As a Christian, there are lots of things I struggle with to make sense of on my journey of following Christ. One thing that has pestered me throughout my years is how someone becomes a Christian. Now there is a lot to consider on this topic and I certainly am not qualified to answer any of the real tough questions that come along with it, but I would like to take the time and share some thoughts on at least a small portion of that question. During Jesus’s sermon on the mount he says this in Matthew 7: 6-8, “6Do not give dogs what is holy; do not throw your pearls before swine. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. 7Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” These verses are used regularly to bring comfort, reassurance, and confidence in our ability to meet and encounter God. I think a very honest and real question that needs to be asked though is, is this actually true?
Does any and everyone who seeks out God find Him? The Christian answer is obviously, yes. But what do we do when the experiences of others around us don’t match up? Sure, we sought out God and found Him, so then it must be true for everyone else, right? I think the answer is yes but we need to be careful on how we talk about this. I’ve encountered multiple stories and people who have expressed genuine interest and searching for God and came up empty. They were at their lowest and cried to the heavens but only heard silence as a response. They needed guidance for making a difficult decision but God stayed mute. They heard of all the joys of this Jesus Christ, but when they went to the gates of eternity, all they found was a vacant wasteland. Some have been unbearably alone and just wanted to know someone cared and was truly always there with them, but God seemed to be uninterested and too busy to spend His time with them. How can this be? How can so many people feel as though they have sincerely searched the universe far and wide for the Lord, but only to find he wasn’t and hasn’t ever been there? Why is it that some, like myself, find and see God so easily, while to others He’s practically invisible and it takes all their might to find Him? Why is it that some of us find Him at all, while others don’t get that privilege? After extensive thought and prayer, I believe I have some answers. Now, this list is in no way exhaustive of all the reasons why, and doesn’t necessarily apply to every situation. However, I do think they are legitimate hindrances to people’s ability to encounter God though. I also want to add that these reasons are fairly just mere intellectual answers to why people aren’t finding God, so if you know of anyone who is struggling with that, I don’t suggest just throwing these reasons at them thinking that will solve the issue. If someone is truly on that journey, it most likely will be an emotional and frustrating experience that needs to be cared to tenderly and with empathy. At the end of the day it is the Lord who changes people’s hearts and it’s only through an encounter with God Himself, that will urge people to trust and follow Him. He can obviously reveal himself to people in different ways, so it won’t be the same for everyone. If a meeting with God is the only thing that brings people to Him, then it’s imperative that we understand how Matthew 7: 6-8 can be true and how we can help those who are beginning that life altering process.
The first and most obvious reason I think people don’t find God is honestly very simple and blunt, but I don’t think that takes away from the truth of it. The reason is simply they aren’t trying hard enough to find God. They give up too soon. They don’t actually put in the work to find Him, but rather just say they want to find Him but rarely go look. Along with this, I think a lot of times people don’t actually expect to find God. They are seeking for Him just to say they tried but aren’t expecting to find anything. Now for a bit more sophistication and nuance, I think much too often people aren’t actually seeking for God Himself, but more so just what He can do for them. They want to find God so he can perform a miracle for them. They don’t want Him, they want His miracles. They don’t want God, but the peace He brings. They don’t want Him in his entirety, but rather the joy that he supplies. They don’t want the one who forgives, but rather just to feel forgiven. They could care less about actually having God, but just want some need satisfied. So, they aren’t actually searching for God and who He is and all that comes with Him, but they really are just seeking to have problems fixed. I think the most common and confused way people search for God is they want to find Him on their own terms. They don’t want to have to do anything uncomfortable to find Him. They want God to essentially beam down a light and speak in an audible voice telling them that He’s here. They want to pray a couple times a month and listen once a month and have God answer them right then and there. They want Him to give them signs that they designate for Him to perform. They aren’t willing to go to church every week. They aren’t willing to seek counsel from those around them who seem to be in constant communication with God. They don’t want to submit to His lordship. They don’t want to have to do anything they are unfamiliar with in order to meet Jesus. Now, I think a totally fair and reasonable response to this is to say, “Yeah, all this may be true in some way, but who cares? Isn’t God supposed to be like all loving and the epitome of grace? Shouldn’t God just reveal Himself despite our deficiencies in searching for Him?” I think that is a totally fair question. I would say no, God doesn’t have to reveal Himself to us despite our deficiencies in searching for Him. I actually believe He isn’t obligated to reveal Himself to anyone. We don’t deserve Him and He is under no obligation to reveal Himself to us. We are in no position to make things obligatory for God. He can and will do whatever He so pleases. Now, the fact that He is so loving and graceful is why he reveals Himself to us. It’s why he even reveals Himself to some of those who have these glaring mistakes when searching for God. He is God and can reveal Himself to anyone at any time, for whatever reason He decides. Just because He does decide to reveal Himself to some though, doesn’t mean He has to do it for all, and doesn’t mean we have the power to say He has to. I think a reason why God withholds Himself from some who come seeking for Him with the underlying motives as those mentioned previously, is because of verse six. Someone who is looking for God in those sorts of ways or with that sort of heart, doesn’t understand the kind of treasure God is. They don’t understand his value and worth. They don’t understand God is more valuable than diamonds and more precious than pearls. If He were to give Himself to someone in that sort of heart condition they probably will just totally miss Him. They wouldn’t get the fullness of God’s being. They wouldn’t realize what it means to meet God, the creator of the universe, and what it means to have a living breathing relationship with Him who knows the deepest mysteries of the world and the human heart. So, as a result, they will miss treat Him. They will misuse and abuse Him, His word, His Son, and His Spirit. They will trample on His reputation and His name. They will misrepresent His family. If He gives His pearls to those who don’t really want all of Him and the true Him, they will stomp on the valuable things He has given them and they will turn and attack His legacy and His name. As I said earlier, sometimes God runs the risk of this happening and gives Himself to those who are not with the right heart, and sometimes he takes the beating and battering that inevitably ensues. And sometimes, He doesn’t. It’s important to understand though that every time He does give Himself, He is being graceful. And every time he doesn’t give Himself, He is just in not doing so. God is the most valuable thing in existence, and if He would be easily found we would take Him for granted. If people could find diamonds or gold as easily as they found rocks, they would no longer hold the same sort of value they currently have now. Likewise, if God could be found and reached in such a facile way in any and all moments, we would lose value or need for Him since we could just have Him at any moment without effort. God wants everyone to be with Him and live with Him, but He seems to only give Himself to those who desperately and deeply desire Him in return.
Now, I don’t think those are the only reasons why people don’t find God, but I think they are most likely the most common contributors to the failed searches. I do want to acknowledge though the reality that some people sincerely search for God with all they have, or at least believe they look with all they have, and still come away Godless. I think a very common hurdle is something extremely practical. I think a lot of times when people honestly look for God and don’t find Him, it’s because they don’t know how to look for Him. No one has ever taught them how to look for God. No one has ever told them where to look. They can’t find God because they’ve never been told where He is and where they can find Him. They don’t know how to talk to God. They don’t know how to pray. They don’t know how to worship. They don’t know how to read the bible. They don’t know how God communicates. They don’t know what to listen for. They don’t know how to listen to God. I’m not going to go into detail on how to search for God or where to look specifically for God, because that could be its own post, but I think any serious searcher must come to the realization that they stand as a sinner before a Holy God and they are in desperate need of a savior. They need to get to the right state of humility and respect for God. They need to feel the weight of their imperfections and thirst for Jesus’s perfection. I think once people understand how to search and run after God, they will be able to be free from the shackles that keep them chained down from scouring all of reality for Him.
I think there are three more key reasons that cause difficulty in the search for God when you don’t know how to look for Him. The inability to recognize God when he presents Himself must plague so many lost wanderers. I think too often people put God in a box and think he can or will only do things a certain way and so they are oblivious to all the other avenues God has been reaching out for them and trying to grab their attention. I think part of it is also God may be calling them to something specific so He might reveal Himself there, but they are unwilling to meet Him there because it’s weird and scary. They miss out on all the numerous ways God is answering prayers, bringing His presence, standing directly in front of them, and hollering at them but since they don’t know what to look for, what His face looks like, what His voice sounds like, they ignore all of that. They are blinded to all the ways God has presented and revealed Himself to them because they have predetermined the way in which they think He will do it and don’t look for anything else. I also believe that sin blurs our vision to see the Lord clearly. I think a lot of times it’s a personal sin, or maybe a couple kinds of sin, or just a sinful life in general that hurts the seekers ability to find God. Sin has a way of distorting reality and the image of everything in and around us. If someone is unaware of this, sin can easily deceive someone out of finding God. It’s not that sin prevents God from being able to show Himself to us or to get close enough so we can see Him, or hear Him, or feel Him, but it’s that sin will confuse our capability to recognize God. God may be speaking to us and sin could be distorting His sentences or the meanings of His words. He may be standing directly in front of us but sin has corrupted our vision to identify who’s face it is before us. He may be holding our hand but sin can make us question whether we are even being touched or not. Sin can be even more discrete and pervasive though. We may hear Him correctly, but think it’s another’s voice, we may see Him clearly but think it’s another’s face, we may feel His fingers interlocked with our but think it’s another’s hand. I don’t have the space to go over the details here now how sin in our life can trick us in these ways, but it’s undeniable that sin alters our whole view and perspective on life and prevents us from seeing things as they truly are. An insightful analogy I’ve been given about how sin works goes like this. Imagine God is the sun. Sometimes the sun’s heat is unbearable and is the only thing we can think about when we go outside. Sometimes God’s love and presence can be so overwhelming and pervasive in our life that we can’t do anything without experiencing its intensity. Sometimes in colder seasons when the sun is out, the only thing it’s doing is presenting light. We know the sun is there because we see it but we can’t feel its rays. Other things in the environment can grab our attention more easily. Now, the only thing we can feel and focus on is the chill of the wind. We may abandon our reliance on the sun’s heat to keep us warm and rely more on a coat or a sweatshirt. Sometimes sin can block our experience of God and let the world have more of an impact on us. We may intellectually know God is there, but be living as though he only is there to show us things and not to bring his presence into our life. So, when the world starts to have a greater effect on our lives, we no longer look to God and his love for comfort or security but to other things made in this world that are said to bring warmth and peace and value. Sometimes though, the sun is completely blocked by the clouds and we can’t see or feel it at all. We essentially live our life as though the sun doesn’t even exist because we can’t see how it’s doing anything. We don’t feel its rays or see its light. Sometimes sin can callous us so bad to where to begin to believe God doesn’t exist. We don’t feel or see Him in any way and start to live as though he isn’t there, leading us to believe that He really isn’t real and never has been. Lastly, I think a lot of times people don’t find God because they don’t go where He is. God is good, and so he is found in the good. He is met and experienced in the good of this world. When you give food to a homeless person, the homeless person isn’t the only one who experiences God in that moment. Both people are drenched in the Lord’s presence at that moment because God is found in the good we do in the world. His presence is physically there when we do good. I believe this is a significant reason why it feels good to do good. It’s not just because we have this personal satisfaction for doing what is right, but because Holy Spirit steps into our realm and brings His heart warming presence with Him. This is important because not everyone wants to live life God’s way. God has deemed certain things good and certain things not good. If you don’t want to live in the things God has declared good and that’s where he is, then you probably won’t bump into Him frequently. If you are spending your time in the things God says aren’t good, then it makes sense why you don’t see Him often. The internal struggle of yielding to what God says is good and then living in that, is no doubt a blockade to those looking to find God. The trusting of our own faculties to judge decisively and definitively what is good and what is not, indubitably participates in our losing sight of God. Our desire to follow our own judgements has made God lost to us under so much rubble and hazardous waste, that it’s almost inconceivable to do all the work to find Him hidden under all the debris.
Finding God can be such an incredibly difficult task to take up. The unfortunate thing is that every time, the trouble stems directly from ourselves. When someone embarks on the wondrous adventure to discover God but comes back in despair and unsatisfied, it can be from any one or any combination of the reasons I’ve stated. It can also be from any other sort of reason I haven’t said since that list isn’t exhaustive. God is earnestly calling all to His kingdom and our job as those apart of His kingdom is to show the way to those who are lost in the wilderness and seeking His throne. We so often are our own worst enemy and get in our own way when doing anything important. We want to look for Him on the maps we’ve made ourselves but he’s nowhere to be found on those, while the whole time God and his people are telling us there’s a different map needed to find Him but we don’t want to trust Him. It’s like searching for treasure but there’s no “X” anywhere to be found on the map. Or even more accurate in the world we live in, the treasure map is filled with hundreds of “X’s” and each time we dig up the treasure there, we find out the chest is barren.