Dangerous Illusions

“And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” 1 Kings 17:12

When I was young, I was fascinated with optical illusions: Escher’s pair of hands that seem to be drawing themselves, climbing up the Penrose staircase that ends at the bottom, or the Impossible Trident…(does it have three prongs or two?)

I remember staring at these illustrations until my eyes ached trying to find a way to resolve the dissonant questions within.

But I never could.

The drawings were mysterious illusions . . . questions without answers.

In the dry Lebanese desert, the note above from 1 Kings tells part of a widow’s story whose life was under water in an illusion. Her rations were dwindling; she was in the middle of a famine with no end in sight; she measured her life by what she could see and saw no other future except one more meal and death.

But the prophet Elijah arrives at her house . . . hungry, and he asks her to prepare a meal for him. Where would it come from? She was faced with a choice: eat her last meal or give it away and trust the promise of a stranger that if she did so, her cupboards would be miraculously refilled.

She made a choice, and no one went hungry on the other side of her trust.

But before Elijah arrived, the widow was living under a particularly dangerous illusion.

She believed her circumstances were the limit of what’s possible.

I would have, too.

Like her, I sometimes live under a dangerous illusion:

  • Thinking the resources of my life are limited and constrained.
  • Believing the limit of my understanding is the best plum-line for what’s possible.
  • Depending on what I can see for what I think I need.

Too often we find ourselves working in this illusion: a dwindling bank balance, a broken friendship, prodigal children, a trashed reputation, frightening news reports, a dark diagnosis . . .

The list of life’s traumas can grow tiresome, and our minds ache trying to find a way to resolve the dissonant questions within each one.

We focus on complexity . . . grasp at ill-informed or underdeveloped solutions, think time is running out . . . believe that we are alone without answers, that God is not with us.

. . . that there isn’t more available than we know today.

This is an enemy-inspired tactic of misdirection that steals our energy and joy with mocking riddles and questions.

We need to call this by its name: a dangerous illusion.

And, we need to know the illusion-resolving God.

Even when our circumstances don’t change, we must continue to seek His way for us.

We need to remember that He is bringing His lavish supply of wisdom, love, resources, and peace into our everyday lives.

We need to lift our eyes from the complexity of the moment, ask Jesus for the next step and take it.

We need to depend upon the security of His presence . . . the safety of His provision.

We need to seek His direction, move at His pace, follow His lead and accept His solutions.

We need to abide in His abundance . . . always enough . . . always the right way . . . always on time.

In a hidden moment centuries ago, a Lebanese widow discovered the power and security of the Provider on the other side of her obedience.

The famine raged onward, but the dangerous illusion was gone.

There’s more to life than we can see.

Can you believe it?

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5

SMOOTHSTONE: Believers in Jesus can live in the safety of His provision.