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Trusting the Unseen

Posted Friday 19 June 2020

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 Cor 4:18)

This is an intriguing verse. How exactly do you fix your eyes on ‘the unseen’, and does it make sense to do so?

People can sometimes struggle with the idea of an unseen God, and this can cause them to doubt not just the reality of his interaction with us on earth, but His very existence. I have encountered this difficulty particularly in dealing with those individuals who believe that faith in God is incompatible with a scientific mindset.

The key question is, ‘Can I trust what I can’t see?’ Well, I would suggest that we do this all the time, and in many different ways.

Here is another question: ’Can you see air?’ The answer, of course, is that no, you can’t see air, yet we don’t doubt its existence. In fact, we generally take it for granted, easily breathing air in and out of our lungs without being aware of it or consciously thinking about it. So, our lives actually depend on something unseen.

We also use the air coming out of our lungs past our vocal chords to create speech, song and cries. Air carries sound waves into our ears enabling us to hear. We see the effects of air in so many different ways: wind moving in the branches of a tree, clouds being blown across the sky, even our own breath condensing in front of us on a frosty morning. We can see pollution within air. Air itself is invisible, but if it did not exist, then neither would we.

A number of years ago, having been in Africa with my family, we were embarking on our journey home by plane, and our flight was delayed because of some mechanical issues. When the time eventually came for us to get on board and prepare for take off, the fact that the cabin lights didn’t work properly, and the safety video didn’t function was therefore far from reassuring! I immediately started wondering what else might not be working, and distracted myself by reading a book.

Not long after take-off, the pilot spoke on the intercom in soothing tones, and decided to give us some information about the plane, presumably to reassure his passengers. One of the things he told us was the weight of the plane at take-off, and as my mind processed the thought, I realised “that is very heavy!” I was sitting next to the window, and as I glanced outside, a frightening query invaded my brain, “What is keeping this extremely heavy plane in the air?” My scientific brain registered the question, and although the answer arrived quite quickly, it did not settle my heart immediately. Basically, air pressure pushing up the aeroplane’s wings keeps the aeroplane flying. How does that work? Air keeps a plane in the sky! The fact was, the lives of myself and my family were entrusted to an unseen reality. As I processed these thoughts, gradually, reassurance and peace arrived. I could trust in this unseen reality – air – because it really does have the power to keep an aeroplane flying.

Trusting the unseen is an everyday reality – think about electricity, WiFi signals, radio waves, X-rays – it all makes sense to us even though we don’t fully understand how it works.

Similarly, God may be unseen, but He is real and He is powerful, He is gentle and He is comforting. The sound of His voice comes to us through an unseen reality into our minds. He is also eternal and infinite, so our understanding of Him can always be growing. His reality will outlast all the things that we can see physically. God is the ultimate reality. He may be invisible, but the evidence of His activity is all around us, and we can trust Him simply because of who He is.

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God (Romans 1:20)

Pete Carter