Hunting elk, I spend most days sitting on a log near where four game trails intersect. An hour before dawn, a flashlight guides me through a mile of dark timber to that log before I turn it off and silently wait for daylight.

Even at full moon, night in that forest is so dark I might as well be underground. But during that hour, there are noises — worrisome crunches and rustlings. The source of each noise remains mysterious, because I cannot see a thing. I hear animals, and I hope they aren’t one of the local bears or cougars. This past October, sunrise gradually revealed that some of those noises had come from an elk, who kindly added to my family’s enjoyment of steak, stew, stroganoff, and stir-fry. He had been nearby for a while, but I couldn’t be sure he was there until the darkness finally receded and I saw him through my scope.

Without light, we remain ignorant of much that goes on around us. Likewise, when someone gives up trying to save themselves and turns instead to God, the lights come on. What was mysterious becomes obvious — perhaps not immediately or completely, but many baffling situations do become clearer, more meaningful. Or, as Newton put it in Amazing Grace, “I once .. was blind, but now I see.”

Godly insights also grow incrementally, not instantly. Like the slow dawning of light in a forest, God’s Word gradually makes more sense, and we understand more about Him, about the world around us, and even about ourselves. “Oh, now I see — now I get it; Jesus was totally right when He said this!”

But why and how does this happen? Why can we “see” (understand) the world better after we surrender to Jesus? And how does our spiritual “sight” improve as we grow in Christ?

Before Jesus rescues people, they stumble around in darkness, foolishly hurting themselves and others, because the Enemy “has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see” (2 Corinthians 4:4; and see Romans 1:28). Only Jesus can remedy this blindness, for He is the Light of the World (John 1:4-5, 8:12, 9:5, 12:46). Only by walking (trusting) in our Maker can we stop walking in darkness (1 John 1:5-7); only He can enable us to understand all that He has made.

Paul implies that real understanding is not a matter of eyeballs and brains, but of hearts. In 2 Corinthians 4:6, he writes that God “made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Two epistles later, Paul prays that the Holy Spirit will enable us to know God, and that the “eyes of your heart may be enlightened” to know Him more (Ephesians 1:17ff). We believe with our hearts (Romans 10:9), and until we do so, we cannot really see. It is not that ‘seeing is believing,’ but that believing enables seeing.

This is why Paul says, “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). If by faith we entrust ourselves to God, He gives us His Holy Spirit, who shows us what is true and what to do (John 16:13, 1 Corinthians 2:6ff). And Jesus says that we’re especially blessed when we believe in Whom we have not yet seen (John 20:29). Someday soon, though, we will see Him, face to face, and all will finally be revealed. What a glorious Day that will be!