“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.
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.
In Finding Jesus Part I (Seeking God: When God Does Not Answer)), we explored the idea that God is near us at all times; that we do not actually “find” God; that we are the problem; that we get in the way of “finding” God; and in order to “find God”, we must get out of the way and do the unthinkable – lose ourselves .
In Finding Jesus Part II (Seeking God: Getting to the End of Self), we explored what it means to be in the way, to lose ourselves and get out of the way, with an anecdotal example from my own life.
But we need to explore that a bit further before getting to the conclusion: finding Jesus. And it may help to contrast what getting to the end of self (losing the self) means in the Christian sense compared to the Buddhist sense because finding the right path is important to getting where you want to go.