2020 Vision: Believing in God’s Perfect Sight
“You ask how I dare question your wisdom when I am so very ignorant. I talked about things I did not understand, about marvels too great for me to know.” Job 42:3
I’m moderately short-sighted, and I still remember the feeling of getting my first pair of glasses when I was about twelve years old. I was amazed to see how clear the world appeared with my glasses on! I couldn’t believe that it was even possible to suddenly be able to see in such sharp focus, and I hadn’t thought that such clear vision even existed. Fast-forward several years, and I believe that I went through a similar experience, metaphorically, when I started to take my faith more seriously while at university. As I became more acutely aware of the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and of the Holy Spirit in my life, God’s truth and love were revealed to me in sharper focus than ever before. It was as though I had been given a pair of spiritual glasses that helped me to see more clearly the ways in which God was working in my life.
However, to continue this analogy, we need to recognise that as humans we are not capable of achieving the absolute perfect vision that God alone possesses. Prayer can definitely improve our spiritual eyesight, but we are incapable of possessing the all-seeing vision that only God has over the whole of His creation. Furthermore, it is very common to experience times when we feel more connected to God, our vision appears to be in sharper focus, while at other times it may seem blurrier. Even well-known saints went through periods of spiritual dryness, and it is important to remember that while human emotion is very changeable, God is constant. I’m really pushing the limits of this metaphor now, but perhaps we could say that our lenses become dirty every now and then, and receiving the sacraments regularly could be said to be a way of helping us to keep our “lenses” clean.
"As I became more acutely aware of the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and of the Holy Spirit in my life, God’s truth and love were revealed to me in sharper focus than ever before."
If we are struggling to make sense of life, it is because we see things through a human, subjective lens of what we perceive to be important to us in the moment: we lack the eternal vision of God. In John’s Gospel, Jesus tells those in the crowd who are challenging him to “stop judging me by external standards, and judge me by true standards” (John 7:24). How often do we ourselves judge God’s ways according to our own ideas of how we think God should be acting? Do we ever feel like God has forgotten us; do we grow frustrated that God doesn’t seem to be paying any immediate attention to issues in our own lives, or in the world at large that we believe need to be addressed?
If we ever do feel that God isn’t acting as we want Him to, then we have lost sight of the real message of the Gospel. The Christian life isn’t supposed to be easy. We will have hardships to endure, and it is through these hardships that we can grow in holiness, if we allow ourselves to. Sometimes it may seem obvious to us how God is working, sometimes it may seem less obvious, but we have to remember that God’s ways are “not our ways.” They are so much greater that they are often beyond our comprehension, and our prayers can be answered in very unexpected ways. Perhaps we will not recognise the answer for many years, maybe we never will understand in this life, but our difficulty in perceiving God’s love for us does not make it any weaker.
"Our difficulty in perceiving God’s love for us does not make it any weaker."
When Mary appeared to St Bernadette in Lourdes, she told her “I do not promise to make you happy in this world but in the other.” Perhaps nowadays the idea that maybe God does not always guarantee worldly happiness for us is an unpopular one. St Bernadette did not have a “successful” life by worldly standards, she was sickly most of her life and died at the age of 35, however the Church canonised her as a saint. That is after all the ultimate plan that God has for all of us, and so if you feel frustrated that God isn’t giving you everything that you currently want, be certain that it is not because you have been “forgotten”. God knows exactly how many hairs are on your head, and so of course God deeply cares about your life, but maybe the things that you currently perceive to be important - even things that most of society would agree are important - are not actually as important to God as what He has got planned for you, which is ultimately your salvation.
This is not to suggest that we are all doomed to suffer in life, with little happiness to be found this side of Heaven; on the contrary, God came so that we may have life “to the full.” Much of that fulfilment can be found on Earth if we stop expecting it to appear as we perceive it should from our human short-sightedness. If we look to God, and truly try to imitate Jesus’ self-sacrificial love, then our eyesight will surely improve, and we will see that God’s goodness is always to be found.