Facing What We Cannot Face




Janet E. Fichter

 
© Copyright 2021 by Janet E. Fichter


 

Photo of old man's hands.
  
 Denial is powerful! Too often, we refuse to explore more intangible realms of knowledge.  Mindsets that keep heads buried in the sand entrench us. But, like a hovering and persistent cloud that hinders the view of a glorious sunrise, revelation of knowledge brings enlightenment. Knowing that your journal accepts work from many voices, I submit the attached article which compares the hesitancy to believe in climate change to the resistance to belief in the spiritual realm. By explaining various coping behaviors and mindsets that hinder faith, I encourage readers to use the principles of scientific investigation to courageously investigate a life of faith and the unseen realm of Godís kingdom.
   
Rising temperatures world-wideÖ
 
Longer, more extreme droughts...
 
Increasing severity of tropical storms...
 
According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), these weather conditions, experienced globally, are signs of climate change.[1] Most recently, Americans have experienced the extremes of devastating fires fueled by prolonged heat waves and drought[2], flooding in atypical places like Nashville[3], and ice storms in Texas[4].
 
Record-setting weather changes threaten the routines of life with increasingly challenging consequences. Yet, many refuse to acknowledge the phenomenon of climate change. It seems the reality is too difficult to reconcile with our status quo preferences. Scientists present factual data and urge us to modify our thinking. But the idea of having to alter our way of life seems impossible to confront. Because we canít see the actual changes taking place right in front of us, we close our ears to the warnings and ignore the caution signposts.
 
Tackling hard-to-understand situations or circumstances that ask for change is difficult. Choosing to curl up in a comforting blanket of denial seems to be the easier course. Similar to the ostrich, we bury our heads in the sand, believing all will be well if we simply avoid the call that a change in belief is needed. This hesitancy to face what we cannot easily face is a powerful human tendency. Like the climatologist who shakes his/her head at the chosen ignorance of some, I find myself baffled by the strength of the coping mechanism of denial.
 
Far more important than the rejection of the existence of climate change is another denial: the dismissal of the existence of the spiritual realm of Godís kingdom. Even more dangerous is the choice to bury heads in the sand about the existence of a sphere where Creator God dwellsóa realm that envelops far more than the natural domain can contain. As with science, when a concept canít be seen, it is hard to believe. Itís easier to focus on the tangible, so we donít consider the possibility that something intangible can provide great revelation and insight. Remaining entrenched in a coping pattern of denial, however, is like trudging through a muddy bog when a paved path lies parallel to it. Yet we trudge on because we donít want to deal with what makes us uncomfortable, even though the path weíve selected is much harder to traverse.
 
When we resist the issues we feel incapable of facing, there is more than just resistance at work. Hesitancy evolves into denial, and denial gives power to unbelief. Unbelief invites a multitude of conclusions that influence mindsets. We donít want to trust anything we canít fully comprehend. We struggle to reconcile why hardship invades the good life we long for, and perhaps feel entitled to. We harden our hearts to the invitation to change lifestyles and habits. The muddy bog thickens and we are stuck.
 
This essay addresses the human difficulty of facing what is hard to face with regard to our spiritual condition. The analogy to climate change is intended to provide an example of the danger of denial. As with science, when we step out with courage to investigate what seems unfathomable, we discover a new frontier. In the case of this article, the frontier you are invited to discover is the spiritual realm of Godís heavenly kingdom.
 
The Bible addresses this phenomenon of avoidance. While many who read this article may not regularly consult Scripture, it is noteworthy to mention a few verses and ask for open-minded consideration. Some of the passages compare the unbelief to and intentional closing of eyes or a purposeful plugging of ears (see Matthew 13:13, Isaiah 6:9-10, Acts 28:25-27). Additionally, the book of Romans tells us the existence of God is evident to all, but suppressed by choice.
 
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:18-23, NASB1995).
 
Those who believe in Almighty God, however, eagerly embrace the powerful realities of the existence of the heavenly kingdom. Far too numerous to include here would be Biblical passages that illuminate this spiritual realm. Although it may not be tangibly visible, the transcendence of the supernatural into the natural is the strongest certainty we have in this fallen and fallible world.
 
The two realms have always existed and interacted. The Bible invites us to the realization that the spiritual continually encounters the natural, and Godís goodness and righteousness confronts the finite earthly domain of existence with grace and truth. Psalms 85:9-12 celebrates this transcendence,
 
Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him that glory may dwell in our land. Lovingkindness and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth springs from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven. Indeed, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its produce.
 
So, why do many struggle to believe the existence of the spiritual realm where relationship with God is offered? According to Scripture, there is an unseen veil (or covering) that shields understanding (see 2 Corinthians 3:14-16). This veil is similar to a curtain that hides a Broadway stage prior to a powerful performance, or a sheet that covers a masterpiece work of art before the moment of its showing. The anticipated revelation has yet to occur. Like a hovering and persistent cloud that hinders the view of a glorious sunrise, this veil shields insight and understanding until a choice to open the door of oneís heart is made.
 
Second Corinthians 4:3-5 explains the veil further,
 
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesusí sake.
 
The good news is that, like dissipating clouds, the veil can be removed; and what lies behind it is the radiance and brilliance of Godís goodness. This realm beyond the veil opens the moment a person yields their life to Jesus Christ, seeking forgiveness for their sins and desiring a relationship with Jesus. Amazingly, everyone has access to know God in a deep and personal way, for Christ was sent to remove the veil and to impart the needed revelation. Jesus came to help humanity understand the nature of our Creator, imparting a clear message of a personal salvation available to all who will accept it. When an individual yields their human tendency to resist and chooses to seek to know Jesus, incredible insight about the spiritual realm of existence occurs. (NOTE: to read about a few lives completely transformed by their decision, see this footnote article from Pure Flix Insider.[5])
 
On humanityís side of the veil (the natural realm), we wrestle with the ills of a fallen world. Difficulties and confusions abound. But because human nature tends to rely on our own strength and resilience, we fear the vulnerability that relationship with God requires. We seek to be in control of our own circumstances and the idea of yielding our choices and ways of thinking to God conjures up images of losing our freedom. For many, it means facing personal frailties and weaknesses.
 
To cope with this fear of vulnerability, some choose to embrace alternative ideologies. Philosophies like humanism, existentialism or nihilism are examples (see definitions and references at the end of this article). These beliefs support an ambiguous explanation of hard-to-understand issues, but help make sense of lifeís difficulties. Many hold a fatalistic attitude, (i.e., whatever is going to happen will happen, and thereís nothing I can do about it). This mindset keeps us locked in a prison of fear, preventing us from facing what we donít want to faceóthat God exists within and beyond the natural realm.
 
The belief in the concept of relative truth is a related mindset. Many who embrace this viewpoint contend there is no absolute truth to guide humanity through moral decisions or matters of eternity. Rather, each one defines his/her truth. Like a rat in a maze, those who espouse this belief are lost in a complicated oxymoron, relative truth. If fallible individuals determine their own truth, how can it be called truth at all? As long as truth and morality can be labeled as ambiguous, then we donít have to wrestle with absolutes. And we stay stuck in the wayward maze of unbelief.
 
Embracing humanistic philosophies is a popular lure for an ďopenĒ worldview, but in the elevation of ambiguity, the exploration of Godís kingdom is avoided. Sadly, many find these ideologies preferable to considering the possibility of a realm where absolute truth and unfathomable grace bring a distinct hope to humanity.
 
The idea of a personal relationship with our Creator might conjure up a fear of what could be asked of us. Will the relationship demand a sacrifice we donít feel capable of making? Will we have to give up personal choices and behaviors that bring us pleasure? Will we have to reprioritize our values? Will the change in mindset have an effect on what we find comfortable or routine? While these questions are understandable, one additional inquiry must also be considered: what new and wonderful insights will we miss out on if we choose to turn away from a personal relationship with God? I contend that pondering this last question will ignite a desire to investigate the spiritual realm.
 
For those who take the risk and seek understanding, Godís perfect love casts out all fear (see 1 John 4:18). Like the principles of science, we have an ďif, thenĒ situation. One occurrence, the choice to seek relationship with Jesus Christ, causes a consequential occurrence, the revelation of Godís nature. As in so many issues of life, when comprehension takes hold, fear dissolves.
 
Just as inquiry is a worthwhile process for scientific discovery, it is a critical process for spiritual discovery. Letting go of fear and seeking relationship with God inspires a journey that far surpasses any scientific discovery. When a person comes to Jesus with a heartfelt cry of repentance and a plea for rescue from evil, the veil is removed and entrance to the spiritual realm is opened.
 
As in life, when we allow ourselves to explore the more ambiguous spaces of creativity, we discover the intangible and artistic in a more thoughtful manner. When we let a beautiful piece of art impart an imaginary world of beauty, or when we allow peaceful relaxation to envelop us while listening to the serenity of our favorite style of music, we are transported to a more abstract place.  The concrete opens up what once was indistinct or vague. And what we discover brings enlightened wonder. Our mindsets are transformed by the invitation of exploration.  So it is with the spiritual realm of Godís presence. Once we allow ourselves to explore it, unimaginable discovery occurs!
 
As with any scientific investigation, there may need to be a progression or step-by-step analysis as learning occurs. For example, one who isnít certain about climate change may still choose to recycle or conserve energy by joining a carpool. These are positive lifestyle changes that feel doable, and participating in such efforts might open oneís mind to the possibility of a need for better stewardship of the Earth. Similarly, opening oneís heart to seek relationship with Jesus may involve small steps at first: having a discussion with a trusted Christian friend, reading some passages from the Bible, taking the risk to utter a prayer. The revelation, insight and understanding received from these steps make the exploration worthwhile. The hard questions and difficult-to-face issues of life fall into a proper perspective when a person seeks understanding of Godís kingdom realm. 
 
But, like denying the existence of the natural phenomenon of climate change, some choose to turn their backs on the most enlightened understanding of all. And, like the climatologist who marvels when others choose to live in denial about climate change, those who know Jesus wonder why anyone would choose otherwise.
 
I have purposefully used the analogy of climate change in this essay to make a comfortable comparison. Certainly, there are diverse camps of belief about climate change, and some of what is presented as science can be debated. Debate informs inquiry, however, so we shouldnít shy away from it. Like any science, exploration and analysis are worthy processes in forming beliefs. Though we hold tightly to our right to make decisions about issues of our day, a decision must eventually be made. The issue of climate change isnít going away, but neither is the issue of the condition of the soul.
 
Mainstream media has recently called attention to a young, Swedish eighteen year old named Greta Thunberg who makes an impassioned plea about climate change. On behalf of future generations, Miss Thunberg urges us to stop denying the existence of climate change and to modify our lifestyles.[6]
 
Like this young activist, I, too, urge readers to stop denying the goodness and grace of God that is free for the asking. Be brave enough to face what you cannot face, or what you are afraid of confronting. Take that risk to seek Jesus. Knowing Christ will impart a powerful hope for humanity in this fallen and frail natural realm. A relationship with Christ softens hardened hearts, heals hurting souls, and opens blind eyes. The assurances and insight that lie behind the veil in the spiritual realm are yours for the asking.
 
*****
 
If you seek to face what you cannot face in your own strength, I offer my support and my prayers. Please contact me if you want to understand the spiritual realm and Godís plan for redemption in Jesus Christ.  For further exploration about the veil that hinders spiritual sight, read my book, The Ministry of the Unveiled Face.
 
Common philosophies embraced on this side of the veil:
 
1.      Existentialism is the belief that through a combination of awareness, free will, and personal responsibility, one can construct their own meaning within a world that intrinsically has none of its own.
2.      Nihilism is the belief that not only is there no intrinsic meaning in the universe, but that it is pointless to try to construct our own as a substitute.
3.      Absurdism is the belief that a search for meaning is inherently in conflict with the actual lack of meaning, but that one should both accept this and simultaneously rebel against it by embracing what life has to offer.[7]
4.      Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethics based on human and other natural values in a spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.[8]
 
I am a writer who seeks to inspire readers to take a balcony view of life's events to gain a broader, more spiritual perspective.  My first book, The Ministry of the Unveiled Face (Ambassador, International) is scheduled to be released, Fall, 2021.  My blog https://atjesusfeet.com contains both non-fiction and poetry pieces.  Additionally, my writing has appeared in literary journals and story/poetry anthologies. Having a long career as a public education teacher and coach, I am now retired and pursuing my passion for writing as an avenue to broaden perspective.


[1] https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/how-can-climate-change-affect-natural-disasters-1?qt-news_science_products=0#qt-news_science_products, accessed February 20, 2021.
[2] https://insideclimatenews.org/news/31012021/climate-change-west-droughts-wildfire/, accessed May 12, 2021
[3] https://www.climate.gov/news-features/event-tracker/torrential-spring-rains-lead-flash-flooding-around-nashville-end-march, accessed May 12, 2021
[4] https://www.jhunewsletter.com/article/2021/03/how-did-climate-change-cause-the-texas-snowstorm#:~:text=According%20to%20research%20about%20Arctic,in%20easier%20winter%20storm%20development.&text=The%20path%20of%20these%20storms,have%20had%20its%20devastating%20snowfall, accessed May 12, 2021
[5] https://insider.pureflix.com/prayer-faith/6-incredible-examples-of-lives-totally-transformed-by-gods-grace
 
[6] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49918719#:~:text=Greta%20Thunberg%20is%20the%20Swedish,join%20protests%20around%20the%20world, accessed Feb. 21, 2021.
[7] https://danielmiessler.com/blog/difference-existentialism-nihilism-absurdism, accessed Feb. 20, 2021.
 
[8] https://americanhumanist.org/what-is-humanism/definition-of-humanism, accessed Feb. 20, 2021.

                                                                                       


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