Keeping Our Eyes on the Invisible
Two rivals, very alike and yet very different, await our attention every day and they are both game changers in a world that craves our participation and challenges our resolve.
They are alike in that they both have the potential to encompass our thoughts and feelings and to define our perspective. They both provide a lens in which we can see our world and then interpret what it is that we are seeing. The pictures that each of them gives us, however, are radically different. I’m talking about faith and about fear and they both await our embrace.
Faith and fear have been at odds since time began. They truly are rivals and we are both the object of their attention and the target of their intention. If one is present, the other is not. They are the proverbial “two cooks in the same kitchen”; “two sheriffs in a town not big enough for them both”. They each provide a path for our mind and heart and though they are headed in different directions we tend to hop back and forth between them. When we heed the call of fear we answer to its dictates, see things through its eyes and experience its consequences. When we respond to our circumstances by putting our faith in God, fear leaves the room.
If it helps to have examples of fear and faith, we don’t need to look far to find them in the Scriptures. Armed with a slingshot, young David stood up to a towering giant, in faith, and then years later, out of fear for his life, he feigned madness to trick the Philistines. Elijah called down fire from heaven and then fled to the desert in fear of Queen Jezebel. Abraham answered the call of God to a strange and new land and then later lied that his wife was his sister in order, he thought, to preserve their lives. Peter who walked on water, in faith, towards his Master, was also quick to deny him three times out of fear of discovery.
At various points in our week, our days or even our moments we will slip into the clutches of one or take firm hold of the other. So, it pays to understand them both. And since neither one is an end in itself, we need to know why it is that they exist in our lives and what it is they are after.
Fear is remarkably quick. It can catch us unaware and spring up when we least expect it. And before we know it, we are sure things are going to end badly for us. In no time at all we will arrive at the conclusion that it is our fault, be confident we can’t do something and have no doubt that the worse scenario will assuredly take place. Fear seems to always be there with an answer.
Fear can also be very subtle. We don’t really want to be afraid and we don’t like the feeling of being afraid. But, somehow, the quiet voice of fear convinces us that the evidence leaves us no option. It draws on our past failures and those of others and builds a case so strong other alternatives melt away. We don’t think it is fear that is taking over because everything appears so rational. And, so, without thinking about it, we fall under its subtle control. Fear is bad enough out in the open but when it is deployed in sleuth mode it becomes so much more lethal.
For most of us, faith (in God) would never be described as being fast when it comes to responding to life’s situations. The simple reason for this is that it isn’t our default response. Faith tends to require contemplation while we tend to react immediately. Faith is the discipline of remembering when we are prone to forget. It’s all about slowing down and, even, pausing at times. It is thoughtful, not impulsive. Faith is the quiet affirmation of what we already know and a sure step forward based on that knowledge. And while it can lead us to our greatest hope, it also can be our greatest challenge. You see, it’s easy to proclaim that our faith is in God and even make it our mantra. But putting feet on our faith is another thing altogether.
Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Faith is going, while not knowing where we are going. Faith is counter-intuitive and calls on us to embrace the unexpected and live with the supernatural. I think I like the description of Moses’ faith in Hebrews 11 the best. “He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.” And while this appears like blind faith it is far from it. For Moses, the “invisible” God showed up in the pillars of cloud and of fire. He became well known through his provision and his protection. For us, God shows up as well. He doesn’t appear with answers in tow or smack in the middle of our own expectations. He’ll never be a product of our own creation. But he will always be in reach, always ready for what we need and always longing for a relationship with us – the objects of his love.
Fears for our family and our country, for our health and for our future will always be vying for our attention and embrace. Fear will always be a choice for us and so, too, will faith. There is no room for both. May the all-powerful, all-knowing, always present God, who holds us in his hands, simply be enough for everything that we face.