Keeping Our Spiritual Vision Clear
When I was in second grade, my teacher suggested that my parents have my vision checked because I was having difficulty reading what she wrote on the board. A visit to the optometrist and a “Read the smallest letters on the chart that you can” test proved she was right: I had severe progressive myopia. However, there was a remedy. Within a couple of weeks, I was fitted with brown, acetate-framed lenses, and what a difference that made! As we drove away from the optical shop with my new glasses, I remember my mom tearing up as I told her of my amazing discovery: I could see leaves on the trees! I was so accustomed to blurry vision that I was unaware other people had been able to see leaves all along.
Good physical eyesight is a blessing. However, as amazing and beneficial as our eyes are, they have a significant limitation: they can only see physical realities, like chalkboards, leaves on trees, and a mother’s face. Spiritual vision is far more valuable because it enables us to see eternal realities—things that are not visible to our physical eyes.
The value of spiritual eyesight
The Psalmist was aware of the incomparable value of spiritual eyesight. In Psalm 119:18 he prayed, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” Contemporary songwriter Paul Baloche captured the same thought in his song, “Open the Eyes of My Heart.” Its words say,
“Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You
I want to see You
To see You high and lifted up
Shinin' in the light of Your glory . . .” 1
Why is spiritual eyesight so valuable? While many reasons may come to mind, here are three that stand out to me.
- Spiritual eyesight denotes a death-to-life change. Until a person has repented of sin and become a Christian, he or she is spiritually dead and cannot discern the things of God. In 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Paul asserted, “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not. . .” When God redeems us, He opens our spiritual eyes to the “light of the glorious gospel of Christ.” The Apostle knew what he was talking about when he wrote these words. He had been completely blind to the truth until God broke through the darkness. After Paul encountered Jesus on the Road to Damascus, his eyes both physically and spiritually were opened to see Jesus Christ (see Acts 9:1-19).
- Spiritual eyesight gives a new perspective of present circumstances. In 2 Kings 6, we read that Elisha’s servant was afraid when he saw a great army surrounding their city. Elisha had a different view. “And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17). Elisha did not pray that God would change the situation itself, but that his servant could see the spiritual aspect of it. When the servant’s spiritual eyes were opened, he saw that there really were more with him and Elisha than the vast company assembled against them. In the same way, spiritual eyesight will enable us to see our challenges from a completely different point of view, because we will grasp that God is always with us as a “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
- Spiritual eyesight offers hope for the future. Paul prayed for the saints in Ephesus, requesting that the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened, that they might know “what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18). It is with our spiritual eyes that we discern the glorious future ahead of us: the Rapture of the Church, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and the privilege of living with Christ for all of eternity.
External conditions can hinder vision
In the physical realm, external conditions can limit our ability to see. For example, darkness can obscure visibility. When I was growing up, camping in outdoor recreational areas was an economical way for a family of five to vacation. I enjoyed the outdoor experience. Sleeping in a tent was fun, the paths around our campsite were waiting to be explored, and there was potential for adventure all around . . . in the daytime. It was an entirely different story at night! One of my vivid memories of those camping trips is making my way at night to the park restroom facilities. I was scared that I would stumble over a root or branch in the dark. I might get turned around and lose my way back to our campsite. Worst of all, what if there were a snake or a skunk or a bear on the path? Since I couldn’t see clearly, I might bump right into it!
We live in a spiritually dark world, and the darkness around us seems to be getting more and more pervasive. Thankfully, we are assured that “thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).
In the spiritual realm as well, external conditions can hinder our ability to see. We live in a spiritually dark world, and the darkness around us seems to be getting more and more pervasive. Thankfully, we are assured that “thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). How necessary the Word of God is if we want to avoid stumbling, losing our way, or confronting obstacles on our pathway through life!
Darkness is not the only external condition that might hamper our ability to see. A number of years ago, my husband and I were visiting at a friend’s house one winter evening when an ice storm hit. Only semi-aware of the ping, ping, ping of freezing rain hitting the window, we lingered in the warmth of their living room for several hours. When we finally said our goodbyes and went out to our car, we found that a thick film of ice covered our windshield. Not wanting to disturb our hosts by going back inside, and having no ice-scraper with us, we decided to cautiously drive the few blocks to our house. That drive was memorable! Peering through a silvery crust, the streetlights were just dim orbs of light and the headlights of approaching vehicles a milky blur. Driving with such limited visibility was a stressful experience for both driver and passenger!
My husband and I took a chance that night by driving with limited ability to see where we were going. I wonder: Do we ever take chances spiritually because our spiritual vision is obscured? Do we move ahead with our lives, pushing aside an uncomfortable feeling that something is not quite right, but hoping we will somehow make it through safely? Or, even worse, are we unaware of how obscured our vision has become and go blithely on, oblivious to the spiritual danger? It’s possible!
Temporal things that are part of daily life will pass away. If we want to keep our spiritual vision clear, we must guard against letting these things absorb us.
What are some external situations that might obscure our spiritual vision? In the parable of the Sower and the Seed, Jesus warned His hearers not to become entangled in the cares of life. Calendars, clocks, and to-do lists shape our days, but the temporal things that are part of daily life will pass away. If we want to keep our spiritual vision clear, we must guard against letting these things absorb us.
Challenges and adversity can also obscure our spiritual focus. All of us will face circumstances in life that cause pain. However, Paul told the believers at Corinth that “. . . our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” He warned, “Look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). Are we focused on the “weight of glory?” It is an eternal reality! Often, the problem isn’t so much our affliction, but the fact that we have allowed something to distract our focus from the eternal outcome.
Internal issues can impair vision
While external conditions can hamper our vision, internal issues can actually impair or even destroy our ability to see. Here are some examples.
- Doubt. This spiritual malady strikes at the very core of our Christian experience, because it is by faith that we come to God and maintain our walk with Him. The Word of God teaches us that without faith it is impossible to please God, so of course this is a point where Satan will try to attack.
- Discouragement. Satan does all in his power to rob the child of God of his rest and peace in Christ. There is natural ebb and flow in the emotional aspect of our Christian walk. Some days we feel like we are on the mountaintop, while on other days, God seems distant and the clouds roll in to obscure Him from view. Satan may tell us in those times that we have somehow displeased God, that we must have done something wrong, or maybe even that we are not saved anymore. We must not listen to him! Feelings come and go, but if our heart’s desire and purpose is to serve God, we can be assured that He will keep us no matter what our emotions may tell us at the moment.
- Self. The many aspects of “self” can damage our focus on things eternal: self-pity, self-centeredness, self-righteousness, and other manifestations of the same root. The enemy of our souls wants us to focus on our personal desires and preferences, but Christ admonishes, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Are we really interested in having a clear vision of Jesus? If so, we need to guard against self issues in our lives.
- Other potential impairments. Fear, unwillingness to forgive, unbelief, bitterness, or unresolved conflict with a brother or sister in the Lord could impair our spiritual vision. The enemy of our souls will do his best to put things before us that will blur our vision and distort our focus. God’s Word warns that clinging to such feelings will cause damage or even potentially destroy our relationship with Christ. Can we afford to let them remain in our lives under those circumstances? Clearly, the answer is no.
Protecting our spiritual vision
Likely, most of us are resigned to the fact that as we age, our physical eyesight will deteriorate. Even so, eye specialists say there is much we can do to keep our eyes healthy. Simple preventive measures can help protect our eyes from damage and stave off vision problems later in life—actions such as having regular eye exams, watching for warning signs of changes in vision, protecting our eyes from injury, and eating a nutritionally balanced diet.
As we mature spiritually and continue to draw close to God, we will find ourselves more and more able to perceive eternal realities.
While physical eyesight may decline over time, we do not need to assume that spiritual eyesight will diminish as we age. In fact, the reverse can be true! As we mature spiritually and continue to draw close to God, we will find ourselves more and more able to perceive eternal realities.
When we understand the value of our spiritual vision, we will want to do all we can to protect it. Here are some steps we can take.
- Avoid things that could cloud our spiritual eyesight. Generally this happens little by little. Social media, what we view online, worldly music, or secular news sources, magazines, and books can desensitize us. If we are not on guard, we can end up absorbing some of the world’s perspectives without even realizing it. We want to cultivate an awareness of how culture can influence us, and guard against oblivious absorption.
- Ask God to search our hearts. David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts” (Psalm 139:23). That is a good prayer to pray when we are intent upon preserving our spiritual vision. When God brings a problem to our attention, we should acknowledge it and ask for His help. He will be there to instruct, encourage, and offer strength when we come to Him.
- Spend time reading God's Word. Once our spiritual eyes have been opened through salvation, we can strengthen our “spiritual vision” through a deeper understanding of, trust in, and obedience to core truths in the Bible. This is a lifelong process! We never get to the point where we no longer need regular nourishment from God’s Word, any more than we ever outgrow our need for physical sustenance.
- Keep prayed up. We should daily ask God to guard our spiritual eyesight, to help us learn from correction, to endure hardness, to resist the devil, and to keep our focus on things that are honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report (see Philippians 4:8).
The positive results of taking care of spiritual eyesight are beyond imagination. Think of what it will mean to step into eternity one day! Think of what it will mean to see our Savior and hear Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of thy Lord.” That will make every sacrifice, every consecration, every determination to maintain our focus on Christ supremely and forever worthwhile!