When it Comes to “Manifesting” Try This, Not That

Close your eyes and picture the life you most desire. Is there an adoring husband in your mental snapshot? Calm, safe, obedient children? A new job? Health? Wealth, even? A restored friendship? A specific opportunity to use your God-given gifts?

The desire to close the gap between the life you have and the life you love is universal. That longing, in and of itself, is not sinful. Yet as followers of Jesus, surrendered to His provident plans for our life, wisdom is required in order to navigate our most desperate longings. Enter “manifestation.” You probably already know that it can sound like . . .

  • Claiming the things you want.
  • Directing “energy” toward the life you dream of.
  • Bringing something good into your life by writing about it in your journal.

From vision boards to the law of attraction to positive thinking, “manifestation” is a broad brush that paints a happy picture of a variety of ways to get something you want, often good things like love, peace, or freedom from a source of bondage.

A popular magazine explained it this way: “In the simplest terms, manifestation is putting your intention towards something that you hope will happen, then watching it happen in real life. In other words, if you think it, it'll come true.”

The readers of this blog tend to be Christ-following, Bible-loving, wisdom-seeking women. If that’s you, the idea of manifestation might make your discernment bells start to ring. But why? How can we know if this strand of wrong thinking has subtly infected our hearts? And why do so many women seem to have the opposite reaction, embracing the practice as at least a pitstop on the path to peace and fulfillment? 

Try This, Not That

Remember the mental snapshot you took as you read the first paragraph of this article? Look at it once more. With your highest hopes in mind, consider the following grid: try this, not that.

Try This: Intentional surrender.
Not That: Focus on the life you want. 

No one has to teach us to be naval gazers. Because we are sinners we have an innate tendency to think about ourselves often: our dreams, our hopes, our heartaches, our goals . . . Manifestation practices, from creating a board of your dream house on Pinterest in the hopes you’ll soon be moving in, to writing down self-affirmations to inflate your confidence, only pour gasoline on the already raging fire of self.

Through His Word, Jesus calls His followers to a more excellent way:

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it. —Matthew 16:25

The opposite of manifestation is surrender. We don’t wish the life we want into existence, we lay down our lives and pick up the cross instead. 

Try This: Rest in God’s sovereignty.
Not That: Trust your gut. 

The lie of manifestation’s power is stitched together with the big idea that we know what is best for our lives: that somehow we can look down the road and see, without fault or error, what would make us truly happy. 

Test that theory by remembering the life you hoped for when you were ten . . . or twenty . . . or forty. I wanted to be a writer, marry rich, and never have kids. God, in His goodness, only saw fit to make one of those dreams come true (the writer part). What a mercy! He knows what is best for my life though I often don’t. He knows what’s best for yours though you have no way of knowing exactly how His plan will unfold. 

Scripture teaches us to set aside our own agendas and to embrace God’s plans, in God’s way, in God’s timing. This frees us from the gnawing temptation to manipulate our circumstances, even through positive thinking, and to rest in the blessed assurance that He’s got the whole world in His hands. 

Instead of trusting yourself to will your best life into existence, 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
in all your ways know him,
and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5–6)

Try This: Find peace in who God is. 
Not That: Tie your peace to specific circumstances. 

If I had a manifestation journal here’s some of what you might find written there:

  • Heal my mom of terminal disease. 
  • Restore my relationship with my dad. 
  • Rid my body of chronic illness. 
  • Provide the funds for us to live debt free. 

These are all actual needs in my life. More specifically, they are needs I have been praying about for years. And yet, they all remain unanswered, at least from my limited human vantage point. 

If I were trying to fix these “problems” through manifesting, I’d have to conclude that I was doing something wrong, forcing me to try harder, dream bigger, and journal more often. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. The reality is, I never had the power to change these circumstances on my own. Though I do not know if or how God will intervene, I don’t have to whip myself up into a fervor of activity or lay aside my peace while I wait to see Him move. 

Instead, I can stare into the face of these very real challenges and honestly say, “not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). 

Try This: Have faith. 
Not That: Creative visualization. 

The language of modern mysticism is subtle and dangerously close to the inspired (and true) Word of God.

Proponents of manifestation make it sound so harmless and effortless. (It is neither.) Simply wake up and picture the day you want to have, the life you want to have,and resolve to watch it happen. 

James 1:6–8 proposes something similar: 

But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways.

Through prayer we partner with God in His work in our lives and in the world. Faith is required, but not perfect faith (whew!). It takes faith to pray in the first place. It takes faith to lay down your own life and pick up the life God has for you. It takes faith to trust that God is at work even when you see no evidence to confirm it. But as flawed and broken humans we are also prone to doubt and frequently impatient when prayers appear to go unanswered. If manifestation were the solution, you could simply shut your eyes and force your brain to believe that good things were coming and eventually they would. But yet again you’d be depending on your own power to change something you were powerless against in the first place. 

Imperfect faith works like a flashing light on the dashboard of our lives. It can be what moves us to pray, “I do believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). 

God meets us at our point of need, no good vibes required. 

Rest In This, Not That

If you think the effectiveness of your prayers is dependent on you . . . 
If you’ve ever thought “If I just pray often enough, God will give this to me” . . .
If you’ve thought the trajectory of your life hinges on good moods and positive thinking . . .
If your goal is to use a spiritual discipline to make something happen rather than to know more of Jesus and be more like Him . . .
If you’ve looked at your current circumstances and lost hope that God can use them for your good . . .
If you’ve operated under the assumption that doing “good” things for God will compel Him to bring good into your life . . .

Run to Him. Ask Him to show you where deception has seeped into your life. Tell Him you want His presence more than His presents. In faith you can cry out to Him, “You are good, and you do what is good” (Psalm 119:68). And trust that the love, peace, and joy you most long for is yours in Christ, no manifestation required. 

Were you encouraged by this article by Erin Davis? If so, thank a monthly partner! Revive Partners provide for the ongoing needs of the ministry through prayer and regular financial gifts that allow Revive Our Hearts to publish high-quality, trusted content like this on a daily basis. To learn how you can partner with the ministry, visit ReviveOurHearts.com

About the Author

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is married to her high school sweetheart, Jason, and together they parent four energetic boys on their small farm in the midwest. She is the author of more than a dozen books and Bible studies, the content manager … read more …

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