Do you ever struggle to believe what you haven’t seen for yourself? God asks us to trust Him completely, but how can we have faith in a God we cannot see? Isn’t that foolish?
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
~ Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)
When pilots fly visually, or with Visual Flight Rules (VFR), they check visual cues outside the cockpit for reference. The horizon is their primary attitude reference. It’s easy to tell if you’re upside-down or right-side-up when you can see the ground and sky.
However, at night or in poor weather, these visual cues are often degraded or absent altogether. In order to fly in these conditions, a pilot must fly according to Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) using only instruments. When you can’t see the horizon, you have to check your attitude indicator to be certain you are flying straight and level.
Bear with me here while I explain how our usually trustworthy senses can work against us during flight. When we’re on the ground and we lose visual cues, we rely on our sense of balance. Sensory input from our inner ear informs us where we are in relation to the earth. That’s how we can close our eyes and still stand upright without leaning or falling.
When we’re in an airplane, our sense of balance is easily tricked because our bodies weren’t designed for flight. (Especially not acrobatic flight.) The information from our eyes and inner ears don’t mesh so our brain incorrectly concludes that we’ve been poisoned. Our brain then directs the body to expel the toxic substance (hence the invention of airsick bags).
Our eyes and ears can easily deceive us in certain circumstances during flight because they are attempting to process stimuli they weren’t created to handle. (I won’t go into the physics and biology of how the fluid of the inner ear moves, but you can look it up.) Because our visual and vestibular senses can get so confused in flight, they become unreliable. We may think we “know for certain” which way is up, but we could very well be devastatingly wrong.
That is not a mistake that pilots can afford to make, so they are trained to trust their instruments in all situations. If the attitude indicator conflicts with what their senses are picking up, they are to believe their instruments and distrust their own perceptions.
It is very difficult to ignore feedback from your senses when you are sure you know which way is up. Although it is far more likely for your sense of balance to be off-kilter than it is for your instruments to give false readings, your natural instincts really want you to trust your senses. The pull to distrust the instruments is naturally very strong. Our minds come preprogrammed to believe what we see.
Senses confused by living in an environment they were not designed for can cause a person to experience Spatial Disorientation. Tragically, this phenomenon has resulted in numerous aircraft crashes.
You may never pilot an aircraft, but you do live in a world where what you can see is not all there is.
Sometimes, you have to trust your spiritual “instruments” against a strong pull to believe only what you can physically sense and feel.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
~ 2 Corinthians 4:18, NIV
Our ears and eyes are quite useful to us most of the time but they can paint a distorted picture in certain situations. Similarly, our own thoughts and feelings are also necessary and yet imperfect and inadequate at times.
We are dangerously susceptible to fall prey to the enemy’s tricks that confuse our perceptions of how our world works.
The key to overcoming is learning to trust the One who is outside of ourselves, uncorrupted by our sin-polluted world, and always without flaw or error.
Just as our bodies weren’t designed to fly, we were not intended to live in a fallen world. We are meant for Eternity. That’s why we have a concept of Utopia. Though considered a myth by many modern people, we have been created for Heavenly Perfection. This world is not our true home and we instinctively long for the way we were meant to live, craving the purity and rest purposed for us.
Our senses were not designed to feed us the correct information in flight. Similarly, our physical senses are not suitable instruments for picking up the subtleties of heavenly realms while we live on earth. That is why God urges us to live by our faith and not our sight. The things that really matter often lay outside our range of preception.
Our eyes can pick up only a fraction of the light spectrum. Beyond the range of what we call visible light (because we can see it), there is ultraviolet light on one end and infrared on the other. We need special instruments to pick up these wavelengths because our eyes are incapable of perceiving them.
Birds, bees, and even butterflies can see in the ultraviolet range.
Snakes can detect infrared.
The vast majority of humans can sense neither.
Out beyond ultraviolet are X-rays and Gamma rays. On the other end of the spectrum, past infrared is microwaves and radio waves. Using our God-given senses plus instruments humans have invented, we can detect and interact with various wavelengths on this Electromagnetic Spectrum. However, we are still unable to detect the outermost limits of the continuum which we assume must exist.
It doesn’t take too much of a mental hop to realize that there’s definitely a lot more happening around us than what we can pick up with our five senses and our fancy instruments. We know there is literally more here than meets the eye and we haven’t even found the borders of that.
What lies beyond what we haven’t perceived or even theorized yet? What lies beyond our ability to perceive or imagine ever without God’s assistance? It can really get mind-boggling if you think about it for long.
Who are we to say that if we can’t see it then it’s not believable? Butterflies can see patterns on flowers we can’t perceive. Dogs can hear noises to which our ears are deaf. Bears can smell what we cannot from very great distances away. Platypuses hunt by detecting the electricity produced by the muscular contraction of their prey!
If these simple creatures can recognize and interpret information beyond our limits, how arrogant and ignorant are we to ever think we have more of a clue than the God who created both them and us?
Faith is the “sense” if you will, that allows us to experience the truths of God that our physical senses are unable to pick up and interpret. In that way, the world’s maxim is turned on its head and believing is truly seeing.
Our faith is evidence of things not seen. It is our trust in God in the face of things not understood.
Faith is our willingness to take the next step when we can’t see where the road will take us because we know the One we follow loves us beyond measure.
We don’t need to see to believe. What we really need is trust. That trust can only grow as we get to know the character of God better by studying His Word.
You can start with this prayer: