“The Starry Night” is one of the most well-known paintings in Western culture and is regarded as being Vincent van Gogh’s finest achievement.

However, as popular as it is, only a few would know the story behind its creation.

When van Gogh painted “The Starry Night” in June 1889 he was a patient in the Saint-Remy-de-Provence asylum for the mentally ill.

Van Gogh had voluntarily admitted himself to the asylum a month earlier following his breakdown the previous December which resulted in him cutting off his left ear. The scene he so vividly captures in this masterpiece is the view he had from his asylum room’s window.

What you don’t see in the painting are the bars that were cemented into the window of his room.

In the midst of his personal pain and suffering, van Gogh was somehow able to see beyond those bars that were his prison to the bigger picture of beauty, peace and rest that lay before him, expressing it beautifully forever on canvas.

One of the things I have learned over the years is that joyful people are big picture people.

No matter what situation they find themselves in, they are able to look beyond their current circumstances to the bigger picture God is working out in their lives.

Paul was such a person.

Writing to the Philippians, he found himself facing a dilemma.

As he awaited his trial before Caesar, he understood it could go one of two ways.

If he was acquitted, then he would be able to give further fruitful service to his beloved Philippians and the wider church. (Phil.1:22)

But if it was to end with his execution, “Well” says Paul, “Even better, because I will go home to be with Christ!” (Phil.1:23)

“Whatever the outcome” writes Paul, “I win and in either scenario, Jesus is glorified!” (Phil.1:21)

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us see stars.”

Dale Carnegie expressed the same idea when he said, “Two men looked out from prison bars; one saw mud, the other stars.”

This is also why Paul wrote that he was “craning his neck” in the confidence that God would not let him down but bring good out of his present difficulties and set-backs. (Philippians 1:20)

Joyful people are big picture people because they are able to look beyond their current circumstances, expecting that God has a grander purpose at work!

Where in your current circumstances is God wanting you to see the bigger picture?

Who knows – there may just be another Starry Night waiting to be painted!

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed…for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:20-21)

Blessings to you!

Pastor Rob Furlong.