Woman on Internet

Illusions: The Danger of Believing What Is Absolutely Not True

Was the dress white with gold lace or blue with black lace? The jury’s still out on this one. In 2015, the Internet exploded over one dress. Or shall I say the color of one dress.

Lies We Believe

A wedding attendee shared with a few friends a photo, asking about the color of the dress worn by the bride’s mother. When they couldn’t agree, it was shared on social media.

From there, the Internet lit up like a roman candle. The dress became the most discussed, debated dress in history—from . . .

  • Tumblr
  • Buzzfeed
  • The Washington Post
  • Wired
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Fashion bloggers
  • Hollywood icons
  • Talk show hosts

These sites hit a record number of comments within hours.

Here’s what’s so fascinating . . . some still swear the dress is white with gold lace while others will go to the grave believing it was blue with black lace.

Depending on a variety of variables like optical progression, light and shadows, age and brain biology, everyone can be right, and everyone can be wrong. It’s a matter of perception.

In psychology, perception is the process of seeing, interpreting, and attributing meaning to circumstances and experiences. In other words, the dress represents an optical illusion.

Interestingly, we are surrounded by all kinds of illusions. Tactile illusions are centered on the body’s perception of feeling and sensations. Phantom pain is a good example of tactile illusions.

Even though an amputee is missing a limb, the brain can still send signals of itching, burning, cramping . . . you name it. Some have said phantom pains can be almost unbearable.

Like phantom pain, we sometimes can see, feel, smell, or hear something we believe to be real or true but is, in fact, not true or present at all. Such distortions of the truth are colored by our biology, physiology, psychology . . . and our theology.

Webster’s defines illusion:

A misleading image presented to the vision . . . something that deceives or misleads intellectually . . . perception of something objectively existing in such a way as to cause misinterpretation of its actual nature . . . hallucination . . . a pattern capable of reversible perspective.[ref]Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster Inc., 2007), see “illusion.”[/ref]

You may be asking how theology connects to the concept of illusion. God’s Word is not in question; it will forever be timeless and true. My concern is with what we choose to believe or perceive about God and His Word.

Oftentimes, we believe or are taught Scripture says something it doesn’t, or we disregard something Scripture clearly DOES say.

I assure you, adding to or disregarding the truth causes problems and confuses people. Perhaps you have said or heard the following:

  1. “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
  2. “God helps those who help themselves.”
  3. “Money is the root of all evil.”
  4. “If I have enough faith, God will heal me.”

Let’s remove our illusions about these statements and get clear on the truth.

(Image from Unsplash)

Context Is Everything

1) God won’t give you more than you can handle.

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

The context of Paul’s writing deals with temptation, NOT pain, loss, difficulties, or hard circumstances. Rather, this verse says, when we are tempted to sin, God will be faithful and will make a way for us to keep from sinning.

Cancer, daily caregiving, chronic pain . . . much of life is TOO big to handle on our own! Sharing this verse to comfort someone struggling with life that has nothing to do with temptation is misleading, confusing, and far from comforting.

2) God helps those who help themselves.

This pithy phrase is found nowhere in Scripture. The statement is attributed to Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac from 1757. Before that, an article by Algernon Sidney titled “Discourses Concerning Government” (1757) was referenced. Let’s leave this topic to the self-help legal books and the quotes by famous politicians in their rightful place . . . which is not the Bible.[ref]“God Helps Those Who Help Themselves—Is it in the Bible?” Got Questions Ministries, https://www.gotquestions.org/God-help-themselves.html, accessed Apr. 26, 2018.[/ref]

3) Money is the root of all evil.

For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (Timothy 6:10)

Look closely (as the illusionist might say). The Word says the LOVE of money is the root of all evil, not money itself. Let’s remember, God created all things—including silver and gold. If we love anything or anyone MORE than God, it’s properly called idolatry. Our job is to love God and others. It’s God’s decision to give or to withhold.

4) If I have enough faith, God will heal me.

As to healing, we assume we control God’s choice to heal by the amount of faith we have. I have to ask: “How much faith is required for a person to be healed?” By whose standard do we make this judgment? This lie hurts those who are already hurting. The apostle James calls us to pray and to ask the elders to pray with and for us and to take all our requests to the Lord. James does not—nor does any passage in Scripture—say that our human works and beliefs determine God’s choice to heal.

Let’s recall Paul who cried out to the Lord for relief from suffering and God chose not to. If there ever was a faithful follower of Christ, Paul would be on that list. Yet God allowed Paul’s suffering to keep him humble and dependent on God’s strength (2 Corinthians 12:7–9).

Let Me Hear from You

I can’t say if the dress was white with gold lace or blue with black lace. It’s an illusion that keeps us guessing. However, there’s no guessing or wondering about what God’s Word says; it’s timeless and unchanging—the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Want to live more freely and love more deeply? Want to know the truth of God’s Word? Would you like to learn it with me? Let me hear what you think would help us come together as we pursue Christ and His truth.

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