But even though I haven’t memorialized all the things that have been happening, I’ve still been increasingly aware of God’s presence. Because he truly is always present – omnipresent. And yet, I’m discovering that it’s in seeking him that I find more and more of him.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
“…to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.” (Ephesians 3:8-12)
So many verses like these are peppered throughout the Scriptures. Why?
Because our lives are meant to be ones of constant seeking. As Christians, we live in the uncomfortable paradox of the “already, not yet” Kingdom of God, and that keeps us feeling a bit restless here on earth.
He’s promised to give us his peace, “the peace of God” that surpasses our understanding and guards our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). And yet, we’re still in a constant state of searching and seeking him. We won’t “arrive” at a state of complete wholeness this side of heaven. We won’t feel completely settled here because, after all, we’re “foreigners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11).
But, there is good news: we can have increasingly greater peace when we burrow deeper and deeper into relationship and partnership with God. When I think about burying myself in God’s peace, I picture a small animal, snuggling itself in the warmth and comfort of its parent’s protection. Coming under someone’s protection requires trusting them and submitting to their way. We do this by submitting everything to God “in prayer with thanksgiving,” and when we do, we adopt a posture of gratitude paired with open-handed seeking (Philippians 4:6). We thank him for what he’s already doing and ask for more – more of him, more of his goodness. We ask for him to use us and show us the way forward.
As one of our pastors said last week, “Prayer protects us from turning work into an obsession. And work keeps our prayers from becoming empty exercise.” (That’s a Tweetable, ya’ll).When we pray, we place our desires, worries, concerns, and insecurities in God’s hands. Freed from the thoughts that spin around our heads, we can hear from him – we can hear the truth of who he says we are. And when we live into that truth – when we understand who we are and, more importantly, whose we are – we’re released from the constant striving, the constant seeking for other’s approval. Instead of seeking attention, we seek the Father’s heart. And when we’re freed from the never-ending ladder-climbing mentality, our minds and hearts are open to what God wants to do with us and open to receive his amazing gifts!
That’s what Christ taught us to pray for: his Kingdom come on earth, our daily bread – just enough sustenance for today – and guidance to keep us on the narrow path close to him (Matthew 6:9-13). And God gives that. He does. But he also gives us good gifts. He turns water into wine and wants us to have a life of abundance and joy. He gives us things beyond just what we “need.” That’s the thing about the creative nature of our God – he loves to create beautiful things for the enjoyment of his people.
Like little kids on Christmas morning, we open gift after gift and are filled with immeasurable joy. But in this scenario, the gifts never run out. At the same time, we don’t know when they’re coming, and they don’t always match up with the list we keep in our minds and hearts called “Life I Always Dreamed Of” or “Things I Wished I Had.” God is not some cosmic Santa, doling out gifts to the Nice and dumping coal on the Naughty. He gives what we need at the right time. And sometimes that is coal. Proverbs says that being kind to and enemy is like heaping “burning coals” on their head (Proverbs 25:22). I used to think this meant punishment. Like, “Gotcha! I’m going to be nice to you so you ultimately feel crappy about yourself.”
On the contrary, coals – like fire – are an instrument of refinement and a tool that leads us to repentance. So coals, in this case, are a good thing. Heaping burning coals on someone’s head is much like what the Father does with us – loving us in our brokenness and allowing us to be refined by fire. He removes the dross – the dirty, cloudy, messy bits – from the silver so that we can be made into beautiful vessels that reflect his image and carry his goodness to a hurting world (Proverbs 25:4). Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, if we trust him in the midst of the fire, we’ll come out unscathed. In fact, like Moses encountering God in the burning bush, we’ll be ignited by his holiness, not consumed by the fire. And that’s the best gift of all – the beautiful peace and excitement that comes when we abide in God’s loving presence.
And yet, like he did with Moses, God understands that we can only handle so much of his awesomeness at a time. I think that’s why he keeps things hidden from us and encourages us to continuously seek him out. It’s not like he’s playing hide-and-seek, enjoying watching us run around in the dark, trying to find him. (Although I’d imagine he must chuckle sadly at our frantic attempts to find peace when we should have just been resting in him the whole time. I can almost hear him sighing, “Oh, Laura. This again?”) No, he’s not messing with us. He just has a much bigger plan in mind and much higher thoughts than we can possibly comprehend at this time, on this earth. So, he eases us into it and invites us into the grand adventure, revealing more and more of himself and his good plans in his time.
“It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out” (Proverbs 25:2). As sons and daughters of the King of Kings, we share in Christ’s inheritance, and we’re invited to partner with him in bringing about his revealed will on this earth. God delights in revealing himself to us – he is not hiding from us. Rather, he conceals some things because he knows what’s best for us. He knows what will encourage us and what will overwhelm us. I realize that may sound like a bunch of lofty words, so here’s a real life example for you.
When I think back to my rebellious 21-year-old self, turning my back on God to go my own way and do what I wanted, I was not in a position to see the “hidden things” of God. If my memory serves me correctly, I’m pretty sure I was still talking to God and asking him for direction, but it was on my terms, not his. I wanted answers and help. But I didn’t want him. Even if he’d told me the way to go, if he’d revealed his future plans for me – single in San Francisco at age 28, working in health care (not at a magazine), and struggling to understand some mysterious health woes – I probably would have turned and run.
So, instead, he tugged gently at my heart. And then, when I hit my lowest point – incredibly painful breakup, job uncertainty, you know the drill – he brought me back to him in a journey that consisted of small baby steps. I’d ask him what he wanted me to do, and he’d say, “Join that Bible study that your friend’s mom is leading.” I’d ask him about who he is, and he’d answer me, “I am great and merciful, abounding in love.” I’d ask him what he thought about me, and he’d say, “I love you, I sing over you, and I have planted you firmly in my unshakable kingdom.” As I learned more about God’s trustworthiness, I learned to trust him with more. So, when he said, “Confess to your family.” I said yes.
Little did I know that the painful process of confession would ultimately bring me so much freedom and give me the greatest example of grace I’ve ever experienced. It was truly the most important turning point in my faith to date. Because, you see, the things I kept hidden in my heart were truly tearing me apart and building walls in my relationships. Whoever said that what you don’t know can’t hurt you was dead wrong.
Since that time of confession and repentance six years ago, I’ve experienced numerous examples of God’s faithfulness. He’s brought me incredible community in a city that used to seem so big and scary, he’s ushered me safely through periods of crippling anxiety, he’s helped me heal from years of restrictive eating, and he’s brought me to a place I didn’t know was possible – deep contentment and satisfaction in him.
These were all things that were hidden from me before. But now that they’ve been revealed to me, I want more. More Jesus, more of his truth, more closeness to his heart, more great things. Instead of hiding my vulnerability and short-comings, I let them out in the light of day to encourage others and help me continue to grow. In place of the secrets I once kept locked up inside, I now store up his truths in my heart. It’s like the Psalmist says, “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:9-16).
When I keep my mind focused on God’s truth – when I “meditate on his word” – I’m steady and secure in where he has me. Even if I don’t really know where that place is….because God knows. And he promises to reveal his plans little by little, just enough to keep me on the path he’s set apart for me. As God said through the prophet Jeremiah, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3). He’s speaking to the Jews in Babylonian exile, people who had very little understanding of where God was taking them and what their future looked like. In this same book, God reassures his people, “I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). He knows. They didn’t. We don’t. But he does.
The question is: do we trust that he’s telling us the truth about those good plans?
If you’re struggling to say “yes” – like we all do from time to time, if we’re being honest – then I invite you to ask him. Ask him to reveal more of himself to you, more of those great things that are “unsearchable” by human methods of deduction, but are God’s great joy to reveal to us over time.
So, call on him. Ask him what you’d like him to reveal to you. Tell him about the desires that you fear will go unfulfilled. Seek him out and he will be found. And with him, everything else, and life and joy in abundance.