Today, many of us often hear the phrase that one “finds God in nature.” While something in that near cliché phrase rings true with me, my experience has shown me that this “finding” is quite a bit more challenging than it appears at first glance. The idea that one simply “finds” God in nature, perhaps like a friend waiting patiently on a park bench, seems to strike a dissonant chord with my own experience.
There is evidence to support my intuition. Many people outside of the Church have come to calling their experiences in nature “spiritual” and the outdoors “their church” without (and often at odds with) reference to God. 2020 saw record numbers flocking to the outdoors as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The outdoor industry is suffering an unprecedented scarcity of equipment, with the bicycle industry facing a particular shortage worldwide. In recent decades, National Parks have struggled to keep numbers at reasonable levels, with the years leading up to the pandemic reaching some of their most crowded in recorded history.
Does this mean we will see (or already have seen) a reciprocal increase in the number of people who practice religion? Definitely not. While it is apparent many who identify openly with a religious worldview speak about how they “find God” in the outdoors, countless individuals outside the religious sphere find something else in their experience without making an explicit reference to some supernatural presence. What are they finding? Is there an experience of nature that unites both of these groups and taps into the deeper humanity that we all have in common?
Photo by Johny Goerend on Unsplash
We find the answer in contemplation. Thomas Merton said of contemplation, “It is a kind of spiritual vision [that] sees without seeing and knows without knowing.” The human person is quite literally made for contemplation, able to perceive God’s “invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity…in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20). Yet how few are actually able to pierce through the veil and touch that invisible nature!
The experience is perhaps something like the apostles encountering the resurrected Christ. Most saw but did not believe (Luke 24:37). On the other hand, Thomas, who at first does not see and who we call the “Doubter,” later sees the Lord and believes, crying “My Lord and My God” (Jn 20:28). While nature points to God’s invisible nature, hidden just across the threshold of the forest, the mountain top, or the sunset, how few of us are able to proclaim these words with Thomas as we contemplate nature. Contemplation should be a natural response to reveling in God’s magnificent creation and our place in it.
Still, the questions remain: how do we find God in nature, and how do we pierce the veil and discover the supernatural shrouded there within? We need to receive the gift of contemplation in order to better dispose ourselves to experience the natural. For it is not me that finds God in nature, but in the natural world that God finds me. In order to better dispose ourselves, I have found the following seven keys to be very helpful.
1. Plan ahead and Prepare
Borrowing from Leave No Trace (lnt.org) outdoor ethics, my first key is to plan well for any experience out into the backcountry. In general, when we go into the wilderness, we don’t want surprises, but instead to be prepared to receive the gift of whatever nature wants to give us that day. Preparation fosters a deep respect and reverence for the power of nature, and contrary to opinion does not take away from the experience but disposes the person to better receive it.
2. Take your Time
For most of us this means “slow down.” We come from an intense rhythm of life, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but we should aim to take advantage of our time in the backcountry by entering into the rhythm of the natural world. If you are going on a day-hike, try to start before dawn and allow yourself to “wake up” with the environment around you. Take one step further and perhaps leave for a hike the night before and sleep near the trailhead, making sure to spend some time in the blanketed silence of night in the outdoors. Entering into the rhythm of the natural world helps us to more easily perceive the rhythm of the Real.
Photo by Akash Dutta on Unsplash
3. Listen…to nothing, which is something
Spending time in silence is a highly underrated activity in a culture full of constant noise. Many times we unknowingly bring that noise with us into the natural world through our conversations, through technology, and even in the way we move and walk. Even if you’re with a group of friends, take some time to listen to your own thoughts, and to listen to nature itself. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll hear.
4. Try not to take (so many) photos
Photos can be a good thing, very good. They help us remember events and reconstruct our experiences. They remind us of wonderful moments, and all of the feelings and emotions associated with them. But I would not be reaching if I said that we simply take too many photos. On top of that we “filter” these moments to influence how others (and even ourselves) remember them. Taking less photos will also remind you that we also have four other senses – who knew!?
5. Bible Study
Spend some time exploring the relationship of the natural world with Scripture. No spoilers, but from Genesis to Revelation, the relationship is much more profound than many of us know. The created world, and man within it, are an expression of the glory of God. Understanding how that relationship works begins in God’s revealed Word.
6. Plant something
There’s no experience, in my opinion, quite as powerful in learning to develop a relationship with the natural world as helping “cultivate” new life. Learning to act responsibly as nature’s stewards takes commitment and humility. In a world where we can go and buy just about anything we desire from a supermarket five minutes away, there’s nothing like eating your own tomatoes.
7. Write Something Down
If you keep a journal, or even if you don’t, take some time to record your thoughts in a natural setting. I can imagine some of the greatest works of literature were written in this way, from the Psalms to Shakespeare’s Sonnets. The way we capture words helps us to enter more deeply into communion with the logos of the natural world.
Chris Lanciotti is a Consecrated Lay Member of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae and is originally fromFort Collins. He is currently the Program Director at Creatio, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to “helping allpeople encounter the beauty of Creation and the Creator.”
Finding God in all things is a big part of Ignatian spirituality. But finding God in the boring parts of life is easier said than done. Here are five ways (aside from the Examen) to find God in all things.
- Micro-Awareness—This is not just trying to be aware of the present moment, but rather letting each small action you take become your primary purpose in the moment. If you let something as simple as pushing the power button on your computer or walking up the stairs be done with intention and awareness (rather than letting routine get the best of you), you’ll find a new holiness in those mundane tasks.
- Journal—Writing down the experiences of your day as well as your thoughts and feelings is a kind of Examen, but oftentimes the act of writing uncovers unseen moments of God’s presence you initially missed.
- Do something the “old fashioned way”—Technology and fast expectations can often close the door on our awareness of God. For a change, walk to someone’s desk instead of calling, handwrite a letter instead of e-mailing, walk to the store instead of driving, or take the train instead of flying. The change of pace may give you a more meaningful interaction or experience. And slowing down lets you acknowledge God’s presence more easily.
- Listen—When was the last time you really listened to someone without trying to think of what to say next? You’ll be surprised what you hear if you actually listen—to a friend, to the natural sounds around you (try turning off the radio when you drive), or to your own conscience. God speaks when we pause long enough to listen.
- Say “God is here”—This idea comes from UCC pastor Jane E. Vennard. She says:
Practice saying “God is here” the next time you are assaulted by your neighbors’ quarrelling, see someone carelessly toss trash from a car, get drenched in an unexpected rainstorm, or bite into a mealy and tasteless apple.
From his own experience, Saint Francis of Assisi learned that the deeper lessons of God came when one embraced all things, even that which isn’t beautiful.
Have you ever wondered what Jesus was doing all those years when He was growing up? The Bible doesn’t record any of it except for once when He was twelve years old.
That was the year Jesus and His family went to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover Week. They and their neighbors did it every year. The week was filled with listening to Temple teachers and religious music, and sharing ritual meals as they commemorated how God rescued them from Egypt and Pharaoh’s army over a thousand years before.
At the end of the week, the family packed up and headed back home. The Bible tells us that Mary and Joseph noticed their Son was missing after a few days of travel. They couldn’t find Him anywhere, so they hurried back to Jerusalem to look for Him.
After three days of searching, Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the Temple talking to the Jewish leaders and asking them questions. If you’re a parent, you can probably imagine the relief His parents felt when they finally found Him. They quickly asked Him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought you anxiously (Luke 2:28).”
Searching for Jesus
Okay, let’s back up for a quick moment.
You may be wondering why it took Mary and Joseph so long to figure out that their son was missing. How could they not know, right? I mean, I can’t go two minutes without checking to see that all my little chicks are still with me in the grocery store. How could Mary and Joseph go three days before they wondered where Jesus was as they crossed the desert?
Remember I said they went to Jerusalem with their neighbors? There were hundreds of them! It was customary for the kids to travel in one group with older siblings and caretakers while the parents and elders traveled in a separate group. Jesus’ parents—and all the parents there—had full confidence that their kids were being properly cared for and supervised. They had no reason to worry.
The Bible doesn’t tell us why Mary and Joseph suddenly began looking for Jesus. Nevertheless, they did, and He was nowhere in sight, so the only thing to do was retrace their steps and go back to Jerusalem. They searched all over the city until they found Jesus still in the Temple talking to the teachers and asking them questions (Luke 2:46).
Again, the Bible doesn’t tell us why Jesus was asking questions. Most people tend to believe He was asking questions about things He didn’t know. But, let’s not forget…He’s God! He knows everything already! So, it’s more likely Jesus was quizzing the teachers about what they knew, which explains verse 47: “And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.”
Where God Is
In the middle of pop quiz time, in walks Mary and Joseph in a panic saying, “Son, where have You been?” Jesus’ reply is a good one for all us: “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”
Mary and Joseph had forgotten their Son was no ordinary boy. They had forgotten His divinity. And in their defense, I think I would have forgotten too in a situation like this. But the point here is Jesus’ response to them, why didn’t you know where to find Me?
It’s a great question for all of us. Do we truly know where to find Jesus? Yes, He’s omnipresent, He’s everywhere. But where do we actually find Him? Maybe the better question is how do we find Him?
Make a point to get alone and quiet with God every day. You might have a prayer closet, or simply kneel next to your couch, or maybe go outside with the warm sun on your face. It doesn’t matter where you pray. Just pray!
Don’t know how to pray? It’s easier than you think.
Start by praising Him and thanking Him for all He does for you (your house, food in the fridge, your car, your family, your job, etc.). Ask Him for what you need, then follow it up with silence. Let God respond to you. Give Him a chance to talk and answer your questions.
Above all, talk to God like you talk to your spouse, friend, neighbor, coworker. Speak in a natural, casual voice. God isn’t impressed with any “Christian-ese” words or tone. They don’t have any magic. So just relax. Take a deep breath, put your guard down, and lean into His love and grace.
You’ll find it hard wanting to end your prayer time, believe me. His presence is so sweet.
Read the Bible
You can’t seek God if you don’t know what He’s trying to teach you through His word. I know it can seem like dry reading at times, but that’s why I’m here to help you discover the richness of culture and context the Bible has. It’s actually a very fascinating book.
You can follow a Bible reading plan, or set aside 15 minutes every day, or you can simply start at Genesis 1:1 and keep going at your own pace until you reach Revelation. However you want to do it is fine. Just make a concerted effort to read every day, not through a book or a devotion but the real Holy Bible.
After a while, the Holy Spirit will begin working in your heart, and your faith and understanding will soon begin to grow. You’ll learn things about God I swear will blow your mind. He’s so amazing!
If you want to search for Jesus, the Bible says, “…You will seek the Lord your God and you will find him if you search after Him with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 4:29).”
The answer is to seek the Lord where He can be found, in prayer and through His word. He’s waiting for you there.
How do you stay connected to God? Where do you find Him in your daily routine? Come share your ideas and comments with me either below or privately right here. I’d love to hear from you.
I regularly get emails from people who say that they’ve been seeking God, but haven’t found him. They often express disappointment and frustration at the fact that once-promising spiritual journeys have now led to a dead end, and they want to know: “Is there anything else I can do?”
I’m not a spiritual director or a theologian, but I do have plenty of experience with spiritual dry spells and difficulties in the process of conversion, and I’ve spent a lot of time talking with wise people about common struggles in this department. While it’s important to understand that any kind of powerful experiences of God are a gift, that there’s not some magic formula we can follow that will guarantee that we’ll receive a flood of consolation, there are certain things we can do to make more room in our hearts for God’s presence.
1. Seek humility first
If you feel stuck in your spiritual search, set aside the search for God per se and seek humility instead. The importance of this step cannot be overstated. Pride is one of the most effective ways to block God out of our lives. Throw all your efforts into becoming a more humble person. For inspiration, read up on people throughout history who were known for their humility. If you’re not exactly sure what true humility involves, here’s a great article that explains that humility is not the same thing as low self esteem or thinking that you’re bad.
2. Go on a cynicism fast
Commit to a period of time during which you’ll fast from all sources of cynicism: Give up watching TV shows and reading websites that make jokes at other people’s expense (even if it’s about celebrities or politicians); try to change the subject or say something positive if such conversations come up in person; avoid making cynical jokes or comments yourself. You might be surprised at how much this fast will transform your heart.
3. Read the great Christian authors
While a transformation of heart, a turning of the soul toward God, is the most critical step in opening ourselves to God, it’s also important to realize that seeking God does not mean setting aside logic and reason; quite the contrary is true. Asking tough questions and hearing what the great Christian thinkers have said on the matter will only bring you closer to God. Some authors I recommend are C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo.
4. Do the experiment
I believe that God’s existence can be “proven” in a certain sense, as long as you understand that God is Love, and what you’re trying to prove is Love itself. This is not something you can know about from analyzing data or reading books alone. To get the “proof” that you seek, you must enter the laboratory of your heart, and actually conduct the experiment: live, for a while, as if God did exist. Pray. Follow the Ten Commandments. Show love and kindness to everyone, even your enemies. Read the Bible. Give God the thanks and honor and respect you would show him if he did exist. As Pascal suggested, just try it for a while, and see what happens.
5. Pray frequently
This is by far the most important step. I know, you feel like you’re talking to yourself. You don’t see the point of it. I was there for a long, long time. But there is no substitution for humbly, regularly turning toward God with an open mind and an open heart. If you’re stuck for words, consider reciting something like the Prayer of St. Francis, or just pray, “God, I want to find you. Show me how. I’m listening.”
6. Be willing to lose it all
When I originally posted a version of this list at my personal blog a few years ago, it stopped at number five. Then I got an email from a wise reader, who suggested that I missed a sixth step. He wrote:
“There was one thing that was essential to my reversion that you do not mention. One must be willing to give up everything for God…I believe that the biggest problem people have with finding God is that they are not willing to give up earthly desires to find Him. People want the best of both worlds. They want a relationship with God and be able to hang on to worldly desires. I think this is all to often overlooked.”
One of the things that’s different about seeking the truth about God as opposed to, say, seeking the truth about a mathematical equation, is that the truth about God is personal and transformative. If you’re seeking the truth about mass-energy equivalence and you discover that e=mc², it doesn’t mean anything for you personally. You don’t need to live your life any differently just because you now know that the mass of a body is a measure of its energy content. But not so with God. Because God is the source of all that is good, to know what God is is to know what Good is. And if you’re not open to a new understanding of what is Good, then you’re not really open to God.
The bottom line is this: seek, and you shall find. If you understand what it really means to seek (using both your mind and your heart); and if you understand that the finding part doesn’t necessarily happen immediately, that you’re beginning the long process of building a relationship that will continue to grow and change for the rest of your life, you will find God.
We’ve compiled a list of articles on different life struggles, such as addiction, depression, spiritual dryness, marital strife and more. If you are suffering from something specific today, browse this list of resources that can help you on your journey.
At the mic, a man grasps for words.
His pain is too much to speak of. This is just a men’s church retreat. What comfort can come to him as he talks about raising a mentally handicapped child — his first son — who has never been able to communicate more than a broken sentence? How could he possibly explain his pain to the rest of the group?
Hospitals can’t contain the pain of this world. It spills out like a flood. Today, like a torrential river, pain seems to flow, ripping through woods and into this cabin in rural Virginia.
As I listen to the man at the mic, I hear his pain, but there’s also deeper processing going on in his life. My father, an Old Testament scholar, has just finished speaking on the book of Job.
Jabbed into the middle of our Bibles, this book shows us that Christians aren’t spared pain. It almost feels like a threat: You will suffer. Yet the message of Job is far from a threat. If we live, we suffer, but this book is meant to steady us in trials.
As other men move to the mic to speak about their wrestling, there’s a tone of realness, rawness and hope. I believe it is coming from what we’re learning as we study Job.
My dad explains that it’s essential to understand the courtroom drama that frames the book. As Job opens, a great assembly is drawn up in heaven. The attitude of the assembly is not entirely clear. But in the middle of the assembly “the accuser” arrives: Satan. God asks him where he’s been.
Satan replies, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it” (Job 1:7, English Standard Version).
The tone in the original Hebrew is subtly derisive, hinting that Satan’s been looking down on God’s so-called “good” creation.
God asks, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8, ESV).
God points out Job’s genuine relationship with Him.
Satan responds, “Does Job fear God for no reason?” (Job 1:9, ESV).
Satan’s accusation is an old one, carrying with it a host of connotations. I can hear the flow of follow-up accusations implied in Satan’s quip:
“Job doesn’t really love You. You call him blameless, God, but You’re either a fool or a liar. Either You just don’t get that Job only loves You for what You’ve done for him (You’re a fool), or You do get it and just won’t admit it (You’re a liar). The fact is, Job isn’t all that good. And neither are You when You call him blameless. You’re not trustworthy. You’re not loving.”
Any of these sound familiar? They do to me. I’ve asked similar questions.
The heavenly assembly is shocked. I imagine shields and swords clatter.
So the accusation is clear. It’s an accusation against Job, but more importantly it’s an accusation against God. And it’s been voiced in public. If God were simply to say, “We’re done here,” then doubt would hang in the air, not just about Job’s goodness, but God’s.
Poor Job. His mission will be to suffer, agonizingly. But it won’t be meaningless. His torture will be in defense of the very honor and integrity of God and His Word. He is never told why he suffers, but that is part of the test.
Job’s life will soon be ripped to shreds. He’ll lose everything.
But what takes up most of the book is a fascinating dialogue between Job and his comforters. They come and sit with him in silence for seven full days and nights. At first they don’t utter a word. They’re good friends.
Yet when they open their mouths, his good friends become his chief tormentors. Job asks them, “How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words? . [You] make my disgrace an argument against me” (Job 19:2,5, ESV).
We see the argument early in the book, and it escalates throughout. Job’s friends believe that God rewards the good and punishes the bad. They ask the question in myriad ways: “What have you done, Job? Surely you’ve done something to deserve this.”
Now before we get too harsh with Job’s friends, try to think of the last time you saw a friend in pain. Did you try to figure out what they’d done wrong? We do this all the time. When someone’s suffering seems inexplicable and scary, we search for reasons.
Who are we comforting: our friend or ourselves?
“As for me, I would seek God.” — Eliphaz (Job 5:8, ESV)
“You see my calamity and are afraid.” — Job (Job 6:21, ESV)
Job’s pain is a problem for his friends. The entire book is a thesis against formulaic Christianity, which says, “Be good, have faith and you’ll be OK. If you aren’t OK, the fault lies with you.” This formula will make us brutal with Christians in pain.
But how are we (or our friends) to deal with God when in pain?
Pain shapes us. It disenchants, embitters, causes restlessness, hopelessness, hatred and on and on and on.
As Christians, we can hide our pain behind a mask of false happiness.
But we also know that, through pain, sometimes we’re strengthened, softened and drawn toward God.
Simply put, pain drives us to or away from God. And sometimes people who look as if they are running from God are indeed running toward Him. The opposite can also be true. Just line up a battered Christian next to a teeth-baring legalist.
We see all sorts of emotions run their course in the person of Job. But he also has it out with God. His friends never even address God. Job’s sheer tenacity toward God shows genuine faith in a God who is good — a faith that God planted deep in Job. They have an authentic relationship. Job is free to throw his pain at God.
Job definitely gets riled up. Listen to this: “I was at ease, and He broke me apart; He seized me by the neck and dashed me to pieces. … He slashes open my kidneys and does not spare; He pours out my gall on the ground” (Job 16:12-13).
And Job’s anguish makes Him empathetic. He says He would comfort differently: “I could also speak as you do, if you were in my place. … The solace of my lips would assuage your pain” (Job 16:4-5, ESV).
In the end, Job meets God. Job says, “I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You” (Job 42:5, ESV).
God honors Job’s relentless desire to present his case.
We can know that God is present and active in our distress, whether we feel Him or not. Yet our pain does something even more mysterious.
Read more about this mystery in Part 2, “How to Find Hope in the Midst of Suffering.”
There is a story from Jesus’ childhood where his parents left him in Jerusalem (Luke 2:41-52). His parents get a day out on their way back home before realizing that he was not with them, and it takes another two days to find him. After leaving Jesus alone for three days, his mother shames him by blaming him for going missing. Jesus response was very direct: “you knew I would be about my father’s business.”
Here is a very interesting exchange. Substituting God for Jesus, this can be restated as the following:
Mary misplaces God and then blames Him for going missing. God then responds to Mary, you knew where I would be found.
Too often we get too preoccupied with our own thoughts and priorities; we don’t notice when God has moved to something else or is no longer with us. When we do notice Him not there, we question where He has gone as if it was His decision for us to be separated. A Christian without the presence of God is in a frightful place. Our life, security, and success all come from God going with us. This is why Moses told God, “if your presence doesn’t go with us, don’t send us from here” (Exodus 33:15).
If you feel alone from God, try these five ways to find God and to bring you back into His presence.
1. Go look for something that only He can do.
This is something I got from Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God, and it has helped me frequently. There are things man can do and things that God can do, but God likes to do things that only He can do through me and you. As we gravitate toward activities that only God can do, He opens Himself to us to be used by Him and engaged with Him.
2. Take risks.
God is attracted to faith (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is expressed through believing in God over what we can see. When we move toward people and engage with them about God’s love for them, God shows up. We can talk to them about the love of God expressed through salvation, financial provisions, release from depression, physical healings, satisfaction of dreams, etc. God cares deeply about people and when we choose faith that God is going to show up over what looks impossible, God is greatly pleased.
3. Be still and rest.
Sometimes we are too stressed to hear what God is trying to say. We need to cease from striving and wait on the Lord. Relax. Listen to some worship music or just be silent. Think about God’s love for you. He adores you and will be attracted to your heart opening up to Him (James 4:8).
4. Read the Bible.
This is not meant to be a way to force God’s hand, but we can allow our heart to engage and be transformed by the reading of the Scriptures. When we approach the Bible with the attitude of finding God, He can renew our minds to correct misinterpretations of God’s ways. Then we are opened up to be enlightened to where God is working in our lives now.
5. Pray with friends.
We are not meant to walk this life alone. God oftentimes makes us need others to enlarge His joy. He loves the unity of His children, and He will speak to us through others because it delights Him. It is in unity that God bestows blessings (Psalm 133). It is not meant to only be us and God. Are you looking for God? He could be hiding in the presence of another.
This is not meant to be a complete list, but I hope it gives you some tracks to ride on. God wants to be found. He says if we seek Him we will find Him. At the same time, He will not prostitute Himself by giving Himself freely to those who are not wanting to commit to Him. God wants to be pursued, and He wants to be found.
Let’s say you find yourself thinking about different choices in front of you.
You are asking God to just tell you what to do, so you don’t have to worry about it and can move forward.
Your mind begins racing : what should you choose? How will you choose?
You begin to panic: what will happen if you make the wrong choice? How can you stop overthinking this?
Suddenly, you glance up and see, written plainly in the clouds, God’s will for your life: “Marry this person.” “Go to this school.” “Pursue this career path.”
But, wait. Unfortunately, this isn’t how God works, right? Wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy, though. We all want direction for what God wants for each of our lives. It’s normal to desire a sign, a symbol, or even just some clarity.
However, when we begin searching for a sign of God’s will instead of God Himself, we run into problems. When the sign or answer that we desire becomes our hope, we can find ourselves trapped in cycles of stress or anxiety when we can’t grasp it.
If this is you, I have some good news. You can be free from the search. The Bible clearly tells us how each of us can find God’s will, inviting us into a life of obedience and faith rather than the certainty we seek.
If you want to know the will of God, you need to pursue the will of God found in His Word.
Let’s start with what Scripture tells us:
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 4:3
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality.
1 Peter 2:15
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
When you are free from searching for a particular answer from God, you will be able to seek God’s guidance without the anxiety of making the wrong choice, because, well, there is no wrong choice.
Instead, here are three steps to consider as you continue to pursue His design for your life outlined in Scripture:
1) Ask yourself, what do you love to do?
God has uniquely gifted you with passions and talents: what do you love to do? Your life is most glorifying to Him when you are living out of who He created you to be: not when you are trying to be someone else.
If we are pursuing God’s will outlined in Scripture, we will find ourselves choosing between good things. We are free to pursue choices that we desire as we pursue God’s heart and His desires for us.
However, there is a shadow side to this. We can find ourselves consumed with the fear of not making the “best” choice: the most life-giving or the most rewarding or the most fun. We fear we will choose wrong and then be stuck with our choice.
The reality is, this is a skewed view of God’s character. This obsession with making the “right” choice stems from a place of expecting what we choose to fulfill us, rather than trusting God for our ultimate satisfaction.
As we trust God to provide, we realize we are free to make decisions that align with the passions He instills within ours.
2) Try things.
Many feel the pressure to seek certainty in God’s will for their career because they believe they will be locked into that choice, destined to spend the rest of their life doing this job. Again, there is no correct answer: you are free to try different things, learning and discovering what you want to pursue.
As you question, consider that this is pretty difficult to plan because you don’t know what God will do with your life. In an episode of The Gospel Coalition’s podcast, Bethany Jenkins, Vice President of Forums at The Veritas Forum, reminds us that there is no dream job. The search for what you will do for the rest of your life is the wrong question theologically: you do not know what God has planned for you, so how can you plan for the rest of your life?
God cares more about your character than what you do for Him. You will never know what you like or don’t like if you don’t give it a try.
3) Give yourself wholly to something.
Choosing Christ means choosing faithfulness to Him and the people and places to which He calls us. Feelings will change. It is challenging to stick things out. Unfortunately, we sometimes find ourselves doing things that are more challenging or aren’t as glamorous as we expected: things we do not enjoy.
However, at the end of the day, God grows our skills, passions and desires. As we grow in our skill and ability in something, our passion for it likewise grows. Bethany Jenkins says, “What does faithfulness look like to the Christian? Deep work for the Lord. Competence, control and autonomy. Skills trump passion in the quest for work you love.”
Today, step away from cycles of worry and overthinking, away from the pressure to make the “right” choice. You are free to love God and pursue His will for your life shown in Scripture: to embrace the freedom He is inviting you into and believing it is true.
The reality is that God cares more about who you are (your heart) than what you are doing. If you choose Him, then there is no wrong choice.
Leandro Lozada is from Puebla, Mexico and is the Program Director at Love Thy Neighborhood. He is a graduate of Southern Seminary with an emphasis in Christian Ministry.
This was really amazing and right on time! Thank you for your ministry and fit the with you do for the kingdom and God’s special people (Christians).
I’ve always felt so lost in life. Not knowing my purpose and not being able to make a decision in fear that it would be wrong. After reading I’m in tears. There is so much I didn’t understand. You wrote, “ Your life is most glorifying to Him when you are living out of who He created you to be: not when you are trying to be someone else.” Your words found me when I needed them most. So I just want to say thank you.
In a remote village in Papua New Guinea, God taught me to ask him the right question.
Our friend Kwefi — a young, local Christian mother — had just died in childbirth, and I was angry at God. Kwefi had modeled what it meant to really follow Jesus as a woman and wife in her culture. She had been making an impact on others too. She had so much promise.
“Why, God? Why did you let her die?” I yelled. I was desperate and insistent for answers.
I anticipated God’s answer. Maybe he would admit in a soft whisper that her death was an unfortunate mistake but that “these things happen.” Perhaps then he would apologize for allowing it to happen, since it had hurt me.
Or, if he wanted, maybe God would audibly speak to me like he did for people in Scripture, and explain his cosmic plan.
But instead there was only silence.
The day after Kwefi died, I read 2 Kings 2, where Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha is left behind, facing the sudden loss of his friend and mentor. I easily imagined how Elisha might have cried out in grief like me, wondering why God had taken Elijah away. But unlike me he asked: “Where is the Lᴏʀᴅ, the God of Elijah?” (2:14a, NLT; emphasis mine).
God gently showed me that asking “why?” wasn’t what I should have focused on; I should have asked, “where?” This is the question God delights in answering. Modeling Elisha’s example, I changed my question. In my confusion, pain and loss, I simply asked: “God, where are you?”
God’s response came to me with the clarity and assurance only his Word can bring. I recalled Proverbs 18:24: “… There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (NIV). Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:20 provided me comfort: “And be sure of this: I am with you always” (NLT).
I began to remember verses like Isaiah 49:15-16, too: “Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands” (NLT).
God spoke to me in those promises, assuring me of his constant presence and closeness. But when I failed to ask God the right questions, I was met with dissatisfying answers that lead to misguided conclusions about who he was.
As you look at your present and toward your future, what questions are you asking God?
While we want to serve and obey Jesus, how often do we find ourselves asking questions that focus on us, rather than God? We ask him: “What will people think of me?” or “What if I fail?” or “Can God really use me?”
As believers, we understand God’s heart for the nations and his mandate to make his name known. We can ask questions like: “Lord, will you use my skills to make your name known and great among the nations?” If we dare to ask these kinds of questions, we will find that God answers.
The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Dare to ask, “What am I doing right now that requires faith and trust in God to accomplish his purposes?”
Keep asking and seeking God in your questions and his answers.
Is God stirring your heart to be part of his global mission? Wycliffe Bible Translators needs all kinds of people — teachers, managers, accountants, media technicians, computer specialists, linguists and translators, and so many more!
To “find God” is a phrase used by people in a variety of ways. Some people use the idea of “finding God” as a way to express they are becoming more spiritual or religious. Others use it in a more specific sense, meaning to come to faith in Jesus Christ as expressed in the Bible (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).
The Bible speaks of finding God in many places. In John 14:6, Jesus taught, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” He taught that the only way to “find God” was to believe in Him as the way, truth, and life.
In addition, Scripture explains that no one seeks God on his or her own. Psalm 14:2-3 reveals, “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” It is God’s sovereign work that causes a person to desire to find God. When they do, they discover that only through believing in Jesus as Lord can a person truly find God.
God rewards those who seek Him as well. Psalm 9:10 notes, “those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” Hebrews 11:6 teaches, “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
The apostle Paul observed to the people of Athens that God created humans so “they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). Every person has some kind of yearning or desire to seek God. Paul notes that He is not far away, but has revealed Himself through Jesus (Acts 17:31-32).
To “find God” a person does not need to accomplish a list of religious rules. Instead, a person finds God through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. This takes place by grace through faith, not of works so no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus is the only name by which a person can be saved (Acts 4:12) and find God, receiving forgiveness of sins, purpose and strength for this life (John 10:10), and eternal life in heaven.