It’s usually safe to rely on our senses, but sometimes they can play tricks on us.
Especially if you’re flying a plane.
Pilots sometimes get into trouble with something called “spatial disorientation.” If they’re flying at night or in poor weather, they’re unable to see the horizon through the cockpit’s windshield. Without these visual cues, they may fall back on their other senses, but this can be a big mistake.
A pilot’s non-visual sensations, such as signals from their inner ear, may not respond truthfully during flight. Without visual inputs to override these mistaken feelings, a pilot may believe he or she is flying level when they may actually be in a bank, or gradually ascending or descending.
If a pilot isn’t proficient in the use of flight instruments, errors can pile up until the pilot loses control of the aircraft, entering a steep, diving turn known as the graveyard spiral. The pilot remains unaware of what’s happening until it’s too late to recover control, and the aircraft breaks apart or crashes.
In fact, it’s believed that spatial disorientation is what led to the fatal crash in 1999 of the plane piloted by John F. Kennedy, Jr. Flying at night over water, the visual landmarks he might have relied on were absent. Kennedy was certified for visual flight rules, but had not yet received his full training for instrument-only flying. His instruments would have told him that he was heading on a collision course with the water, but tragically, he trusted his non-visual sensations until it was too late.
We as believers can get into the same sort of trouble when we trust our feelings instead of what the word of God says.
When we find ourselves in a struggle or a crisis situation, we can sometimes believe that God isn’t there for us. We put too much faith in our erratic feelings, and too little in His rock-solid promises. His word tells us that He will never leave us or forsake us.
“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:7-10 NIV)
What’s the solution when we can’t see what’s ahead of us and can’t sense God’s presence in our lives?
Get your “instrument rating.” Believe what’s written in black and white in the Bible, not your unreliable and changeable emotions. Study and commit to memory the promises of God, so that His truth can override your faulty and panicky feelings.
Just as flight instruments will give you the same information no matter what the meteorological conditions are outside, the Bible will provide you with eternal truth, no matter what storm you’re going through in life.
“But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 NLT)
Pilots are trained to be aware of the possibility of spatial disorientation. Still, the illusions it generates can’t be prevented, only ignored. Instrument training teaches pilots to disbelieve what they think is happening and to trust the instruments instead.
In our walk with God, we have to do the same thing. A strong foundation in the truth the Bible contains enables us to ignore our undependable feelings. Instead of allowing ourselves to be swayed by what seems to be happening in our circumstances, we put our faith in the trustworthy promises of God.
When flying a plane, the way to avoid or recover from spatial disorientation is clear: trust what your flight and navigation instruments are telling you.
If you feel off course in life, the remedy is similar: rely on your “instruments,” the promises of God. Trust what the Bible, your flight manual, is telling you. Your Heavenly Father is in control of your flight path, and He won’t let you crash.
© 2020 Lori J. Cartmell. All rights reserved.