Faith vs. wishful thinking
January 25, 2021
Is my faith real? All Christians have probably asked this question at one point or another along their journey. I’ve sometimes wondered just how thin the line is between faith and wishful thinking, and I imagine that Abraham, being human, probably wondered the same as he waited for the birth of Isaac. Because wishful thinking leads only to disappointment while faith and patience lead to the fulfilment of God’s promises and purposes (Heb. 6:12), Christians must learn to recognize the difference in practice.
Our minds are incredibly powerful. Wishful thinking begins with our imagination and is fueled by the power of our emotions and desires. When we really want something, we can easily delude ourselves into thinking we must have it and we mistake our passion for God’s will. Other times, wishful thinking is our way of avoiding dealing with painful realities. We would rather imagine ourselves having some other more desirable life (we think) rather than face the difficult realities of the one we have. We ignore the unpleasant present, “believe” our fantasy and call it faith until cold harsh reality reveals it for what it is.
This power of desire is precisely why the Bible tells us to “guard our hearts” (Prov. 4:23). If we fail to examine our hearts regularly to ensure that our desires are well-balanced (not indifferent) and there is nothing we feel we can’t live without, we will be susceptible to wishful thinking. There will always be something “out there” for us to pursue, and we will spend our lives chasing one mirage after another.
Unlike wishful thinking, biblical faith begins with God. He leads, we follow. Our hopes and dreams are inspired by him; we desire or pursue something passionately because he has put it in our hearts and he enables us to persevere through the hard times until we see results. Abraham could believe he would have a son no matter how impossible it seemed because God had promised him one. In that, he demonstrated that true faith is grounded in God’s character and Word, and its ultimate goal is to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promises and purposes not ours.
To aid our faith, God reveals his general promises or purposes through his Word and his individual tailor-made plans for each of us as we walk with him daily with submitted hearts and ready feet. While praying, playing, working, hanging out with friends, doing everyday things, all of a sudden, we find ourselves knowing what to do next, whether to pursue this or that opportunity, stay away from or jump into something, start a new business, and so on.
In those moments, our most vexing questions are answered and our deepest passions reignited.
And in those moments, we know our faith is real . . .
“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” (Heb. 10:23)