that the dew that lay on it still made a perfect aureole round its head. And it seemed to talk, standing there — to talk about the possibility of making the very best of these lives of ours.

For if the Sun of Righteousness has risen upon our hearts, there is an ocean of grace and love and power lying all around us, an ocean to which all earthly light is but a drop, and it is ready to transfigure us, as the sunshine transfigured the dandelion, and on the same condition — that we stand full face to God.

Gathered up, focused lives, intent on one aim — Christ — these are the lives on which God can concentrate blessedness. It is all for all” by a law as unvarying as any law that governs the material universe.

We see the principle shadowed in the trend of science; the telephone and the wireless in the realm of sound, the use of radium and the ultra violet rays in the realm of light. All these work by gathering into focus currents and waves that, dispersed, cannot serve us. In every branch of learning and workmanship the tendency of these days is to specialize — to take up one point and follow it to the uttermost.

And Satan knows well the power of concentration; if a soul is likely to get under the sway of the inspiration, this one thing I do,” he will turn all his energies to bring in side-interests that will shatter the gathering intensity.

And they lie all around, these interests. Never has it been so easy to live in half a dozen good harmless worlds at once — art, music, social science, games, motoring, the following of some profession, and so on. And between them we run the risk of drifting about, the good” hiding the best” even more effectually than it could be hidden by downright frivolity with its smothered heart-ache at its own emptiness.

*It is easy to find out whether our lives are focused, and if so, where the focus lies. Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning? Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day? Does this test not give the clue? Then dare to have it out with God — and after all, that is the shortest way. Dare to lay bare your whole life and being before Him, and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focused on Christ and His glory. Dare to face the fact that unfocussed, good and useful as it may seem, it will prove to have failed of its purpose.

What does this focusing mean? Study the matter and you will see that it means two things — gathering in all that can be gathered, and letting the rest drop. The working of any lens — microscope, telescope, camera — will show you this. The lens of your own eye, in the room where you are sitting, as clearly as any other. Look at the window bars, and the beyond is only a shadow; look through at the distance, and it is the bars that turn into ghosts. You have to choose which you will fix your gaze upon and let the other go.

Are we ready for a cleavage to be wrought through the whole range of our lives, like the division long ago at the taking of Jericho, the division between things that could be passed through the fire of consecration into the treasury of the Lord,” and the things that, unable to bide the fire” must be destroyed? All aims, all ambitions, all desires, all pursuits — shall we dare to drop them if they cannot be gathered sharply and clearly into the focus of this one thing I do”?

Will it not make life narrow, this focusing? In a sense, it will — just as the mountain path grows narrower, for it matters more and more, the higher we go, where we set our feet — but there is always, as it narrows, a wider and wider outlook, and purer, clearer air. Narrow as Christ’s life was narrow, this is our aim; narrow as regards self-seeking, broad as the love of God to all around. Is there anything to fear in that?

And in the narrowing and focusing, the channel will be prepared for God’s power — like the stream hemmed between the rock-beds, that wells up in a spring — like the burning glass that gathers the rays into an intensity that will kindle fire. It is worthwhile to let God see what He can do with these lives of ours, when to live is Christ.”

How do we bring things to a focus in the world of optics? Not by looking at the things to be dropped, but by looking at the one point that is to be brought out.

Turn full your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him, and the Divine attrait” by which God’s saints are made, even in this 20th century, will lay hold of you. For He is worthy” to have all there is to be had in the heart that He has died to win.

Hath not each heart a passion and a dream,

Each some companionship for ever sweet,

And each in saddest skies some silver gleam,

And each some passing joy, too fair and fleet,

And each a staff and stay, though frail it prove,

And each a face he fain would ever see?

And what have I? an endless stream of love,

A rapture, and a glory, and a calm,

A life that is an everlasting Psalm,

All, O Beloved, in Thee.

- Tersteegen

Focussed” is in the public domain. It is currently out of print, except where it appears in the text of other works, like Miriam Rockness’ Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus: A Story and a Song.

Image: Watercolor by Lilias Trotter (18531928).

Text First Published July 1901 · Last Featured on September 2023