WHAT weighs just about three pounds (1.4 kg) but has been referred to as “the most complex thing we have yet discovered in our universe”? The human brain. It is truly awe-inspiring. The more we learn about it, the greater our appreciation for Jehovah’s “wonderful” works will be. (Ps. 139:14) Consider just one of our brain’s many faculties—imagination.
What is imagination? One dictionary defines it as “the ability that you have to form pictures or ideas in your mind of things that are new and exciting, or things that you have not experienced.” With that definition in mind, would you not agree that you use your imagination quite regularly? For example, have you ever read or heard about a place that you have not visited? Did that prevent you from picturing it in your mind? Really, whenever we think of something that we cannot see, hear, taste, touch, or smell, our imagination is at work.
The Bible helps us to appreciate that humans were designed and created in God’s image. (Gen. 1:26, 27) Does that not imply that, in a sense, Jehovah himself possesses an imagination? Since he has seen fit to create us with this capacity, he reasonably expects us to use it in grasping his will. (Eccl. 3:11) How can we use our imagination wisely to do that, and what foolish uses of imagination should we avoid?
FOOLISH USES OF IMAGINATION
(1) Daydreaming at the wrong time or about the wrong things.
Daydreaming in itself is not wrong. In fact, there is evidence that daydreaming can be beneficial. However, Ecclesiastes 3:1 helps us to appreciate that since there is “a time for every activity,” it is possible to engage in some activities at the wrong time. For instance, if we allow our mind to wander during congregation meetings or personal Bible study, is our imagination a help or a hindrance? Jesus himself offered a sobering warning on the danger of allowing our mind to entertain wrong thoughts, such as immoral fantasies. (Matt. 5:28) Some of the things that we could allow ourselves to imagine would be deeply displeasing to Jehovah. Immoral fantasies can be a stepping-stone to immoral realities. Be determined never to allow your imagination to draw you away from Jehovah!
(2) Assuming that material riches can provide lasting security.
Material things are necessary and useful. However, we will surely be disappointed if we begin to imagine that real security and happiness result from them. The wise man Solomon wrote: “The wealth of the rich is his fortified city; it is like a protective wall in his imagination.” (Prov. 18:11) Consider, for example, what happened when over 80 percent of Manila, Philippines, was flooded by torrential rains in September 2009. Did those with many material things escape? A wealthy man who lost much said, “The flood was a great equalizer, bringing difficulties and sufferings to both the rich and the poor.” It may be easy to imagine that material things offer true protection and security. The reality is that they do not.
(3) Worrying unnecessarily about things that may never happen.
Jesus counseled us not to be overly “anxious.” (Matt. 6:34) Being a chronic worrier requires an active imagination. We can easily waste a lot of energy worrying about imaginary problems, that is, problems that have not yet developed or that may never occur. The Scriptures indicate that such anxiety can lead to discouragement and even depression. (Prov. 12:25, ftn.) How important it is to apply Jesus’ counsel by not worrying excessively and by dealing with each day’s concerns as they come.
WISE USES OF IMAGINATION
(1) Foreseeing dangerous situations and avoiding them.
The Scriptures encourage us to be shrewd and to think ahead. (Prov. 22:3) Using our imagination, we can consider the potential consequences of decisions before we make them. For example, if you are invited to a social event, how could your imagination help you to make a wise decision about whether to attend? After considering such factors as who else is invited, the size of the gathering, and where and when it will be held, think: ‘What is likely to happen there?’ Can you realistically imagine a wholesome gathering that will be in harmony with Bible principles? This process can enable you to visualize the event in your mind. Using your imagination to make wise decisions will help you to avoid spiritually harmful situations.
(2) Rehearsing mentally how to handle difficult problems.
Imagination also includes the “ability to confront and deal with a problem.” Suppose you have had a misunderstanding with someone in the congregation. How will you approach your brother or sister to try to restore peace? There are many factors to consider. What is his or her communication style? When would it be most appropriate to talk about the problem? What words and tone of voice would be best to use? By putting your imagination to work, you can mentally rehearse various ways to handle the situation and choose the one that you feel will be the most effective and well-received. (Prov. 15:28, ftn.) Such a thoughtful approach to handling a difficult situation will help promote peace in the congregation. That is certainly a good use of imagination.
(3) Enriching your personal Bible reading and study.
Reading the Bible daily is essential. However, more is needed than just covering material. We need to discern the practical lessons found in the pages of the Bible and be motivated to apply them in our life. Our appreciation for Jehovah’s ways needs to be heightened through our Bible reading. Using our imagination can help us to do this. How? Consider the publication Imitate Their Faith. Reading the accounts in this book can fire our imagination by helping us to picture the setting and background of each Bible character. We are helped to see the sights, hear the sounds, smell the aromas, and discern the feelings of those involved. This results in our identifying wonderful lessons and encouraging thoughts from Bible accounts that we may have felt we already knew quite well. Using our imagination in this way during our personal Bible reading and study will help make it truly enriching.
(4) Cultivating and displaying empathy.
Empathy is a beautiful quality that has been described as feeling another person’s pain in our heart. Since both Jehovah and Jesus show empathy, we do well to imitate them. (Ex. 3:7; Ps. 72:13) How can we develop this quality? One of the most powerful ways to cultivate empathy involves using our imagination. We may never have experienced what our fellow Christian brother or sister is going through. Yet, you can ask yourself: ‘If I were in this situation, how would I feel? What would I need?’ Using our imagination to answer these questions will help us to be more empathetic. Really, every aspect of our Christian life will benefit when we show empathy, including in our ministry and in our relationships with other Christians.
(5) Picturing what life will be like in the new world.
The Scriptures are full of vivid details describing life in God’s promised new world. (Isa. 35:5-7; 65:21-25; Rev. 21:3, 4) Our publications complement these descriptions with many beautiful artistic depictions. Why? Artwork fuels our imagination and helps us to see ourselves enjoying the reality of these promised blessings. Jehovah, the Creator of imagination, knows better than anyone how powerful this faculty is. Using it to reflect on his promises can fill us with confidence in their fulfillment and help us to remain faithful, even as we endure present challenges of life.
Jehovah has lovingly given us the amazing faculty of imagination. It can really help us to serve him well in our daily lives. May we show our appreciation to the Giver of this wonderful gift by using it wisely each day.