It’s hard to believe in something you can’t exactly see, isn’t it? The popular saying “you have to see it to believe it” is burned into our psyches. For the non-Christian one of the greatest obstacles to trusting in Christ is that salvation comes by faith, not by sight. For the Christian, living in light of this reality is often just as hard. When life is going well it might be relatively easy to trust in God’s promises for you. You want for nothing. The sun is shining. Everything seems to be going your way. But what about when things aren’t going the way you hoped? What do you hope in then?
Mark Dever, in his book The Message of the New Testament, says “If you try to live by what is seen, you will crash and burn as a Christian. Rather, then we fix our eyes ‘on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal’”
He goes on to ask at the end of his chapter on 2 Corinthians, “Pick some trial you presently face: What would living by sight look like in response to that trial? What would living by faith look like? How will you do the one and not the other?”
This question has been with me since I read it this weekend. I’ve talked about wrestling through 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 before, but this question made me dig even deeper into what it means to walk through a trial by faith.
Walking by faith, and not by sight, is a constant, lifelong battle. We will always face trials as Christians. Sure, there will be seasons of great joy and plenty. But most often it is the trials that God uses to chisel us and make us more like him; and just because the outcome at the end of the trial is glorious, doesn’t mean the process of getting there is pleasant. So it’s a battle. We fight to have eyes of faith that cause us to catch a small glimpse of the promises of God being fulfilled in our circumstance.
Right after our miscarriage I had a lot of hope for what God would do in our lives in the midst of our loss. I was overcome with sorrow over losing our baby, but I think God was especially kind to give me sweet fellowship with him in that intense season of grief. What began as hopeful expectancy about getting pregnant again has now turned into wondering what God is trying to do in our lives through this. Each passing month brings the sting of loss and the sting of longing to the surface in greater degrees. The temptation to live by sight is ever present in these moments. For me, living by sight would mean believing that God really isn’t hearing our prayers. Living by sight looks like questioning God’s goodness in all of it. What I “see” is another negative pregnancy test. What I “see” is a feeling that this will never work out like I want it to. What I “see” is that God doesn’t seem to be answering my prayers.
Oh, but he is.
Every once in a while he provides a little glimpse into what he is doing in our fragile lives. In those moments, no matter how small, I’m given fuel to keep going in this race. But a lot of times I’m left wondering how long he will keep us in limbo. It’s in those moments where I wrestle with living by faith. All I can see is the “seen” of our infertility. I imagine that is how Abraham felt when he waited and waited and waited for God to give Sarah and him a child. So what does it look like to live by faith in trying circumstances? God is so kind to gives us an example of what living by faith looks like in his word:
“He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’”—Romans 4:19-22
Faith is believing that God will do what he says. Does this mean that my infertility will go away, or that your trial will end for you? No, it does not. But it means something much more glorious.
Hebrews 12:2 says:
“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
This verse comes after the amazing faith chapter of Hebrews 11. Each of the believers mentioned in that passage were commended for their faith, but they also didn’t receive what was promised in their lifetimes (11:39-40). Many waited their entire lives for God’s promises to be fulfilled, and died with that unmet longing. For us, living by faith in this life looks like living by faith in Hebrews. We look to Jesus, who gave us eyes to have faith and will perfect it until the day that this faith becomes sight.
Living by faith does not mean that we will get all of our earthly longings fulfilled. But there will come a day where our faith will be made sight. We will “see” perfectly one day—and more importantly, we will see the Promised One, the One who authored our faith and gives us grace to trust him while we wait.