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Searching for God

 I had a relative named Sue. She had an IQ over 160. She was beautiful and talented. And she contracted a terrible cancer that slowly destroyed her body. She died angry – at God, her family and the world. Who would care for her daughter when she was gone? Why did she have to suffer? It didn…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

 I had a relative named Sue. She had an IQ over 160. She was beautiful and talented. And she contracted a terrible cancer that slowly destroyed her body.

She died angry – at God, her family and the world. Who would care for her daughter when she was gone? Why did she have to suffer? It didn’t make sense. She refused even to see her mother. The world was irretrievably broken for her.

Sue’s story is a sledgehammer to the gut. Despair is all that remained for her. All we family members can do is stagger backwards, wheezing and gasping in shock. It calls into question our belief in a good God who gives us happy endings. It causes us to look at our lives.

We are on a Journey

As humans, we are born travelers, journeying through life – inhabiting a physical body and then ultimately being forced to discard it.

The idea that we’re on a journey scandalizes the comfort-seeking settler in all of us. We walk a path of our own blazing. It may be similar in its twists and turns to a billion other paths, but it is uniquely our own – it can’t be shared.

As I reflect on my own journey, if I’m honest, it often feels scary. My path feels like it borders a cliff. Sometimes my mortality feels terrifying. I watch people caught in cycles of pain. I see ISIS executing children. I see people crying out to God and, tiring of what seems like a game of cat and mouse, giving up on him. 

Connecting with God 

It’s not easy being human. Like Doubting Thomas, I want evidence. I want a set of buttons to push that will get me to God. I can identify with the desperation of the prophets of Baal who, in the contest with Elijah, jump around, tearing their clothes. 

We all sense that there is more to life than we’ve experienced and we go searching for it. Some of us give up the search, concluding that “this is all there is.”  

Ultimately, this search is for all of us a lonely one in the same way that death is a lonely experience. We climb a ladder that leads to death and what lies beyond. In old age, we stand teetering on the top rung while those following us watch in fascination, in the same way that we all gape and rubber neck at a bad traffic accident. 

Living Numb

We recoil at the finality of death. We dread wrestling with our mortality. We look for anything that would touch the loneliness of each man or woman’s struggle with it. And many of us conclude that it’s better to live numb than to experience the existential ache that our humanity invites.  

We crowd out that feeling in a hundred different ways. Mostly through noise: We live absorbed in our iPhones, following the local news, sucked into a steady stream of Facebook and Youtube moments that drown out the conversation about death and eternity and God.

If our days are filled with activities and noise, we can push aside the questions, “Is there something more? Is there a God and does he love me? Does my life matter?”

Questions like these pop up in the silence that we abhor. Better to fill our days with noise than to invite a conversation that may take us into painful places.

Feeling Desperate

Elijah’s taunts to the prophets of Baal are great black humor, “Where is your god? Call him louder; maybe he’s sitting on the toilet!”

Who hasn’t felt that kind of desperation at some point? Is God simply being whimsical? Our needs seem so urgent, so huge. In contrast, his purposes can seem so abstract, so inscrutable.

Yet when he comes through in the clutch for us as he did for Elijah, we’re elated and filled with new faith. 

Periodically as I walk through life, I encounter God in a tangible way. He speaks to me. I see him connect with others. He heals them. He sets them free. And my spirit responds, “Yes! There is hope! This path does lead to God!” 

We were made to connect

What are we to make of such a God? 

I have seen enough of the supernatural that my default position is to trust God and give him the benefit of the doubt. Others may find his healing of one person but not another to be capricious. They may doubt his goodness.

I have experienced enough of his goodness that I am a believer. I have connected with a personal God and have seen that faith wins out over cynicism. 

Yes, this makes me an oddball. Everything in my being seems to resist the test of faith that ultimately draws me nearer to God. Although I see reason as a gift, I’m OK setting it aside when I see the gap that only faith will bridge.

I want to live a bold, gallant life, but too often I live mired in details. Often I reconcile myself to wandering in what seems like a spiritual fog. Waiting for sunlight to break through. I say to myself, “Forget gallant; just don’t let me screw it up too badly.”

But despite my frailty or God’s apparent distance, I keep searching. As humans carrying eternity within us, what else can we do?

We Live Best When We Search Hard

We were made for romance and connection of all kinds. Wanting to live well, we instinctively search for it. We live best when we search hard.

The connection between the divine and the mortal may be complicated, but it’s in our hard-wiring, it is what we were made for. 

Where are you in your search for God? Have you allowed life’s noise and the constant flow of activity to distract you? Perhaps the pain you’ve suffered has caused you to want to give up. Perhaps God’s apparent silence has discouraged you.

Each of us must struggle to find God for ourselves – it’s a process as old as history. Isaiah encouraged us in his day, “Seek God while he’s here to be found,” he said.

Wherever you are, it’s a good day to consider that God may indeed be found. He’s looking for us to connect even more than we’re looking for him.

Comments (17)

  • This is one of your best, Seth. Who cannot identify with these ponderings? And very well written. Thanks for taking the time in a crazy-busy world to both ponder and write it down.

    • Thanks, Kathy. It actually comes from a journal entry I shared with a friend 16 years ago. He sent it back to me a few weeks ago and I thought, “you know, I’m still searching for God all these years later.”

  • In him we live and move and have our being… In it all, along with St. Paul and shipwrecks of any kind…I know in whom I have believed. It is not about me anyway, it is about Jesus who found me on the Damascus Road names Mannheim, Germany 1974 & he has never let go. Great sharing, let us gather daily to know him and the him in each other. I love you Seth…

    • Mark, it’s a profound thing to be lost and then be found. So many lost sheep that the Shepherd wants help in looking for. Thanks for loving so well!

  • It’s oddly encouraging to hear that you struggle with the same things I do. I have this tendency to look at people around me and think they have something I don’t; as if there were different varieties of Jesus or something.

    I know Him, and I’ve walked with Him, and I’ve heard Him; yet at times I feel so distant from Him. I suppose it’s not about trying to have the experience that somebody else is having, but rather to embrace my own experiences and journeys and embrace Him as I have Him.

    You would think that I would have learned not to compare myself to others by now, but sadly I have not and it has cost me dearly.

    “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

    • Amen, Kim. You are stronger than you know. You have always been stronger than you know. But I have watched you grow over the years and you are doing great! I love how you have stayed focused on setting the captives free.

  • This speaks a lot to the season I’ve been in and my desire to silence so many of these questions with noise. This was a huge encouragement to me today. Thanks for sharing, Seth!

  • This is very encouraging and needs to be read my all of God’s children as well as by the sinners, Because if we would be truthful with ourselves this is all most everyone in this world and it is sad. We think we can do it all but without Christ Jesus we only turn our life’s into and great big mess. If we would just seek Jesus more each and everyday of our life’s and give Him the control, then maybe we would grow to love Him even more than ourselves.
    Jesus said I am the way, the truth, and the life:no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. We need to look at Jesus’s word’s.He not telling us about the way, nor does He show us the way. Jesus does not even guide us along the way, because He is the way and it says this right there in John 14:6 The sooner people turn away for there on ways the sooner they can let Jesus into their lives. Jesus lives and is alive today because He lives in me and we can all come to know Jesus as the Lord of the World. Amen Keep up the Lord’s work Brother Seth

  • I can Identifiy with your struggles. But not with the faith or solace you apparently find. I never found contentment or fulfillment in my own spiritual journeys. Drawing near to god only lead to new pain. I did not get healing, found more wounds and never really identified with my fellow believers.

    I understand the blind hope of those who God has mercy on. But cannot deny the truth of Paula words.

    So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. (‭Romans‬ ‭9‬:‭18‬ ESV)

  • Seth,
    These ponderings are so universal, and a couple of your thoughts remind me of John Eldredge…I am copying this and sending it to my son, who is also on his own journey. We are all pilgrims. And can share; the vulnerability required of REAL connection is also blocked by the spiritual fog and noise of life. But the fog is lifting! Leaning in hard, acknowledging that there are questions and no pat answers is, I believe the beginning of courageously following the road often less travelled…Have been wooed to continue on with my DMin in Spiritual Leadership/Formation and am actively cultivating spiritual whitespace.
    Shalom, friend.

  • A quick prayer for you, John:

    Lord, I ask for a breakthru for John. Surprise him with your love. May he find a safe place to find healing. May he find encouragement.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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