Breaking Free from the Spell of Fantasy

While listening to a sermon by Ray Ortlund, Jr., I was struck by a quote he read from Simone Weil.

Nothing is so beautiful, nothing is so continually fresh and surprising, so full of sweet and perpetual ecstasy as the good. No deserts are so dreary, monotonous and boring as evil. But with fantasy it is the other way round. Fictional good is boring and flat, while fictional evil is varied, intriguing, attractive and full of charm.

This statement is gloriously and heartbreakingly true. The real, fresh, surprising, ecstatic, good that God has made is so rich and satisfying, and yet we are so easily duped into exchanging it for charming fantasies that rob us of joy and leave us spiritually barren.

But Jesus has come to set us free from fantasy’s impoverishing enchantment.

Fantasy Turned the Garden into a Wasteland

The garden of Eden was in every way a garden of real delights. Adam and Eve enjoyed the unfiltered fullness of the presence and fellowship of the Triune God, whose radiant glory emanated from every wonderful thing he had made and given to them. And then the satanic serpent showed up and presented them with a fantasy where the ecstatic good was cast as flat and boring, and evil was cast as attractive and intriguing. Our progenitors allowed themselves to be tragically charmed, and they believed the lying fantasy. When they did, their garden of joy — and ours — became a dreary wasteland of monotonous misery.

And since that time, every fantasy that has put a charming, attractive face on evil and deceived a human being has replayed that tragedy. The fantasy markets itself as a garden of delight when it really is a desert. And it robs us of the beautiful good, alienates us from God, and leaves us desolate.

We must come to terms with this truth. Evil fantasies are perversions of the real good — the good we are designed to really enjoy. In creating them, we use our God-like imaginations in a satanic way, fantasizing a world in which we rule as God and indulge our selfish ambition, greed, anger, hatred, violence, covetousness, sexual lusts, and indolence. Their forbidden fruit is so easy to eat — as close as a thought — but their effect is devastating. They accustom our spiritual taste buds to fictional evil and addict us to the drug of titillation till we lose the taste for good and end up with nothing real.

Waking Up from the Longest Dream

“But God, being rich in mercy . . .” (Ephesians 2:4). O, the beautiful, continually fresh, surprising, sweet, perpetually ecstatic good of the gospel of God — of the gospel that is God. In mercy, he did not leave us to eternally endure the wasteland of evil’s fictional fantasies!

Jesus came to destroy the destructive thief and to give us the real good of the real abundant life that bursts out of the fullness of all that God is and wants to be for us (1 John 3:8; John 10:10). He came to set us free from evil fantasy’s bondage with the glorious truth (John 8:32).

It begins with being born again (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:3). The late Keith Green captured this experience in a song titled “Your Love Broke Through” in which he described his life before his conversion:

          Like a foolish dreamer trying to build a highway in the sky, 
          All my hopes would come tumbling down and I never knew just why.

But when he came to Christ, he said it was,

          Like waking up from the longest dream, 
          How real it seemed, 
          Until [Christ’s] love broke through.
          I’ve been lost in a fantasy
          That blinded me,
          Until your love broke through.

When Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14) and preached the truth because he was the truth (John 14:6) and died on the cross for our sins and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:3–4) that we too might have eternal life (John 3:16), the Real Good broke into the evil fantasy world and the Garden-City invaded the wasteland. Coming to faith in Jesus is our first awakening and liberation.

Breaking the Stronghold of Evil Fantasy

But still having indwelling sin woven into our bodies (Romans 7:23), and still living in a world that lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19), we are still susceptible to fantasy’s charming evil.

Having come to faith in Jesus, the way Jesus destroys the addictive stronghold of fantasy in our lives section by section is by calling us to live by faith in his promises (Galatians 2:20).

The garden of Eden was turned into a wasteland by faith, as Adam and Eve put their faith in the serpent’s promise that the fantasy of rebellion against God would make them happy and free. Now the hellish wasteland of the fantasy of sin is turned back into a better garden, the Garden-City, by faith, as we put our faith in every precious and great promise of God to make us free and happy (2 Peter 1:4).

The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4–5)

Evil fantasy presents itself as a delectable delight. But it is not. It is an argument to be destroyed, not a sweet apple to be eaten. Believing this truth — really believing it — is the key to breaking free from fantasy’s enchantment.

The evil fantasy that tempts you to believe its fictional attractive charm and promises to make you happy is nothing more than an ethereal wraith with a poison apple that will deliver only dreary, monotonous, joy-stealing barrenness. Don’t listen to it. Don’t eat its apple.

Instead, look to Jesus and listen to Jesus. Only he has the words of eternal life (John 6:68) and the power to give you that life in more abundance than you have yet imagined (John 10:10; 1 Corinthians 2:9). Yes, putting your faith in him instead of the enticing, titillating fantasy will be a fight, but it will be a good fight (1 Timothy 6:12) because it will eventually bring you the true, beautiful, continually fresh, surprising good that you really desire.

And the more you cultivate the habit of looking to and listening to Jesus, the more your spiritual taste buds and eyesight for real good will be restored so that you can “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).