With just 40 hours of flying experience (following ground school), one can obtain an FAA-approved private pilot’s license. All beginning pilots use VFR—visual flight rules. Flying VFR means freedom: no flight plans, no radio contact, no need to rely on instruments to tell you where to go—it’s just you and the wide-open sky. This works great—on a clear day. But to survive in the sky when the storm clouds come, or night obscures visual landmarks, one must become instrument rated, flying by faith rather than by sight. Using IFR (instrument flight rules) can be tricky—especially when the pilot’s mind is receiving conflicting reports.
One night experienced pilot Randy Robertson was flying an approach to a small west Texas airport. Stars sparkled overhead—or were those lights on the ground? Relying on sensory cues, Robertson became disoriented, and couldn’t tell up from down. Instinctively he turned to his trusted flight instruments to guide him safely to the airport.
Submitting one’s own impressions to reliable instruments requires discipline. Fortunately Randy applied his training and followed the instruments. Since then Robertson has clocked thousands of hours flying through dark and stormy skies. The more practice he gets, says Robertson, the easier (and more automatic) it is to put his faith in the instruments, rather than in his own impressions.
In my own flight through life, it’s easy to enjoy those VFR moments—soaring on feelings and directing my course by sight. But as dark and stormy clouds gather on earth’s horizon, I am reminded that now is the time to study God’s trustworthy instrument—the Bible—and practice following it through the small storms. When the greatest storm of all time envelops the earth, I want to rely instinctively on God’s Word to direct my course and safely guide me home. “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever” (Ps. 119:160, KJV).
Gina Wahlen is an interim assistant editor of the Adventist Review. This article was published April 14, 2011.