During one of our last summer days at the beach, I sat in my chair on the sand, sipping my coffee and watching the kids play in the water. Our typical sunny morning at the bay was overcast and slightly cooler than normal, but the water was teeming with wildlife. Inches from the kids’ heads, schools of tiny fish were diving out of the water and gliding back in without a splash. The kids couldn’t see them and had no idea what was happening around them, but from my spot on the sand I had a view of each one. It was fascinating.
Watching the fish that morning took me back to the summer I spent in France. Toward the end of my stay, my hosts gave me two options for a cultural experience: spend a day in Paris visiting all the sights or go scuba diving in the Mediterranean Sea. It was a tough choice, but I opted for scuba diving. I figured I’d never get another chance for that, and thought surely I would visit Paris. (It’s been seventeen years and I’ve yet to walk her streets). An added bonus to our excursion was the location of our dive spot: near a coral reef, just beyond the famous Chateau d’If, one of the settings of Alexandre Dumas’ book, The Count of Monte Cristo. It’s my all-time favorite classic, and I loved being able to picture the story of Edmond Dantes’ imprisonment, and eventual escape.
Before we left for Marseilles that morning, my scheduled Bible reading was from Psalm 69. Verse thirty four says this: “Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them.” In the margin of my Bible I jotted: “Read this the morning of 7/10/2003, the day we are going scuba diving in the Mediterranean Sea. May I think of the creatures that I see as bringing praise to God.” Up to this point in my life, the underwater world was one I had only seen glimpses of in books, on TV, or through a fish tank in an aquarium. But on this particular hot July day, I was going to behold its beauty up close; I couldn’t wait.
As I donned my wetsuit, air tank, mask, and flippers, I became more eager to get into the sparkling blue water and see for myself what was happening beneath me. I was not disappointed. Starfish, bright orange coral, neon yellow fish, electric blue scales, the seawall, seahorses—they were all there. But the most amazing experience was spotting an octopus, inches from my head. My scuba instructor grabbed it and held it right up to my face. I could see every tentacle, every little suction cup like saucer, and its dark beady eyes. Being so close to these creatures made this underwater world come alive. My experience didn’t determine its existence, but witnessing the underwater world in this way forever transformed the way I experience the ocean and all that I can see above the water.
As I watched the fish jumping near my children the other week, I was reminded of the unseen world in the water. I caught glimpses of it every few minutes when those fish skimmed the surface. But for the most part, sea creatures remain hidden from sight. Yet, they’re always there, always upheld by God’s hand, always displaying God’s creativity and greatness. Hidden and secret but glorious just the same. Watching those fish also reminded me of all the other things we can’t see. Things God is doing that we know nothing about.
You don’t need me to tell you all the ways life in 2020 has felt uncertain and unstable. Everyday things are changing—in our communities, in the world, even in our own souls. We’re tired from the countless unknowns about tomorrow. We want answers. We want things to return to normal. We want to understand why God would allow all of this to happen, and not bring it to an end. Essentially, we want to see what God has chosen to remain hidden from our sight. He knows what’s happening. He has a plan. And yet for some reason, in the goodness of his sovereignty, he’s left us in the dark.
Does this mean there’s nothing happening? Do our unanswered questions mean God has left the scene and is disinterested in you, and me, and the world he created? We might be tempted to jump to this conclusion, but we’d be wrong to do so.
What if God simply wants us to believe him? To be okay—and even comforted—with knowing the secret things belong to the Lord. To grow in our belief that he’s working things out for his good. Because there’s one thing for sure: God is doing something in all of the unseen places. He’s accomplishing necessary and good work which will ultimately bring him glory.
Can we trust him? Can we delight in his character? Can we rejoice in what is unseen, knowing that the temporal stuff of this life pales in comparison to God’s glory? We’re waiting and hoping for something far better than understanding or what we can behold with our physical eyes. We’re being transformed from one glory to another. So we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
We must fix our eyes on what we can’t see. Namely, Christ, seated on the throne in the heavenly realms. Because when we fix our eyes on Jesus, everything else fades away. Our need for clarity lessens. Our desire to finally understand God’s purpose in our suffering doesn’t matter so much anymore. His glory becomes most important to us. His beauty becomes our heart’s desire. His work—as unclear and confusing as it may be—becomes our delight, and our hearts are stirred to worship and adore Christ. We can’t see him now, but one day he’s coming in fullness and we’ll get to see him face to face. For now, we rejoice because he has revealed what we need to know in order to be in Christ and walk with him. This is enough for our troubled and weary souls.
Oh, friends, may the eyes of our hearts be trained to look to what is unseen. God is not distant, disinterested, or disengaged from our lives. He’s here with us, working, creating, transforming, and making all things new. As the light of the glory of Christ shines deeper in our hearts, we are able to rest in being hidden with Christ. We can trust him with what remains unseen.