Throughout the ages humanity has been trying to get to God. We’ve built elaborate places of worship, assigned special holy people to serve as God experts, and furthermore celebrated those who have abandoned everything they had to move to deserts and mountains in hopes that they would meet God.
I’m not sure whether it’s intrinsic or handed down, or both, I too have sensed a need to search for God as a means to live a successful life.
I had my share of pilgrimages and consultations with special people believed to have God on speed dial. I also had my own formulas of how I could get to him. I loaded up on church activities, prayer meetings, even played for the church band. I set up no sin days when I would stay away from anything that would tempt me from lustful thoughts (basically to make up for other days when I allowed lustful thoughts to run unbridled in my head).
Sometimes my search for God runs on auto-pilot that I’m not sure I’ve thought through what I think I would do if I actually found Him.
The Sesame Street’s sketch where the famous line, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume…” was first uttered comes to mind. Ernie and Bert are parodying H.M Stanley’s eight-month-long search for Dr. David Livingstone in the jungles of Tanzania. Ernie had dragged Bert into the depths of the jungle to ask Dr. Livingstone a profound burning question coined from a famous fictional bunny. The question: What’s up Doc? After the question is asked they all burst out in laughter, marking one of the only episodes Bert laughs at Ernie’s joke.
A similar version plays out in my head as I search for God—except that, instead of laughter a voice of complaint would be heard. I would probably ask, “What’s up with that, God? Do I really need to jump through all these hoops… Do we really need to find the guy with the red phone to you, strike up the band, chase a revival half across the world? What’s up with that? Why are you so freaking hard to find? Can’t you see I need you? Can’t you see we all need you? Aren’t you the Almighty we presumed?”
We all struggle trying to crack the code on finding God. For the most the part, anything we can come up seems pretty hit-and-miss.
It’s surprising, though, that when we turn to the scriptures—if we’re keen on tracking the narrative, we find something that runs in complete contrast to how we feel about God’s hiddenness.
The scriptures have always proposed that God has always been willing to meet anyone at any place at any time. Jacob the deceiver meets God in some random place in the desert as he runs, a fugitive from his own family. Moses the murderer meets God through a burning bush in the middle of his work day as a shepherd. Gideon meets God as he cowardly hides from his enemies in a cave.
No, the story isn’t about man’s search for God;
it’s completely upside down. It’s about God pursuing man.
The very first question uttered in the Genesis is “Where are you?”, and it’s God who is asking man, not the other way around.
The Apostle Paul speaking to the religious people in Athens put it this way:
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.
In other words, he doesn’t really need a special place.
And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.
God doesn’t really need your stuff—in case you were worried about that.
From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
Did you catch that? Essentially, God took the trouble to choose the time and place you and I would live in human history…Why? Check this out:
God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
God carefully, and with intention, took every effort to make sure that you were optimally positioned in the time and place that you live in so you would find him.
This means everything that’s happened to you: the family you were born in, your socio-economic status, your background, your talents, hopes, dreams, disappointments, and even your weaknesses, are all meant to help you discover who God is, and that you would find that He was never far from you all along. He was always within reach.
In others words, Paul is asking, who told you that God was far? Who told you that God was hiding? It’s the other way around; It is God who has been waiting for you to turn around, to take notice of him.
The most repeated promise of God in the scriptures is this: “I will be with you.” And in Jesus—the one also known as Immanuel which means “God is with us”—God seals that promise.
So the question for us today is not where is God? He’s already promised to be with us. The question for us is, how can we cultivate an awareness of his presence in our lives so that we can better spot him?
A simple place to start is maybe to say a prayer underneath your breath as you go through your day. In between meetings, tasks, when you get even a few minutes of downtime. It can start with a whisper,
“God, I know you’re already with me. Help me spot you today.”