We Can’t Always Trust Our Eyes
We often trust what we see, know, or feel—and that can be dangerous. Writing in Discover Magazine, Douglas Starr says that while eyewitness testimony is a mainstay of justice, it’s not all that trustworthy. “According to hundreds of studies over the past 30 years, there is almost nothing less reliable than what an eyewitness thinks he saw,” he wrote. “Memory is not videotape. We may believe that we remember things precisely, but most of our memories are a combination of what we think we observed and information we have been exposed to since then. The situation becomes worse at crime scenes, where variables such as stress and the presence of a weapon interfere with accuracy.”1
Starr points out that “of the 297 cases that have been overturned by DNA evidence in the United States, more than 70 percent were based on eyewitness testimony.” The eyewitnesses didn’t mean to mislead the jury; they simply didn’t remember the facts as accurately as they thought they did.
What happens when we feel like chaos has ensued, and there’s no way to manage the circumstances? What about unexpected disasters? What happens when our eyes see bedlam around us? We panic, trying to control things that are beyond our means. We may even lash out at the One who can give us understanding and guidance. But let me give you a better example—the biblical hero named Job.
According to the Bible, Job was a blameless man (Job 1:1). This doesn’t mean he was perfect, but others viewed him as moral and ethical, a man of integrity and character. God viewed him that way too, for in Job 1:8, He said of Job, “There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil.” In essence, God called Job the best man on earth in his time. Job was also one of the wealthiest men, with acres of livestock and an army of servants. Chief among Job’s blessings was his family—a wife, seven sons, and three daughters.
But out of nowhere, Job’s idyllic world was shattered by chaos. Satan attacked on multiple fronts simultaneously. The Sabeans raided his fields, killed his employees, and stole his oxen and donkeys. Fire destroyed his flocks of sheep. The Chaldeans seized his fleet of camels. A cyclone blew down the house where his children had gathered, killing them all. And Job’s skin erupted in boils that afflicted him head to foot.
The poor man sat in the ashes, scraped his skin with a broken piece of pottery, and wondered what had happened to him.
If he was tempted to blame God, it didn’t show. The story of Job is that of a man whose world fell apart, yet he resisted the temptation to lash out at God. He was humble and believed God was in control. Job 1:20 says, “He fell to the ground and worshipped.” He could have fallen to the ground in despair or in complete collapse; instead, he fell to the ground in worship.
But he did fall to the ground. He didn’t just sing “Count Your Blessings” and give his testimony. This wasn’t a “Praise the Lord Anyway” moment. No, he was pulverized by the enormity of his losses. In time he composed a prayer. “He said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.’ In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:21–22).
This is a famous passage in the Bible, and I don’t know how many times we’ve heard it intoned in the movies when someone dies in a drama. It is often spoken at the graveside while the star of the show is scanning the faces of the mourners looking for the real killer. Very often it’s raining.
But this isn’t really a movie script; it’s the song of a tortured but trusting heart. Few of us will lose our families, our wealth, our associates, and our health all at the same time, yet Job’s cry is helpful whatever our reversals in life. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there.” That reminds us of 1 Timothy 6:7–8: “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”
This is the logic in both the Old and New Testaments. We’re only in this world a while, and we’re here on assignment. Our goal is not the accumulation of things. Our goal is to be content and frugal as we serve the Lord. When we have good days, we thank God for them; and when we have bad ones, we trust God with them; and on both days, we say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.” We worship. This was Job’s first declaration of praise, and it’s a good philosophy for all of us to adopt in times of stress and strain.
How do we cultivate such a response? Two places. The first is by meditating on our Lord’s creation. I don’t have time to tell the whole story of Job or of his friends and their accusations and advice. But at the end of the book, the Lord spoke to Job out of the whirlwind and took him on a creation tour. He asked Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38:4) He told Job to consider the stars of the sky (38:7), the waters of the sea (38:8– 11), the sun and moon and rain and snow (38:12–30). He showed Job the wild animals, each one differently and wonderfully formed (38:39 – 39:30). What about the wild goats, Job? Who helps them bear their young? What about the ox? Who gives it strength? What about the ostrich and stork, the horse and the hawk?
As Job meditated on the wonders of God’s creation, his perspective clarified. If God can manage the courses of the stars and the flight of the birds, He knows how to care for us. Jesus later used a variation of this teaching to remind us to notice the lilies of the field, which are far more wonderful than the blossoms at the beginning of this article. The same God who clads the flowers can help us, for we are more valuable than acres of lilies and birds.
“What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” John 13:7
The second place to find comfort is by meditating in God’s Word. In terms of a written text, Job had little if any divine Scripture. Some scholars believe the book of Job was the earliest of the books of the Bible. This man didn’t have the Law or the Psalms or the Prophets, much less the New Testament.
But we do. We have Psalm 11:4: “The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord’s throne is in heaven.”
We have Habakkuk 3:19: “The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.”
We have John 10:28: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”
We have Romans 8:31: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
In a way, the entire book of Job can fit into just one verse in the Gospels—John 13:7: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.’”
We don’t always understand our situations, but we can always lean on our Savior. We can’t always trust our eyes, for we walk by faith and not by sight. Things aren’t always as they seem; they are seldom as bad as they seem. Even eyewitnesses get it wrong. Meditate instead on the wonders of God’s creation and on the truths of His Word. Move from your confusions to His conclusions. There is no chaos when we’re in His keeping, for life’s unexpected problems are no match for God’s limitless power. His promises and His presence will reassure you that He is still in total control.
This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Turning Points devotional magazine, a ministry of Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah.
1Douglas Starr, “False Eyewitness,” Discover Magazine, September 26, 2012, http://discovermagazine.com/2012/nov/04–eyewitness.
I need help
Your response has been received, and we will be praying for you.
Look for answers to some of the most common questions in the weeks ahead.