Eyes can miss what’s really there and ears can fear what’s not.
Deceived By Our Senses
Sometimes we focus on bad things not really there. Witness: the bogeyman under the bed, the boss who seems like he’s out to get you, the catastrophe ahead if you miss this chance. A loud- and phantom-sound of enemy chariots that could make a mighty army flee.
And sometimes we miss good things that really are there. Witness: the cloud of friends waiting in the wings to surprise you, the stern boss who’s really got your back, the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. A mountain full of horses with chariots of fire to fight for you.
I had a week last week.
I saw my run through that gauntlet coming. Hard-hitting meetings Monday through Thursday. Book club Monday, visitation Tuesday, AWANA Wednesday and conferences Thursday. Back to back, after-work meetings meant scrambling for boy care, scrounging up dinners, and scrimping on sleep.
Then Friday. Friday was firstborn’s birthday. And boy’s birthday means party at our house. And the thought of that was almost enough to make me feign the flu. And ponder frozen pizza and bake your own cake.
I’m not a panicky person. But a glance at that row-full of margin-less days was enough to take my breath away.
Yes, I needed stamina. But my heart needed strength, too, for the would-be-stay-at-home mom in me to fight the surging self-pity and resentment at having to work long hours away.
I needed endurance and energy, and equally, strength to comprehend, and see. And my week was infinitesimally light and momentary compared to the chronic suffering and and struggle pressing on some of you now.
Compared to an enemy army surrounding, it was a gentle spring breeze.
The prophet Elisha had a high price on his head. So high, in fact, in 2 Kings 6:13-14 we read the king of Syria sent horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city.
So when Elisha’s servant rolled off his mat next morning and strolled out to look around, Behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. So, alarmed, he questioned Elisha, Alas, my master! What shall we do?
Elisha answered his anxious servant, Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them. That’s not all, though.
Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17)
God gave his servant strength to see what did not appear to the naked eye. Heavenly armies were in the wings, waiting to do battle with Israel’s enemies. But it took righteous man’s prayer in order for a servant to see.
God lets his servants see what help is really there. And lets his enemies hear what is not.
Sandwiched between Elisha’s praying that his servant see the chariots that were and Israel’s besieging enemy fleeing at the sound of the chariots that were not, Elisha announces that Israel’s famine would end in dramatic fashion:
Thus says the LORD, “Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel.”
The captain of the king is incredulous, faithless, blind and asks,
If the LORD himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?
The entire Syrian enemy army was besieging Samaria- starving Israel out. The captain saw that. But then God worked his wonders. He messed with the enemies’ senses and made windows in heaven.
The Lord had made the army of the Syrians hear the sound of chariots and of horses, the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, “Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to come against us.” So they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys, leaving the camp as it was, and fled for their lives. (2 Kings 7:6-7)
But there were no chariots or horses this time. The entire army fled at phantom sounds. And their stockpiles of food, their seahs of barley and wheat, were sold for measly shekels.
Things are not always what they seem. There are truer realities than what senses tell. But sometimes need help to believe.
God could just put a windows in heaven, but he uses another means to help dull our eyes see.
How We See
Each day we get out of bed we can walk by faith in the Son of God or stagger about in the here and now. We can see the thorns and miss the brilliant horizon beyond. We can live overwhelmed with earthly circumstances and focused on overfull schedules.
Or we can pray for eyes to see.
That’s the means God so often uses to open our eyes to see. Elisha did. Paul did too. He prayed for the Ephesians to have spiritual eyes to see God’s love and know rock-bottom reality (Ephesians 1:17-19).
We can pray for ourselves and our friends like Paul prayed for his. We can pray,
- That we will know the hope to which God has called us (1:18) and know when our hope is false.
- That we will know the riches of the glorious inheritance God gives in the saints (1:18) and not settle for sinful pleasures now.
- That we will know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward us who believe (1:19) and not fear the enemy.
- That we will know the love of God that surpasses knowledge (3:19) and let this love drive bitterness out.
Paul calls it walking by faith, not by sight. And that’s not a solo job. When the world’s bearing down and hope’s losing ground, we need boots on the ground help seeing. Ed Welch says,
This is when we call out for help from the body of Christ. Spiritual battles should not be fought without the aid of other people who can join us in prayer, encourage us with their presence, and offer apt words of truth. We could ask them to pray for us as Elisha prayed for his servant. When surrounded by an army that was sworn to kill the two men, Elisha prayed that his servant would see by faith. “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see” (2 Kings 6:17).
We need friends to pray that our spiritual eyes would be wide-open; that we’d have strength to see.
They knew my week was chock-full and so three dear sisters prayed for me. Texts and mid-week check-ins came to let me know they prayed. Sure enough, my heart was helped and my soul made strong. Self-pity was stifled and energy was enough. As the week went by and deadlines were met and boys were fed, I started seeing opportunity.
Michael Youssef says the difference between seeing opportunity or impossibility is in the connection. When we’re connected by faith, by prayer, to God’s power, we see opportunity. Dead wires are disconnected, filled with dread. They see impossibility.
But live-wires see opportunity for God to look big in our smallness and to showcase His strength in our weakness. And God likes looking big like that.
God looked extra-big to me last week. He looked big when he let none of my words fall to the ground in intense meeting. Big when He gave me words to encourage friends much more weary that me. Big when a critical report arrived not a second too soon.
But God looked huge Friday night when I finally kicked back in our house-full of guests. And the pizza that night-our third night in five- tasted better than I can ever remember.
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe according to the working of his great might…