I have come to realize God meets people where they are.
When I was growing up, the idea of “finding yourself” was popular. I had the idea that I needed to go out into the world to find myself, and that’s what I did. I remember the old adage that the wind can’t carry a ship that is at anchor, or a ship at anchor can’t be steered in any direction (or something like that), and I have given that guidance to my children. You have to get up and move, even if you don’t know precisely where you are going.
I think that is generally good advice. It has held me in good stead. If we wait around for the perfect opportunity to come our way, it may never come. We even find wisdom along those lines in Proverbs (16:9)(NASB):
The mind of a man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.
So, when I set out to search for truth as a young adult who had squandered my teenage years in reckless drinking, drug use and risky behavior, I thought the truth was “out there” for me to find.
In more recent generations, the conventional wisdom might run more along the line of finding the truth within. Oprah Winfrey and other popular prophets of modern modern wisdom would say we don’t need to go searching for the truth because the truth is within all of us.
I have come to see the truth of the matter slightly differently than both paradigms. I think we can find the truth “out there”, and we can find the truth “within”, but neither paradigm is really accurate.
They are both accurate to the extent that we need to be looking for it! We need to orientate our hearts toward “finding it”. We need to value the truth for its own sake and be willing to let go of anything that runs counter to it – even if we don’t like it, even if the truth doesn’t look all that attractive to us, even of the truth is hard.
At the same time, the truth isn’t necessarily “out there”, and it isn’t “within” either. I am (you are) not the arbiter of truth. “My truth” doesn’t mean anything in the face of reality. We don’t talk about “my scientific truth”, and we shouldn’t talk about “my spiritual truth” – if we are really interested in truth at all.
“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
This is one of the more encouraging and hopeful verses in the Bible. It had a profound impact on me when I was first reading the Bible. I took it to heart, and it guided me into a relational position with God.
As with any verse or passage in the Bible, the depth, nuance and layers of meaning can be drawn out by focusing on the context. We can tease the meaning out further by considering application of it to my own life.
The context here is a letter written by the prophet, Jeremiah, to his people who had recently been exiled to Babylon. Though Jeremiah’s letter was written to a particular people in a particular time and place under particular circumstances, and it was particularly relevant to them, it has application to us today. Some people claim that an ancient verse like this that was written to a specific people in a specific time for a specific purpose shouldn’t be applied to modern life. I beg to differ.
If I can’t find something I am looking for, does that mean it doesn’t exist?
In the context of searching for God, if I can’t “find Him”, does that mean He doesn’t exist?
My inability to find something I’m looking for is not proof that the thing I am looking for doesn’t exist. Ask my wife. She will often describe an object to me and asked me to go retrieve it for her. I am reluctant to say how many times I have come back without what she sent me to retrieve. I might even be embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve wanted to tell her that the object doesn’t exist
How many times have we said to ourselves when looking for something, “It isn’t anywhere!”? Do we mean, literally, that the object isn’t anywhere? Not usually. Intellectually we know that it is somewhere, but we just can’t find it.
Maybe I am looking in the wrong place. If I’m looking for an object I’ve never seen before, maybe I have the wrong picture of the object in my mind and I am not looking for the right thing. Maybe the object isn’t where I thought it was. Maybe the object is hidden and needs to be uncovered.
These examples are allegorical when it comes to the idea of searching for God.
When we cry out to God and can’t hear his voice, and He doesn’t respond, and we don’t sense his presence, we tend to get discouraged. For someone who is doubting and has not ever felt God’s presence, the tempting conclusion is likely one of the following: 1) God does not exist; 2) God is not accessible; 3) God is fickle; or 4) we are not good enough (or some variation of the forgoing).
I have been there and know the feeling of angst that accompanies a desire to connect with a God who does not seem to want to connect with me.
In this piece, and the two segments that follow it, I am going to explore how to “find” Jesus. This is not some intellectual or superstitious exercise. This is no fanciful experiment. I am talking about real, life changing, experiential encounter with God!
In Finding Jesus Part I (Seeking God: When God Does Not Answer), we explored the idea that God is near us at all times, but we cannot connect with Him because of us. We are the problem; we get in the way of “finding” God, and in order to “find God”, we must get out of the way (lose ourselves).
I will explore getting to the end of self where we can find God in this piece and follow it up with a look at Finding Jesus Part III (Seeking God: Different Paths and the conclusion: Finding Jesus Part IV (Seeking God: Finding Jesus)!
But first, I want to relate a conversation I had with my daughter. She told me that she has called out to God in the past, but he was not there. He didn’t respond, and she was discouraged.
I have been there too. I’ve called out to God at times in my past, and God didn’t respond. One time in particular, it was as if I was talking to the clouds, and my words were bouncing back at me.
I distinctly remember that time. I was perplexed, not knowing which direction to go. I had life choices ahead of me that were mutually exclusive. They were widely divergent paths, and I was torn. I was either going to go back to college for my senior year, or I was going to drop out.