We often think of imagination as something for children, conjuring up thoughts of fairytales, fiction and make-believe.
But the power to imagine is a gift from God, and it’s not just reserved for those under twelve!
So what does imagination have to do with the Christian life?
Many Christian authors have noted the importance of imagination in the Christian life.
For example, C.S. Lewis once wrote, “For me, reason is the natural organ of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. Imagination, producing new metaphors or revivifying old, is not the cause of truth, but its condition.”
In other words, Lewis believed that imagination was an essential component for understanding the Gospel and the whole story of Christianity.
Imagination is part of our God-given creativity.
As humans made in His image, we’re gifted with the power to make new things, tell new stories, and shape the world He’s given us.
Just like God created the heavens and earth out of His vast, cosmic imagination (Genesis 1), so we can follow in His footsteps and create ideas and worlds of our own.
For C.S. Lewis and others, this power of imagination is crucial to our understanding of God, the Gospel, and our role as His people.
“Imagination is the organ of meaning,” Lewis wrote. He meant that our imaginations are often how we filter new experiences and concepts.
Since we can’t directly experience God’s full presence — it would destroy our fragile human existence (Exodus 33:20) — it’s largely through imagination that we learn more about God.
Much of the Bible underscores this idea. God describes Himself in creative metaphors so that we can picture Him as our Father (1 Corinthians 8:6), our Shepherd (Psalm 23), our Healer (Psalm 6:2), our Provider (Genesis 22:14), and more.
We can deepen our knowledge of God by studying these metaphors and images.
Also, we can use our imaginations to picture the amazing stories we read in both the Old and New Testament.
As modern Christians, we’re not able to see the parting of the Red Sea or Jesus’ ascension into heaven, but our imaginations can fill in the gaps and allow us to worship God for what He did in the past, as well as what He’s doing in our present.
Our experience of God may be limited by our humanity, but He’s given us an imagination so that we can always be reaching for a deeper understanding of His nature and His ways.
That’s the proper use of a Christian’s imagination: to pore over and envision God’s character and true nature.
It can be difficult, though, to control our imaginations and focus on the right things. That’s why the Bible provides guidelines for how to use our imaginations in pursuit of Christ.
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2), we’re told. Scripture also tells us to “keep [our hearts] with all vigilance” (Proverbs 4:23).
Imagination is a powerful tool, and if we misuse it, the results can be spiritually detrimental.
Rather than imagining sinful scenarios or the many ways in which things could go wrong in life, we should use our imaginations to reflect on the things we’re learning from Scripture or God’s work in our lives.
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
That’s a high standard, but it’s necessary.
We need to be aware of the direction our imaginations often take, and ask ourselves if our thoughts are true, honorable, just, pure, and lovely. Our imaginations should lead us closer to Christ in every way possible.
However, the Bible also tells us that our imaginations will fall far short of providing a complete picture of God! He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).
As much as we try to fully understand God, we’ll still fall short until we meet Him face to face in heaven.
So, when your imagination presents you with a new scenario, a fresh idea, or a possibility, remember that you’re wielding a powerful tool from God!
Pray that He will guide your imagination in ways that honor Him and bring you closer to His truth.