Finding God

Young woman with binoculars.

There was a popular book back in the 90’s called God Chasers. Throughout the years that phrase has stuck with me, even though I never actually read the book. (Which I’m sure is wonderful, by the way) Yet somehow the phrase “God chasers” leaves me feeling like I’m caught in a cosmic game of tag where I’m always “it” and I’ll never be able to catch up. Or like God is the busy corporate CEO racing on to the next task as we follow behind scribbling in our notebooks and scrambling to keep up. We read verses about “seeking God with all our heart” and paint these pictures in our minds, as though God is always trying to get away from us or finds us annoying.

In reality though, I think it’s because we are like four year-olds.

Let me explain what I mean. I have a four year old son who is very active and very curious. When we walk through Target, I’m on a mission. That “mission” very well might include spending ten minutes digging through the dollar bins at the entrance of the store admiring pretty things that I have absolutely no need for. Five of those ten minutes will be spent racking my brain for any legitimate reason I might need the miniature cake stand or yet another chalkboard sign, four and a half minutes talking myself into it and deciding on a color, and a 30 second reality check that causes me to reluctantly put it back on the shelf.

Anyways, my son also finds a myriad of shiny, colorful, interesting things to pause and examine. Our Target trip will consist of me saying at least a dozen times, “C’mon buddy, let’s keep walking!” At which point he will put the shiny item back on the shelf, realize I’ve continued on without him and chase down the aisle after me. I have no intention of actually leaving him behind but I know if I stand still he will camp out in the toy section for the rest of the afternoon. So I walk on.

Like a four year old in Target, we can so often get distracted by…anything and everything! At one point we’re walking with God, staying close and connected. But then something shiny down the next aisle catches our eye and suddenly we’re on our own. By the time we realize this God has already moved forward and we are left to catch up to him. We may even have to search for him. Where is he? Is he down the shampoo aisle or back in electronics?

It’s not that he’s left us, but that we’ve allowed ourselves to lose sight of him. He’s patient and He’s loving, like a good Father. But he’s interested in our whole hearts and is unwilling to wait for us as we allow our hearts to be captivated by temporary fixes.

Jeremiah 29:13 says “You will seek me and find me when you search with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord.” What does it mean to seek God and find him when we search with all our heart? Maybe if we do the right things like pray a lot and read our bibles and give to the poor and be nice to people (and do it all in the right order) we might be able follow the clues to find God’s hiding spot?

I think the key here is the phrase “all your heart.” The whole of our heart must be engaged to find God. I don’t believe God is actually hiding from us, but that our hearts are divided, distracted by the things of life. We lose sight of God and end up frantically chasing after him because we’ve lagged behind, not because he’s trying to hide from us.

When our hearts are not fully captivated by who God is we attempt to satisfy ourselves with dollar bin junk we don’t have any need for. We medicate our emptiness with food, entertainment, shopping, exercise, sports, alcohol, pornography and really good things like ministry and even family. Pick your poison.

We pour ourselves into these things, allowing them to become our passion, purpose and identity.

We feel temporarily satisfied. It’s like a person who grazes all day long on just enough food to alleviate the hunger pangs, but is internally killing themselves from a lack of nourishment and nutrition. We become spiritually anorexic and the evidence is hidden beneath the baggy clothes of smiles, success and the occasional scripture verse.

That is, until our marriage falls apart. Or the house is lost due to the gambling/shopping addiction. Or the job is lost due to the alcoholism. Or depression takes over because we will always fall short when our identity is founded on what we look like, our bank account, or anything other than being loved by God.

Even if it never becomes visible on the outside, we feel it on the inside. We’ve all been there. That feeling of emptiness. A lack of meaning and purpose, of joy and passion. A dulling numbness. And so we medicate. And the cycle continues. Because grazing all day might keep the hunger pangs away, even if it will never satisfy.

That’s why the verse says “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Once we’ve tasted the life God gives us it’s clear that all we’ve been doing up until that point isn’t satisfying anything, it’s only ameliorating some of the hunger pangs so we’re unaware that we’re starving.

This is not the abundant life he claimed he would give us. We’ve settled for the occasional encounter with God, a taste of his presence, not realizing that he gave us these moments by his grace as an appetizer to stir up a greater hunger. And to help us recognize that what he offers is so much better.

You know the old saying “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone”? Well sometimes “you don’t know what you didn’t have until you have it.” Admittedly, it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it but it is just as true. We may think we’ve entered into the abundant life and freedom God promises, but it’s possible some of us have only experienced a hint of it. A person who has only ever tried Hershey’s kisses might think it’s the best thing they’ve ever tasted…until they try a Godiva Truffe Amère or some other gourmet Belgian chocolate. Their benchmark for good chocolate will certainly change after that.

When you become captivated by God’s presence and begin to hear His voice in your daily life it becomes the most valuable thing in the world. You realize that up until that point you’ve only ever had the Hershey’s kisses equivalent of Christianity, aka “religion.” Spiritual disciplines without the voice of God is simply religion. Relationship requires two-way conversation.

His voice and presence become more valuable than your destination in life. Greater than any form of success or even happiness. The daily words he breaths into your soul bring life and hope and joy and finally satisfy the hunger inside.

He is our passion, He is our goal, and He is our reason for being.

What if we moved beyond the point where “seeking” God meant actually having to search for him because we wandered off and have no idea what he’s up to and instead “seeking” was simply an internal posture of our hearts; a continual acknowledgement of Him every step of the way with undistracted hearts.(Proverbs 3:5-6) What if we walked next to God up and down the aisles of life, coming alongside him on his mission on the earth, eagerly looking to him for the next step?

Life with God was always supposed to be an adventure.

It was always supposed to be abundant. If we continually dull our hunger with that which doesn’t satisfy we will end up wandering the wilderness searching for a God who is right here waiting to be found and wanting to satisfy our every need if we will just surrender our hearts completely to Him.