When we talk about exercising faith, we mean choosing to believe that something is true in the absence of sensual confirmation or in the presence of countering sensual feedback. Why is faith development so challenging? Because in this world, we have to rely on our senses to interpret reality for us and to keep ourselves safe. It is your physical senses that tell you to stay back from fire so you won’t get burned. When your eyes see the edge of a cliff approaching, you know to stop continuing forward. God created this world to be a sensual, physical place. To function in this world, our non-physical souls need physical vehicles that they can move about in. Those vehicles are what we call our bodies or earthsuits. We use the term earthsuit because our bodies function like a spacesuit does for an astronaut–allowing a man to live in an environment that he couldn’t deal with in his natural state.
Without his spacesuit, a man couldn’t survive the frigid temperatures and lack of oxygen that he finds on the moon. In the same way, our non-physical souls couldn’t interact properly with this physical world without their earthsuits. But these earthsuits come with problems. Because we are born in them, we don’t know what it is to live without them. We get so used to relying on our physical senses to define reality for us, that we find it very strange to try and relate to a non-physical God. Where is God? We can’t see, touch, or hear Him with our physical senses. So how can we know He is real without sensual feedback? Well, it turns out that our physical senses are not our only tools for assessing reality. Just as an astronaut can think independently of his spacesuit, our souls can think independently of our earthsuits.
Now an astronaut’s spacesuit can malfunction on him, giving him false readings about his environment. In such a situation, the astronaut thinks independently of his spacesuit and is able to say to himself “I know my oxygen supply isn’t really running this low. My spacesuit must be malfunctioning.” In the same way, our souls often experience our physical senses drawing false conclusions about reality. If you stick your hand into a cup of wet spaghetti noodles and someone tells you it’s a cup full of live worms, your brain will conclude that the sensual feedback it is receiving is a logical match to a cup full of worms. If you find worms icky, you’ll freak out, responding to a false conclusion that your brain has made based on sensual data. When we make 3D movies, it’s all about tricking our senses to make them think objects are really flying at us even though they aren’t. Our senses are very easy to deceive. We know this, and we get a lot of fun out of it, but it also gets in our way when it comes to relating to God.
Relating to God is something you do with your soul, not your earthsuit. Your earthsuit is just a vehicle, it is not the real you, and yet you aren’t used to thinking of yourself as operating independently of it. So when you think of relating to God, you think of having some kind of sensual experience of Him. Without such sensual feedback, it seems impossible for you to ever develop an intimate bond with your Creators. Yet in reality, this isn’t how it works.
Confidence in God is a soul thing. Faith is a soul thing. Faith is when your soul exercises its ability to think independently of your earthsuit, just as the astronaut learns to question the readings he is getting from his spacesuit.
Faith development is the process by which the Holy Spirit trains your soul to become confident in its ability to think independently of its earthsuit. For example, many Christians get very despaired when God “feels” far away. When they feel emotionally distant from God, they quickly conclude that He has left them. In reality, God hasn’t gone anywhere, but because these souls have weak faith, they are very intimidated by the idea of questioning the conclusions of their earthsuits. This is easy to understand, for imagine the first time a new astronaut hears his spacesuit sounding a loud alarm and telling him that there’s a tear in his suit somewhere. Naturally he would panic. He’s going to start off totally trusting in his computerized suit and not realizing how many ways the computer can malfunction. What kind of training does this astronaut need so he can learn to stay calm in emergency situations? He needs to be put through a lot of exercises where someone forces his spacesuit to malfunction in many different ways. The astronaut can then learn how to repair his suit, and how to stay calm and think for himself in such situations. The astronaut’s confidence comes in learning that he has far more options than he thinks he does. He isn’t totally at the mercy of his suit. He can adjust his suit, he can make choices independently of his suit. When the computerized suit tells him to do something, he can think for himself and realize that his instincts are more trustworthy than the auto-alerts he receives. It’s the same with us Christians. As we progress in our relationships with God, He intentionally puts us through experiences that upset our earthsuits so that we will be challenged to think apart from them. His goal is to teach us to rely on Him to guide us in life instead of relying on just our suits.
When a crisis arises, our suits will instantly tell us to take a particular course of action. When the Israelites were fleeing from the Egyptians in Exodus, their suits were telling them to run for their lives. But suppose God tells us to do something that totally counters what our suits are telling us to do. In Exodus, Yahweh told Moses to lead the Israelites into a deathtrap. By obeying Yahweh’s instructions, the whole mob found themselves pinned between the Red Sea and an approaching army of angry Egyptians. As their earthsuits went into a frenzied panic, the Israelites all moaned and wailed and decided that their lives were over. We can certainly identify. When our earthsuits start screaming emergency alerts at us today, we also fly into a faithless freak-out. In such a moment, what does it mean to have faith that pleases God? It means choosing to put our trust in His guidance over and above the logic of our earthsuits. As our souls make this choice, our suits keep on screaming at us. The fact that we’re honoring God with our souls doesn’t guarantee that we’ll look relaxed and unruffled to others. We are not our earthsuits. An astronaut can decide to ignore the alarm that his spacesuit is blaring in his ears, but that doesn’t mean he can find a way to turn the noise off. Often we’re stuck with screaming suits until our immediate circumstances improve.
It’s important to realize that when God chides people in the Bible for not having enough faith, He is talking about their soul choices, not their earthsuits. When we read the story of Peter walking on water and try to imagine ourselves in his place, we totally understand why he freaked out. We can easily imagine our earthsuits going into a major meltdown in such a moment. The sensual feedback of walking on the surface of a stormy sea would quickly convince our suits that they were in great danger of drowning. Our suits have wills of their own and they are all about self-preservation. They go into a panic whenever they sense that they are in danger. So to us, Peter’s meltdown seems very logical and unavoidable. When Jesus then comes over and says “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”, Jesus sounds more than a little unreasonable (Matt. 14:31). We think to ourselves, “Come on, Jesus, give the guy a break. At least he had the guts to get out of the boat. Why do You demand the impossible from us?” When we don’t have a correct understanding of the Character of our Creators, we find accounts like these very discouraging. It seems Jesus is constantly telling His disciples that they are a bunch of numskulls who are constantly failing to meet His expectations. And then there’s the Old Testament, where we find Yahweh constantly telling people “Do not be afraid” in the midst of situations that would scare the daylights out of anyone. Does Yahweh not understand that we have no control over how our adrenal glands react to upsetting situations? Does He really think we can just wave some magic wand and get our earthsuits to calm down? No, He doesn’t.
Whenever we find God telling people not to be afraid in the Bible, He is encouraging them to exercise faith. He knows that they can’t slow their racing pulse. He also knows that their earthsuits are already in freak out mode. “Do not be afraid” is His way of saying to the soul, “Focus on Me. You can think apart from your earthsuit. I am with you, and I am greater than all of this. You do not have to join in the panic with your suit. You have options.”
When Jesus chides His disciples for having insufficient faith in the Gospels, He is saying, “Guys, come on. We both know I have equipped your souls with the ability to think more independently than this. Apply yourselves and stop letting your earthsuits define who you are.” Our Creators understand the way that we are made. They are the Ones who put us together. They do not judge us by what our suits are doing. Instead, They are always responding to our soul choices. When you read about Yahweh flipping out on the Israelites in the wilderness and mowing them down with various kinds of plagues, you need to realize that He isn’t on their case because their suits were whining about not having enough water and about being sick of eating manna every day. Instead, He is responding to the fact that the souls inside those fussy suits were willfully defying Him.
Our earthsuits love to gripe. It’s what they do. Griping isn’t what gets us in trouble with God. It’s when our souls choose to align with our suits against God that we get in trouble with Him. It’s when our suits say, “God is just a big meanie!” and our souls say, “Amen, yes He is!” that God starts getting ticked. The Israelites in the wilderness despised Yahweh. When He said stop, they said go. When He said don’t, they did at the first available opportunity.
When it comes to judging us, God is both fair and unfair. He’s fair in that He doesn’t blame us for things that we can’t control, like our sniveling suits. He’s unfair because He is so gracious towards our souls. No Christian comes anywhere close to giving God the respect, love, and trust He deserves, yet God doesn’t storm off in some outraged huff. Instead, He keeps working with us, celebrating our successes and leaving our failures in the forgotten past. God is incredibly gracious, loving, and compassionate towards His kids. When He knows we really care about pleasing Him, He is gentle and kind. After the famous contest on Mt. Carmel, Elijah’s earthsuit had a major meltdown and his soul joined in the pity party, convinced that Yahweh was going to abandon him into the hands of the bloodthirsty Jezebel. In general, Elijah’s soul had very strong faith, but every soul has its weak moments. Yahweh understands this. Yahweh is a kind and compassionate Father. He didn’t come down on Elijah for thinking the worst about Him. Instead, He gave the prophet some snacks, had him nap, and then led him to a place where the two of them could have a personal chat. When Elijah’s soul was feeling fried, Yahweh responded by encouraging His little man, not yelling at him.
When we don’t understand that our souls and our earthsuits are two separate entities, we end up thinking that faith development means learning to control our earthsuits. We think that having faith that pleases God means somehow training our suits to never panic in the face of danger or never whine when they’re uncomfortable. Such misconceptions naturally result in our feeling utterly despaired about ever pleasing God. The truth is that no matter how much we strain and strive, we’ll never be able to change the priorities of our earthsuits. Our suits will always be about pleasing and protecting themselves. Our suits will never develop a desire to please God. The bad news is that our suits are utterly depraved. But the good news is that God doesn’t judge us by our suits. Instead, He uses them as very handy tools for strengthening our soul’s relationship with Him.
It really is a great advantage to start our lives trapped in such difficult suits. The more we progress in our walks with God, the more we learn to appreciate how much He is helping us with this creative earthsuit set up. And then there’s the joy of knowing that this boot camp period will only be temporary. Heaven is our eternal home, and on our way there, we will leave these earthsuits behind for good. Meanwhile, if we are willing to cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s training program, wrestling with our suits has the potential to drastically change our relationship with our Makers, and help us discover depths of soul joy, confidence, and peace that far surpass our wildest hopes and dreams.