Have you ever seen this image? What do you see?
It is a well-known optical illusion in that depending on how you look at it, it is either the face of an elderly woman or the profile of a much younger woman. The same image conveys both interpretations depending on the viewer. I think we can all relate to instances where we thought one thing, and it took a catalyst like a plot twist or revelation that amazes us to see how something can be understood in a completely different light. Same event – two ways to see it. There is duality in reality.
One powerful illustration of this is the cross of Christ. At face value, it is a tragedy of a man condemned to die due to political pressure and the jealousy and hatred of religious leaders who suffered a painful and undeserved death. But after the resurrection and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit reveals God’s triumph over sin and death as clearly stated in 1 Cor 1:25: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” One clear lesson I take from God time and time again: things are not always as they seem. When my (sinful) mind wants to interpret and read things one way, I always need to ask myself “is this how God wants me to see it? Is this how He sees it?”
Recently I was listening to an old sermon by John Piper where he stated “Every trial and suffering in life is being used by the Devil to tear down your faith but is being used by God to strengthen your faith”. At first, that seemed a familiar and unremarkable statement. But then as I thought about it more (often a dangerous thing to do), I envisioned a cosmic tug-of-war for my soul that is happening on an ongoing basis and I reflected on the last few days of my life: Should I have made that comment to my co-worker? Why did I speak to my wife with that tone of voice? What does my future look like with the uncertainty of health concerns? I challenge you to look at what has transpired in life recently and ask yourself to see if the Enemy is winning to tear down your faith or if God is keeping your eyes on the prize (Phil 3:14). God’s Word has wisdom for us about this constant struggle in our lives. James 1:2-3 say: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” and later in verses 12-15, James writes:
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
That same trial can produce perseverance or give birth to sin. When you look at the picture of your life right now, what do you see? Do the trials of life tear you down and make you trust less in God, or do they make you more dependent on God and, as John Piper puts it, “kick out the crutch of things that make you happy outside of God”? Although the trial and the circumstances do not change, the one who experiences it can choose to see it as God’s gracious work in her life or allow it to embitter her heart to the delight of the Devil.
John Chung is a Ruling Elder and serves in our Worship Arts ministry.