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.
As I was praying for my children this morning, I was reminded that no one comes to the Father except through Jesus (John 10:6), and no one comes to Jesus unless he or she is drawn by the Father (John 6:44). As I prayed for my children who have not acknowledged Jesus as Lord and Savior and have not professed faith in Jesus, I am also reminded that God gives us free will.
God won’t violate the free will He has given us. How, then, should I pray?
I wish there was another way! I wish that God could just make them believe! If I only I were a Calvinist!
I am only half joking. Maybe not even half joking!
I had a conversation with my youngest about a year and half ago in which she told me that she thought she was an atheist. She said all of her friends are atheists. (I doubt that is true, but whatever.) She told me that she asked God for something (I don’t remember what), and He didn’t respond.
That conversation has stuck with me ever since. I was taken aback. She was only about 16 or 17 at the time. I was painfully aware as we spoke, as I am now, that I can’t make her believe. I was thankful that she felt comfortable enough with me to be open and honest, and I told her so. But that doesn’t make the pain of it any less.
I don’t remember exactly what she said she asked God, but she seemed convinced, at least as we talked at that point, that God must not be real if he didn’t respond to her. I didn’t want to preach. I wanted her to know that she always has an open door to talk to me so I didn’t press the issue with her.
I also know that God is faithful. God drew me out of my darkness, and I believe He can draw her too. After all, no one can come to Jesus except the Father draws her. But will He? Can He?
Jesus came healing the sick, giving sight to the blind and doing other miracles, but when the religious leaders asked for a sign, he refused.
The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” (Mark 8:11-12)
What Jesus said to the Pharisees when they asked him for a sign seems curious in light of the fact that Jesus performed signs and wonders everywhere he went! The incongruity of these things struck me recently as I was reading through portions of the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.
“If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people….”
We like to view God as a Great Benevolent Giver in the sky. We want Him to pour out good gifts to us and make our lives easy for us, and we are disappointed, disillusioned and discouraged when we don’t experience the generosity we imagine and want from God.
God is benevolent for sure, but He is much more than that. He doesn’t just want to give us good things; He wants to give us Himself. In fact, He doesn’t just want to give us Himself, He wants to pour Himself out into and through us to bless others as He desires to bless us.
But, this ultimate desire and purpose of God to bless us takes on a different form than we would like at times. God’s activity in our lives doesn’t always feel like a blessing.
In this verse from 2 Chronicles 7, we learn that God, Himself, may cause difficult things to happen, or simply allow them to happen, in our lives. But why? And what can we do about it?
We need to read the second half of the verse and consider the context in which it was written for a more complete picture.