I’ve come to realize more and more that as earthbound creatures we are bent towards trusting what we see and hear through our senses and are often dull to the spiritual world (which has a tremendous impact on our physical world). As human beings we seem to be wired to make sense of our lives by trying to link our circumstances together in a meaningful way. It isn’t the experiences themselves, but the stories we make of them, that are often not simply inaccurate but stand in opposition to the heart of God and what he is doing in our lives. The bible is full of stories where what people make of their experiences or circumstantial realities is contrary to what God is doing and saying. The sad thing is this contradiction if not resolved, keeps us earthbound instead of soaring in the heavens with God. The Israelites in the wilderness seemed inexorably chained to their circumstantial reality, leading them to accept the negative report of the spies instead of the positive report of Joshua and Caleb.
Adding to our tendency to pay more attention to our circumstantial realities
than God, is our sinful nature. Adam and Eve, tempted by the devil, doubted that God had their best interests at heart, and fell into sin. Learning to trust God again involves learning about his character and his heart towards us. If we fail to follow God wholeheartedly, we encounter the same pitfalls that Adam and Eve, and the Israelites did. We make wrongful judgments about God and his character based on our circumstances, and God isn’t given the opportunity to correct our misperceptions.
But how do you avoid getting sucked into circumstantial realities? How do you prevent the “bad reports” from having a negative impact on your faith and walk with God? When Joseph had that incredible dream of the sheaves of wheat bowing to him he was excited and told his brothers about it (Genesis 37: 5-7). Later, after being betrayed by his brothers, he ended up having shackles placed on his neck and feet, as he was lead into slavery (Psalm 105: 17-18). I often wondered what Joseph felt at that moment. Did his heart sink at that point, and did that dream seam to him like a cruel joke? Or did he consider the faithfulness of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Perhaps like the rest of us, he struggled with a range of emotions. The scriptures report that “. . . the word of the Lord kept testing him” (Psalms 105: 19). By examining his life and circumstances, there is no way to determine that one day he would be “as pharaoh.” He was disappointed time and time again when his efforts at improving his life were repeatedly thwarted. There was no indication that he was being trained for something greater, if anything he seemed doomed to die in prison. He apparently had good reason to despair and to give up hope. Yet, Joseph remained faithful to God. Perhaps, somewhere is his heart he believed as his forefathers did, that despite the insurmountable circumstances, God was still able to fulfill his promises. Following God in such a wholehearted way despite crushing disappointments and circumstances requires being totally given over to him. It requires
a death where circumstantial reality loses its grip on you and God’s reality (he loves you and is not out to destroy you despite the way things appear) takes over. Having all of the things you had pinned your hopes on being knocked over one by one will either demoralize you or bring you to the end of yourself. It is only at this place that you can be finally freed from the gravitational pull that keeps you earthbound, to fly into spiritual realities where you truly belong.