When we visited the Grand Canyon we saw a sign warning us to watch out for mountain lions crossing the road. After that the car in front started driving really slow. I figured he was looking for one of the big cats.
Then farther up, lo and behold, something dashed across the road. I couldn’t make out exactly what it was but it must have been a mountain lion, don’t you think? We had just seen the sign.
Later I was parking the car and I saw the car that had been just in front of us. I waved him down and said, “What was that animal?” Turns out the driver was an Italian visiting the Canyon and he excitedly pointed to a picture of a mountain lion on a brochure he had in his car.
All right! So when I got back to where my wife was I told her what the fellow had said. But, she had talked to someone even closer than the Italian fellow, and this man insisted he saw the crossing well. According to him, it was actually two coyotes crossing the road.
Coyotes? No way. So Phyllis and I disagreed for a while. A couple of days before, though, in southern Colorado, she thought she saw a female moose. I think she saw an elk.
I finally came up with a solution: “I will let you have seen a moose if you will let me have seen a mountain lion, okay?” She wasn’t so sure.
Which brings up a good question: Is thinking you saw something as good as seeing it?
I’m not sure, but if that were true there are people in mental hospitals who are happy because they talk to little blue fairies and related beings all the time.
A more difficult question might be: are we sometimes trying to convince others (and ourselves) that what we say we believe is really true, when at the bottom of it we’re not sure ourselves? Do we Christians proclaim that we’ve seen “mountain lions” when it’s really just a bunch of “coyotes?”
I have a young friend who struggles with faith and she sometimes asks some tough questions. We were talking about an elderly friend that we have in common and that she loved like a father. “Look at Jean-Claude,” I said. “His faith was real. Even when he was dying of cancer he stayed strong.”
She said that she thought he was bluffing, in other words, putting up a front as if he really believed when in his heart he couldn’t be so sure. I knew Jean-Claude and I don’t think the old fellow had much “bluff” in him. He was the real deal.
Are we “bluffing” when we act like we believe in the truth of God?
We bluff if we act as if we have something that we don’t really have in order to fool others. But is that what we’re doing with our faith in Christ? I rather think we act out of what we believe and what we are in spite of what we feel.
If I always follow the dictates of my emotions and feelings I’ll be a mess. If I only believed when my emotions and feelings were totally in agreement and I didn’t have any questions, my life would go off course.
We’ve got to live out of what we “are,” not simply what we feel at any given moment. That’s not to say that our body and our feelings, emotions, perceptions, etc. aren’t part of us, but they should never rule us.
“When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Ps. 73:21-26)
In my life, when you strip everything else away, there’s still God.
So, I try to act on what I believe and not on what I feel, when what I feel doesn’t agree with what God said in His Word. Who made my feelings all-knowing and all-powerful? Who am I to set myself up as the final judge of what’s real and what’s not real?
I’m not God, He is!
When my heart seems weak: God is the strength of my heart. Others may think me foolish but they’re walking by faith that it’s not true just as much as I’m walking by faith that it is true.
But, it’s more than delusion or bluffing. I know Him and that makes all the difference. In the bottom of my being I know He’s true.
One other thing is sure, though. Somewhere in Italy there’s a young man who’ll go around the rest of his life telling his friends that he saw a mountain lion. My wife will never talk him out of that.
Just now we happen to be living in a secular age. Our thought habits are those of the scientist, not those of the worshiper. We are more likely to explain than to adore. “It thundered,” we exclaim, and go our earthly way. but still the Voice sounds and searches. (John 12:28, 29) A.W. Tozer