Imagination is a part of our intellect. God created us with the ability to imagine and He expects us to use our imagination to grow in truth and faith, and connection with Him.
When we think of faith and the Word of God, we think of scholarly study involving analysis and exposition which is important to our growth. We rarely think of imagination in regard to Biblical truth, some may even call it frivolous. Yet, imagination is a key to growth in faith.
Neuroscience reports that we are more apt to think in pictures than in text. For example, if I were to ask you what you had for dinner last night, you would see yourself at the dinner table with your plate of chicken, rice and salad, or whatever. You would not see text in your mind as if it were a teleprompter listing off the things you ate. Upon calling up the picture of dinner in your mind you might even salivate, if you are hungry.
Tell me what is in the backseat of your car! What did you see? Did you see text listing the items in your backseat, or did you visualize your backseat with the child seat, the red umbrella and a box of tissues? Experience tells us you would see a picture in your mind of the contents of your backseat.
God and Imagination
God speaks to us in images, in pictures to encourage our faith and to lead us into knowledge of him.
I think this is a truth about God that is worthy of our attention, gratitude and praise. God wants us to know Him and be in a close relationship with Him. He meticulously crafted His word, His communication to us so that we may know Him and believe Him. God expects us to use all aspects of our cognitive processing to know Him.
Let’s look at some of the word pictures that God uses to help us see and know Him, His character and heart towards us.
In Isaiah 6:1-4, God uses a striking visual, through our imagining this visual, we catch a glimpse of the glory, majesty and greatness of God.
- In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.2 Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” 4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
Throughout the Psalms various writers have been inspired to provide words that create a picture in our mind to reveal God’s character and heart towards us. Without such images, we might not understand some of these truths.
Psalm 18:1-2 provides seven words that create a picture in our minds that reveal truth about God, who He is and wants to be in our life.
- The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I want to focus on one of these words: stronghold. In English we hear stronghold and think of a fortress or a castle like structure. The KJV translates the word stronghold as “high tower.”
In Hebrew it is the word “misgab” which is different from the word form for fortress. “Misgab” brings out the idea of height, a stronghold that is secure in a height putting one safe above the trouble. So, while there is trouble all around us, in God – in our relationship with God, we are secure as in His high tower.
What an amazing picture that reveals God’s specific care of us. God does not always remove us from trouble, but He is showing us, literally, that He is a safe place amidst the trouble.
God does not use these specific word pictures for nothing. He is intent on communicating to you and me that He is a very safe and secure place. We are to connect this truth with ourselves. Imagine yourself in God’s high tower!
In the midst of the spiritual battle, in the midst of the struggles of life, I don’t always feel like I am secure in a high tower, but nevertheless, it is true. I need to trust the images God communicates, and imagine myself in that closeness with Him, in His protective place. This brings God’s truth into our reality.
Connecting Imagination to Truth
If you are a student of the Bible, I am sure you have seen may amazing visuals that God provides to us to reveal His closeness to us and His intention for us. God speaks to our imagination in numerous ways in the scriptures.
Here are a few more examples:
- 2 Kings 6:16-17– God shows the truth of the spiritual world and how He is always fighting for us. Think of this picture, imagine these spiritual forces helping you through a temptation of trial.
- John14:1-3– Jesus uses a picture of a home in heaven with God, that, He, Jesus will personally bring us to. Yes, He is saying this to the disciples who are were with Him at that time, but it is a truth spoken in imagery to comfort us so that we can know there is a place for us with Him in eternity. When we picture ourselves going there with Jesus, we can grasp God’s intention for us and endure the troubles of this life.
You Inside Psalm 23
One of my favorite story pictures that I can easily imagine myself into is the tender care, guidance and protection of the Shepherd in Psalm 23.
Recently, I have been diagnosed with a blood disorder that puts me at high risk for blood clots, stroke, etc. I was told there is no cure, only a form of managing this disorder. In the course of treatment, a second problem has presented itself, which is a progression of decreased red blood cells which has a whole host of consequences for my body and health.
There are many ways that faith in God’s truths have been encouraging me during this “in the valley of the shadow of death” time. I have been reviewing truths about the basis of my salvation and renewing my faith in those truths.
The imagery through which God communicates in Psalm 23, is a spectacular support to my faith. Verses 4 and 6 stand out to me.
- Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me . . . Surely (Your) goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
I read this and see it in my mind the way God intended.
- I see myself as one of His sheep
- He is standing next to me with His rod and staff to protect and lead me
- We are looking into the valley
- I am leaning into Him and He puts His reassuring hand on my head to remind me that He is walking this with me
- I see His goodness and mercy following us, sometimes even getting ahead of us leading us to the house of the Lord in heaven.
This is an example of connecting with truths in the scripture through the visuals God provides, and through that part of our intellect which is imagination.
A Final Encouragement
I urge you to read the great truths of the Word of God. Seriously ponder the word pictures and various stories through which God communicates Himself to us. Begin to connect these truth to you and your relationship with God by using your imagination.
This type of meditation will strengthen your faith and your connection with God. I do caution you to combine scholarly study with the imaginative function of your mind to allow the truth to have full impact on your faith.
“Open my eyes that I may see wondrous things in Your law/teachings/Word.”