Faith: Sight Beyond Sight

“For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2Cor 5.7).[1]

“I’ve got to let it go. I gave it to the Lord.”

We walk by faith, not by sight.

“I want the Lord to take it, I can’t handle it no more.”

We walk by faith, not by sight.

“I’ve prayed about it a lot. I asked the Lord to take this burden from me. I don’t want it anymore.”

We walk by faith, not by sight.

“I think I’m fine, but then what I’ve prayed about…what I’ve sought to give to the Lord keeps getting put into my lap.”

We walk by faith, not by sight.

Stumble upon this first section and you may assume that I am uttering some catechism, or maybe a mystic mantra. Even as I wrote the lines above I kept imagining one person uttering their moments of frustrated despair, while a great crowd answered in response to them the simple fact that Christians, those who have been purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, are called (commanded and encouraged) to “walk by faith, not by sight.”

Paul’s discussion of this in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians deals with the struggle of living in this tent of flesh we find ourselves in and the longing aspiration we have to be with our Lord, dwelling with Him throughout eternity. (This is simply what Paul calls life; see 2Cor 5.4). He is encouraging the Corinthian Christians to “not lose heart…for this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are [temporary], but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2Cor 4.16a, 17-18).

Truth be told I have been chewing on this 2Corinthians 5:7 for a while now. So much so that I’ve gained a better appreciation of the saying “like a dog with a bone.” If you have a dog or if you’ve ever had one and you watched them for a while after giving them a bone you’ll know what I mean.

Our dog will take her bone in her mouth and carry it around the yard for a while looking for a place to bury it. Then at some predetermined time only she can know she digs up the bone and chews on it. This is an ongoing process until she has either forgotten the bone or she’s crushed it to dust. This phrase by Paul has become my bone, and I keep coming back to it again and again.

What happens when we are confronted with circumstances we do not like? When the burdens of this life cause us to groan? When false ideas gain acceptance and the truth is vilified? What is our normal Christian response? “I prayed about it,” or “I gave it to God,” or “I just want God to take it,” or “I’m trying to let go of it and let God have it.” The subject of the “it” is not nearly as important as our understanding of reality. The reason I keep chewing on this verse is because the way we verbalize and think about our circumstances is very telling.

What does it mean to live by faith and not by sight? Well in order to answer that we need to define “faith” and “sight.” Don’t worry I have no desire to get philosophically deep here, but just hit the basics. Faith is in a word “trust.” Faith is trusting, believing, and having a hopeful assurance, a dogged conviction in something or someone. For the Christian our faith rests in the Triune God of the Bible. We trust in and are confident in His Word. We believe and trust in His Sovereignty. All the earth is the Lord’s and all that is therein (cf. Psa 89.11; 24.1-2). Nothing happens by chance or accident in my Father’s world (cf. Isa 46.10; Eph 1.11). He is behind all things and sustains all things, and even controls all things…even something as miniscule as the falling of dice (cf. Prov 16.33) or the loss of hair (cf. Matt 10.30).

When Christians live by faith we live with the knowledge that God and nothing else determines all things. We trust that all things are under His dominion. But, what about sight? Obviously, when most people think of sight they refer to that which is done by the human eye. Light enters in and insight about our physical surrounding is gained. However, sight even in every day English, means more than what we physically see. Sight in this way then is understanding and comprehension.

When we see things, we are looking at things or people or places in our immediate surroundings. We then interpret those various objects in light of our worldview. This includes the various circumstances we face in life.

And now we have gone full circle.

When the Holy Spirt says we are to live by faith and not by sight, this does not mean we close our eyes to walk the dog or think that reality is just an illusion. Rather, we do not trust in the circumstances around us. Life is hard. Life is full of trials. Life causes us pain and groaning. And life, makes the Christian yearn for better days. We long for a time when the effects of sin and the pain and sorrow that naturally spring from living in a fallen world will be forgotten memories.

Persecutions, trials and tribulations though are the reality until we put off this tent in which we are now living, and that’s the point. What do we do when evil seems to win, and the unrighteous appear to get away with wrong? How do we react to bad health or broken relationships or rebellious kids?

When we focus on the circumstances in life and the hardships they tend to bring, we lose sight of one very important truth: God is in control of it all. The way we talk about our circumstances and prayers; the way we say we are tying to let go and let God, we unknowingly show the error in our thinking. We are not in control of life, but God is. How can we give Him something when He already has possession of it? How can we let go of something, when we never truly had a hold of it anyway? Living by Faith is trusting that God rules every aspect of our lives…the good, the bad and the ugly. Our understanding (sight) of these matters is trivial, but we still seek it.

That’s the reason this subject has been sticking in my craw for the past few months. The way we talk about our lives and the way we try to handle the circumstances that spring up are out of whack. Like the father in the gospel’s I find myself saying, “I believe Lord…help me in my unbelief” (Mark 9.24). Not help me “let this go;” Not “take this from me;” but rather, Lord forgive me for my unbelief and increase my faith. I know you are in control of all things, Lord…give me the strength necessary to rest in that truth. To trust in You and to be comforted by you. I cannot give you what you already have. You’ve put these things in my life and brought the outcome out the way you saw as right, help me to acknowledge that though my understanding is incomplete…you are in control of it all. Please, Lord teach me—teach us— to rest in that.


[1] All Scripture unless otherwise noted shall be of the English Standard Version (ESV).