Seeing Is Believing?


I know you’ve all seen them; those amazing optical illusions. They’re amazing because they trick our eyes into seeing things that aren’t there. In essence, they work by taking advantage of the fact that our human brains love to take shortcuts. Our brains will see one aspect of a whole, focus on that, then fill in the blanks to create an entire picture. This is good for quickly perceiving a situation and making a decision in response it, but not so good when those quick perceptions we think are so accurate are actually based on a faulty picture.

When you combine this natural, in-born tendency with our spiritual propensity to see things in a warped way because of our in-born sin nature, we’re left with one cardinal reality. That reality is, we all should learn to not automatically trust everything our eyes tell us! Instead, we should learn the fine art of walking by faith.

The information provided by our eyes is filtered through our feelings and assumptions, any one of which can easily be in error, so this information isn’t always reliable. We can’t see the whole picture all at once; we see only a part and, like our brains love to do, we fill in the rest. This is equally true of those things we perceive using our other senses too. We tend to take shortcuts, reaching conclusions we think are accurate, but are really wrong in the end. We’ve all experienced situations that look one way in our understanding, yet in the Bible, God tells us something very different about them. Those things then, are our spiritual “optical illusions”, and we all have them.

It’s also true that, like the lens of the camera, we can focus on close-up or far-away but not on both at the same time. When we focus on one thing we lose focus on another, that’s just the way it is. So, even if our eyesight is 20-20, we can easily become spiritually blind when we focus so much on the things of this earth that the realities of God become blurry and out of focus to us. The more time we spend learning about God through the Bible and obeying Him in our lives, the more accurate our spiritual senses become and the better the Spirit can work in us to please God through our growing faith in Him.

Hebrews 11 contains a long list of some of the most famous people in the Bible, all selected because of their faith in God. The emphasis here is never on the size of their faith, but rather, on the trustworthiness of God and His promises to them. I love what Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

I’ve often heard it said, “we never learn to walk by faith until we learn to walk in the dark”, and that statement is definitely true. The hard fact is: if we’re able to see it, smell it, touch it, or taste it, it doesn’t require faith at all for us to believe it. Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “And without faith it is impossible to please God…” Impossible? Do I really believe that?

That means, of all the offerings I can give to God, none of them mean anything to Him unless they’re offered in faith… faith in His character and in the promises that flow out of His character. And nothing brings more pleasure to the heart of God than when I ignore the contradictory information my senses are giving me and choose to trust in His character and what He has said in His word instead.

Of all the many character qualities God has: His holiness, His justice, His mercy, His love, His forgiveness… the one quality that I believe makes these, and all others, meaningful is His immutability, His inability to change.

What if God was like some people we know, where He’d be faithful… most of the time, or He’d be loving today, but not tomorrow? Merciful if He felt like it, but otherwise condemning? How could we ever trust in God’s character and promises if we couldn’t be confident on any day whether He’d actually decide to be those things or not? How would our faith be possible then?

I remember as a young child the insecurity, the stress, and the fear of living with different foster parents who were often unpredictable and abusive. I never knew from one day to the next what their mood would be so I never knew what to expect, whether they’d be distant or whether they’d be angry, whether they’d be sober or whether they’d be drunk. I learned how to “walk on eggshells “every day of my life.

From day to day, the rules in the household changed for me. I experienced very little love and I rarely ever felt safe anywhere. The best I could hope for was for them to leave me alone to fend for myself. Now what would happen if God were like my foster parents? That’s a nightmare I truly can’t imagine!

Everything that’s true and good about God is the exact opposite of what was shown by my foster parents. As a believer, I never have to fear what God will do or how he’ll treat me. The Bible tells me all about the character of God and I can be confident that He won’t ever change the rules He’s set or ever be anything other than who He is. In my life He always acts out of His good character and His goal in every circumstance is to glorify Himself through me and to work all things for my ultimate good. Jesus Christ, as God Himself, really is the same, yesterday, today and forever, as stated in Hebrews 13:8. Confidence in the immutability of God alone makes it possible for me and for you to trust Him, no matter what’s going on in our lives.

As we trust our unchanging God, two things happen. One, we’re able to choose a God-pleasing faith response when the circumstances of our lives are difficult and our senses are telling us things that are contradictory to His word. And two, He will give us the strength, confidence, and the security to live like He wants us to, genuinely free to love other people. When the rules are constantly changing we live with uncertainty, consumed with our own needs and desires, using others to get what we want, instead of being freed to love them.

Are you going through some painful and confusing things today? If you are, I’m in the same place. I’ve been repeatedly reminding myself lately that when things seem the darkest and it feels like I’m a blind woman trying to avoid the obstacles by feeling my way around, God is still at work.
Regardless of the situation, we must remember that we can’t trust our senses to always give us the truth. When our human perceptions lead us to conclusions that are contrary to God’s words, the Bible alone must be the final arbiter of truth because this is the only way to avoid falling prey to our own spiritual optical illusions.

We can always trust in God, He alone is our rock of strength and security. He’ll never change who He is for you or for me and His promises are always true. Always. Just remember: no matter how obvious it may look, seeing isn’t always believing!