The realities of God’s truths keep me in his plan and
guard me from dangerous imaginings.
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever
is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any
excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Perhaps there is no greater saboteur of Christ’s presence in our lives than our fanciful thoughts about how we wish things were. What harm can come from daydreaming about a man other than our spouse or wishing our child was a genius or star athlete? What harm is there in imagining a house full of children if we are unable to conceive or imagining we’re the head of a corporation if we’ve been told we’re not qualified for any more promotions? Like land mines, our imaginations can be harmful if we don’t weigh them against reality and the truth of God’s Word.
Imagination can take many forms and range from the most innocent, such as seeing the shape of a horse or duck in cloud formations, to the most dangerous and unfounded speculations. Consider the following examples of things we might imagine. Place a check mark beside those you or someone you know have entertained:
That last one, entertaining thoughts of a man other than her husband, nearly destroyed my friend and sister in Christ, Mary. Her honesty prompts us to consider if there are any imagination land mines we should disarm rather than leaving them lying dangerously in our minds. Here’s her story:
Did you ever sing this little song when you were a child?
Oh, be careful little ears what you hear,
Oh, be careful little ears what you hear,
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love,
So be careful little ears what you hear.
The truth about this song is that it isn’t just for children. It’s true for anyone of any age. Following is what I heard and imagined that nearly destroyed my life and family.
At age thirty-seven I gave my life to Jesus Christ and was baptized. I truly loved Jesus. For the next twelve years, I worked at my Christian faith. I taught Vacation Bible School and Sunday school; played the organ for a church; and was a devoted and respected mother, wife, and community member. Then the picture-perfect scenario became muddy.
A person who intrigued me began telling me things I liked to hear, such as . . .
“Your husband doesn’t understand you.” (My imagination said, Someone understands me!)
“We would make a good team.” (My imagination said, I’m needed.)
“I need your help.” (My imagination rang out, He wants me. I’ll rescue him.)
“Let’s meet at 10:30.” (I imagined excitement and adventure.)
“I’ll keep you warm in winter and cool in summer.” (I envisioned intimacy.)
Fidelity, truthfulness, integrity, honesty, nobility, and faithfulness didn’t seem to matter as I let my imagination run wild with thoughts about this man and how I wanted more for me. Two friends approached me, warning me of the trap I was about to fall into, but I turned a deaf ear to them. I fell for the lie. Proverbs 14:12 says it best: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to
Where was God during this time? Oh, I knew he was there. I just instructed him to look the other way and not to bother me while I was doing all this great stuff for me.
Pursuing my longed-for independence, I listened to what I wanted and to what I thought I needed and deserved. My desires resulted in hatred, dissension, shame, disappointment, dismay, sorrow, broken dreams, tears, and divorce.
I listened to the wrong message. The devil chewed me up and spit me out. When I awoke from my nightmare, I realized my horrible mistake. Unbearable guilt and judgment consumed me. I couldn’t believe what I’d done to myself and to my family.
The Source of Our Vain Imaginings
From where do such imaginings come? Although we’d like to say, “The devil made me do it,” our sinful nature is the reason we give in to temptations rather than stand against them. In other words, if we were as pure as Jesus is, our imaginations wouldn’t be fertile soil for Satan.
James 1:13–14 tells us: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.”
As believers we may be reluctant to agree with James. For years I resisted the truth he spoke. I didn’t think of myself as lustful. However, I wrongfully limited that word to the context of sexual lust outside of marriage. When I studied the verse, I learned that lust has a far bigger context than sexual connotations. It can include any desire for what is forbidden. With the fuller meaning in mind, I was able to see how lust can encompass any longing or desire imaginable. Enter Satan. When he tempts us, deep-seated lusts of which we may not be aware can become land mines if we’re not careful to clear them.
Why would God allow Satan to roam the earth (Job 1:7) seeking someone to tempt and devour (1 Pet. 5:8)? Although I don’t have all the answers, the Scriptures explain that in the testing of our faith, we become stronger (James 1:2–4; 1 Pet. 1:6–7). God doesn’t permit us to be tempted because he wants us to fail or fall but rather so he can prove Christ’s sufficiency in us. Temptations reveal areas where we need God’s finishing touch. Untested, we remain like children. However, when we see our sin nature as God sees it, we’ll gasp in shame, repent, and seek Christ’s holiness and infilling. This is the process of sanctification whereby we grow in the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rejecting Figments of Your Imagination
Once we understand our imaginations for what they are, we can stand against the dangers they represent. We can clear our minds of destructive imaginings much like Jamba clears minefields. What are some figments of our imagination we should guard against? In addition to the ones mentioned at the beginning of our chapter, consider the following:
Let’s consider Queen Esther and how she imagined she could avoid God’s calling.
Figment of Your Imagination 1: I’ll Be Happier If I Avoid God’s Calling
Esther was a Jewish orphan who became a Persian queen. Certainly it was not her Plan A to be orphaned. Nor was it likely to have been her Plan A to be taken into a king’s harem. But she was, and the king chose her as his wife and queen.
Following her cousin Mordecai’s advice, Esther didn’t reveal to her husband, the king, that she was Jewish. However, when a political mandate was issued to destroy the Jews, Mordecai sent Esther a message urging her to go the king and plead for mercy for the Jews. Again, this was not Esther’s Plan A. She wanted no part of the plan and sent word to Mordecai explaining the fault in it. She hadn’t been summoned by the king for a full month now, and no one—not even the queen—could enter the king’s presence uninvited without risking death.
Esther imagined she was not part of the problem or its solution. But this was false. Her temptation to avoid God’s plan for her life was rooted in naïveté and self-preservation.
Mordecai challenged Esther’s supposition: “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews” (Esther 4:13). He confronted Esther with the reality that she, too, would die if she didn’t act. Not only would she die, but she would miss the moment for which God had prepared her.
Although Esther was a godly woman, a land mine of self lay below the topsoil of her beautiful exterior. Might that be said of us too? Even as we attempt to live godly lives, sometimes God’s plans for us expose self-centered imaginations.
Confronted with the truth, Esther disarmed her false imaginings and responded to God’s will for her life. We have this same opportunity. When we find ourselves in Plan B, it’s tempting to conjure false notions. We may not be in our dream marriage, so we daydream or imagine what it would be like to be married to another man. If we’re single, we may daydream what it would be like to be married. A longtime friend
whom I greatly admire, JoAnn Dealey, speaks wisely on this subject:
I’ve been divorced for twenty years, but it wasn’t until my last child left home that I became acutely aware of how alone I am. In a churched world, I feel like there’s a little sign on my back that reads, “Something is really wrong here. Why didn’t she get married again? Must be something big.”
I feel somewhat vindicated by the apostle Paul, who told us to stay as we are (1 Cor. 7:26), but I can’t help but notice that the animals went in to the ark two by two.
One Sunday a man sitting in the row in front of me put his arm around his wife and gave her a look. No words were spoken, but they exchanged a lifetime of understanding right in front of me. I didn’t get the sense that everything between them had been easy. It was better than that. I felt a peace from them that they had clearly decided to do it God’s way.
That’s something I’ll never have, I said to myself.
When I really get on a roll, I imagine the perfect man sitting in the empty chair beside me in church. He is a godly man who knows me completely, puts my needs before his on all occasions, and thinks I’m a goddess. He’s an attentive father, a generous provider, and a contributor to the well-being of mankind. Oh, and he’s gorgeous, brilliant, the most popular guy on the block, and an amazing cook. (For some reason, he just loves to clean up the kitchen, and although I want to sit and talk to him while he cleans, he insists that I take some private time for myself while he tidies up the house before bed.) Has anyone seen this guy that I’m missing so much on Sunday mornings?
JoAnn goes on to tell how she deals realistically with her imagination.
My best advice:
I know, to most people it looks as if I’ve been sitting alone on a church pew for most of my life. But I can assure you that the Lord has been sitting next to me all along.
JoAnn is a good model for us to follow as we seek to disarm our unbiblical notions about what others think about us. She clears away unrealistic speculation about the “perfect” husband that can only serve to make her unhappy. She has taken the gifts God has given her as a Plan A woman and is using them to fulfill his purposes for her. Not only is she a successful career woman who has built her own business, she is also a faithful contributor to God’s kingdom. She lives 2 Timothy 2:21. Isn’t this God’s plan for each of us in whatever plan we find ourselves?
How are you doing in this regard? In what areas beside marriage and singleness do we tend to nurture cherished ideas about God’s calling or will for our lives rather than deal with reality?
We may not like the Plan B job we have. But rather than dig in, work hard, or seek another job, we spend time thinking about how unfairly we’re treated. We imagine a dream job that doesn’t exist.
We may not like the Plan B direction in which our children are going. They may not be performing in school or sports as we imagined they would. We’ve imagined them scoring touchdowns or winning awards in theater or academics, but they’re not. What’s wrong with imagining such things? If we don’t ground our imaginations in reality, we can neglect to live in the moment God has given us. We can put pressure on our children to be something they’re not. We can fail to fulfill our God-given responsibility to help them develop into the people God has created them to be.