The Prickly Pear Cactus used to be my nemesis.
When I was a child, I was terrified of the desert. The rough terrain held unseen dangers: rattlesnakes, scorpions, black widow spiders, to name a few. The desert can kill you, folks. Any direction I turned on desert walks, every bush held invisible spines that threatened to pull a series of “gotchas” on uncovered skin. For some reason, I was most afraid of the prickly pear cactus.
Then I had my Better Than Ever Before eye surgery. The next time I visited Arizona to see my family, I noticed that I could now see the spines protruding from the bright green pads of the prickly pear cacti. And I wasn’t so afraid anymore.
What’s there to fear from a prickly pear?
I know. It doesn’t make sense. You would think that seeing those spines would make me more wary. But they didn’t. I felt a new level of confidence to walk through the desert.
Before, I could see the pads but I couldn’t see the tiny needle-like thorns protruding from the bright green flesh. The surface looked completely smooth to me. Also, part of my visual difficulty was a lack of depth perception. When I walked through the desert, I was never sure how close was too close. Or, since most of what I saw was nothing more than a blur of greens and browns, my tendency was to tune it out, yet I knew one misstep could possibly send me reeling into one of those cacti. So I found myself constantly on guard and tense.
I couldn’t see what there was to be scared of so I was scared of all of it.
The Fuzzy Side of Fear
That sounds like the way I’ve treated other parts of my life. Maybe you’ve been there too. We become stressed over life happenings because we don’t see how to avoid the issues or how to solve the problems. Circumstances like the COVID pandemic, race riots, economic stress, political instability, or relating with other people seem like one big blurry mess. Not knowing how to cope, we take clumsy steps forward that lead to bad decisions. And then we’re in a bigger mess.
Seeing the Problem
Once I could see the prickly pear spines, I knew more precisely the location and size of the danger. I had better judgment about whether I could walk through a narrow path between two prickly pears. Seeing the spines more clearly helped me assess the danger and know how to act.
Getting better acquainted with God also acquaints us with His perspective. We begin to see and understand the world as He sees it. We have a better idea of the difference between good and evil and what makes certain things evil. We no longer have a fuzzy understanding that something is wrong; we now know why it is wrong and what dangers lurk behind what otherwise looks harmless.
Best of all, we can see how to navigate through the culture controversies, temptations, and dangers of an otherwise confusing world. And God gives us the tools to explain to others why we make certain choices and why we no longer fear the unknown and uncertain.
Seeing What God Sees
The Psalmist David wrote that God’s word is like a lamp shining at our feet and a light along our path (Ps 119:105). What does light do? It illuminates what is in front of us rocks, tree limbs, and yes, all too close prickly pear cacti. It clarifies better routes to take through life and why those alternate routes are better choices. Knowing God’s Word helps us see the pitfalls and how to avoid them.
Does the world still scare you? Do you find the current world situation confusing and overwhelming? Do you feel tongue-tied when others challenge your convictions and wonder why you aren’t more concerned about certain societal problems? As you get to know God through reading His word, the Bible, associate more with other Christians, and talk to God in prayer, your spiritual sight will improve and you’ll understand how God sees those issues. That knowledge will give you the confidence to move forward and walk through the dangers of this world. You’ll find comfort in the fact that God has control over this world, He’s watching over you, and He has the answers for whatever you face.