Friday, August 26, 2011


When I talk about the power of “why”, I am really meaning the power of thinking.  Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck, in his bestseller, THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED AND BEYOND, states the following in his chapter called THINKING. “One of the major dilemmas we face both as individuals and as a society is simplistic thinking – or the failure to think at all. It isn’t just a problem, it is the problem.  Thinking is perhaps more urgent than anything else because it is the means by which we consider, decide, and act upon everything in our increasingly complex world…With the freedom that we have to think for ourselves, ultimately we must hold ourselves accountable for how and what we think and whether we are using our capacity for thinking to get the most out of life…many people show little interest in contemplation…they rarely stop to think about why they’re going where they’re going, where they really want to go, or how best to plot out and facilitate the journey…we must acknowledge that thinking well is a time-consuming process.  We can’t expect instant results.  We have to slow down a bit and take the time to contemplate, meditate, even pray.  It is the only route to a more meaningful and efficient existence.”
The Bible promotes thinking.  For example, “do not think more highly of yourself than you ought, but think so as to have sound judgment.” (Romans 12:3)  “Whatever is true…pure…good…think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)  “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)  I have learned that when I feel down or depressed, not necessarily clinically, but as a normal part of daily life, if I can change my thinking to positive and true thoughts, my depressed feelings leave and I feel on top again.  The Psalmist learned to change what he was thinking when he was down, and he found it to work. “Why are you in despair O my soul?  And why have you become disturbed within me?  Hope in God for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” (Psalm 42:5)  The practice of thinking in ways that the Bible promotes works to change our lives.

If we are to engage the power of thinking we often need a catalyst – something to get the thinking process started.  What often starts us thinking is questions.  We were created with curious and inquisitive natures.  As evidence of this we only need look at the curiosity in children.  They are busy getting into everything.  Parents are locking places they do not want them to get into, or putting dangerous or precious objects out of reach.  When children learn to talk, they can ask lots of questions, especially, the great question of a two year-old; “Why?” Consider also that many discoveries of scientists begin with questions, and those questions have led to better technology, better health, and solutions to many societal problems.  Philosophers can seem to us to be “way out there”, but philosophers are good people to have around because they are always asking questions; questions many people do not think to ask, questions that make us think more deeply about life.  

God and Jesus often approached people with questions to get them to think.  God asked Adam, “Where are you?”, and to Eve He asked, “What is this you have done?” (Genesis 3:9, 13)  Jesus asked people, “Who do you say that I am?”, or “What do you think about the Christ?” (Matthew 16:15; 22:42)  If Jesus told a story, he would sometimes ask, “What do you think?” (Matthew 21:28) God may ask “why” to get people to think about their lifestyle. (Haggai 1:9)  Questions are one way to motivate us to see more than we already see; to enable us think about our world and ourselves so that we can gain helpful knowledge, insights, and understanding.  We can have a lot of knowledge, but not always understanding.  Understanding has to do with what our knowledge means, or how to use it.  Understanding can be missing if we do not include God’s input, because only God’s input furthers our understanding of the most important questions about life. (Proverbs 1:29-33; 2:2-6; 28:5) 

I could have called this essay, the power of questions, but I have chosen to focus on the “why” question.  “Why” is powerful in many areas.  Knowing why things work as they do is what enables us to know how to fix things that become broken.  Our health problems can be adequately treated when we know why the problem is there. To ask why can yield some profound insights into life and into ourselves, insights that can lead to significant discovery and beneficial growth toward the kind of world and persons God created us to be.  The power of why comes to us when we ask why about many of the things we think or do.  Why did I say that?  Why did I just act like that?  Why am I so angry?  Why do I believe as I do?  There are many other questions of that sort, which can lead to life-changing insights, but answers do not always come easily.  It can be frustrating to ask why and then not be able to come up with an answer.  Often, we need to rely on others.  Especially, we need to welcome God’s input into the knowledge that we seek.  He reveals things we can learn from no other source.  (Psalm 139:1-3, 23-24; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1Corinthians 2:14)  I think people generally want to understand what life is all about.  They want to make sense out of what happens to them.  They want an explanation for things that concern them.  This becomes evident, especially when we experience bad and painful things that happen to us.  At those times we are quick to ask, “Why”?  We shall discuss that kind of “why” at the end of this essay. 

We need to be aware that why questions are often threatening to people.  When directed to our personal lives they can make us feel defensive, or like we want to avoid the issue.  It is like some who will not go to the doctor for fear of what they will find out.  They would rather not know, even die, than to face the emotional pain of dealing with ill news and all it may involve.  Or, it is like married persons who will not enter into a discussion about their marriage because it will likely bring up matters he or she does not want to talk about.  They fear having to face the turmoil that discussing upsetting issues may create.  Best leave things as they are, even though it may result in an unhappy marriage, or possibly the loss of the marriage.  Back to quoting Mr. Peck’s book, he says, “But why would someone choose not to think deeply?  Why would someone choose to think only simplistically, superficially, and reflexively?  The answer is…we have a preference for avoiding pain.  Thinking deeply is often more painful than thinking shallowly…”.  I think Mr. Peck has a valid point about some kinds of deeper thinking being painful.  The Bible makes the same observation. (Ecclesiastes 1:18)  Often, we do not like to face our thoughts, as they may remind us of failures, wrongs, unfulfilled dreams, or whatever.  Perhaps that is the reason some “why” questions are made light of, or ignored. (John 3:19-20)  But without such insight people may not be able to move past their crippled thoughts and behaviors; instead they could progress into deeper depression, anxiety, guilt, fear, or avoidance.  The fact is that self-assessment can produce helpful self-understanding which can improve our total mental, emotional, and physical well-being.  Answers to why questions about ourselves can reveal where we are, help us solidify why we believe and act as we do, and lead to new directions in living.  The Bible is very clear on the matter of doing occasional self-assessments.  As believers in Christ we are encouraged to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5)  We are also encouraged to examine and probe our ways, and if we are errant, we are encouraged to return to the ways of the Lord.  (Lamentations 3:40)  “Why” is a powerful tool for helpful self-discovery.

Actually, fears of self-discovery are unfounded if Jesus is allowed to enter the situation.  Having to deal with the why of things is good if it pushes us to realize our need for a savior who can rescue us from self-destructive patterns.  He answers many of our problems and needs.  He is the answer to our fears.  He often reassured his followers by saying, “Do not fear.” (Matthew 10:28, 31; Luke 5:10; 8:50; 12:32)  He is the answer to our guilt.  He said, “I have authority to forgive sins.” (Mark 2:10)  He is the answer to our doubts.  He said, “Believe me; if not, believe because of the works that I do. (John 14:10)  He is the answer to our emotional pain.  He said, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28-30)  Because we live in a world of evil, both within and without, Jesus does not promise a pain free life.  But Jesus does promise a way through and into a new existence of His making.  He gives us the hope we need to persevere in our trials because there is coming a day of restoration of all things to which we can look forward with joy. (Acts 3:19)  With His light we can face whatever the darkness.  He said, “I am the light of the world, the one who follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Let us examine a few of Jesus’ why questions and see what we can discover. There are many why questions that Jesus asks.  It would be interesting to think how we might answer them.  (1) Why are you afraid?  (Mark 4:40)  Fear is common to all of us.  The disciples of Jesus are caught in a life-threatening storm at sea and are letting their fears take over instead of facing the situation courageously.  In so doing, they are acting cowardly or timidly.  Jesus asks them, “why?”  After all, He is right there with them.  If they were to answer this question for themselves, they would come to see that they still lacked faith in Jesus because they have not yet fully understood who He is.  Like those disciples, we too often lack faith, but we can let our life-threatening situations become teachers of where we stand in our relationship with Jesus.  What knowledge and understanding do we have of Him and how can we grow to the point where we face our trials with the confidence that no matter what happens, with Jesus at our side, all will be okay?  It may take us awhile to trust and have confidence in Him so that our fears are dispelled, but to get there is our objective, and true faith in Him is the way to experience peace within.  (2) Why did you doubt? (Matthew 14:31)  At Peter’s request, he was commanded by Jesus to walk to Him on the stormy sea.  Peter was doing what Jesus said, but he took his eyes off Jesus, started to sink, and became afraid for his life.  Jesus rescued him, and then asked him why he doubted.  We too may doubt amidst things Jesus commands us to be doing.  They may not be working out, but we need to keep trusting Him.  If Jesus gives us something to do and promises a certain outcome, we have no good reason to doubt it.  Jesus also asked why doubt in Luke 24:38 when his followers did not believe that He actually rose bodily from the dead, and yet He had told them this would happen. (Luke 24:44-46)  Paul asked unbelieving people a similar question, “Why is it considered incredible among you if God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8)  What would your answer be?  If God has promised bodily resurrection, why would you doubt it?  (3) Why do you not understand what I am saying?  If I speak truth, why do you not believe me? (John 8:46)  In this conversation with unbelieving people, Jesus does not leave it to them to figure out the answer; He gives them the answer. They do not believe because they are not godly people and have no interest in hearing what he says.  I have experienced this many times in talking with people about spiritual things, it seems to go right over their heads, like their mind is elsewhere. (2Corinthians 4:4; 1 Corinthians 2:14)  (4) Why do you call me Lord and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)  Ouch!  This question requires some careful thinking on our part. Some people call Him Lord as an expression of their belief in the existence of a benevolent God.  Their belief includes praying to Him at certain times when they need Him to help them with a problem, but their belief in Jesus as Lord is not in their thinking.  Their relationship with God has nothing to do with knowing Him personally in such as way that they consider Him their Master, whose words they wish to obey and practice.  But, for believers who claim to know God personally, it is also a difficult question.  Jesus says that He wants us to learn to practice His teachings, and if we do, our lives will be able to withstand inevitable life-threatening events. (Matthew 28:20; 7:24-25)  There are times when we do not want to do something He says, or we come short in our attempts.  How do we handle our failures?  Rather than feel guilty and fall away, or drop out and disappear because we don’t want to face people who may have been counting on us, it’s best to confess our lapse and simply get back on track.  It might be helpful to honestly attempt to answer this question for ourselves to see exactly where we stand in our relationship with Christ as Lord.  Maybe we have never settled the question of His Lordship and we only commit when it is convenient.  (5) "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)  This question is about judging other people.  We do need to make judgments about people in order to make proper decisions about our relationships with them; what to participate in and what to avoid.  But the judgments here being questioned are about putting people down and demeaning their worth as individuals who are created in the image of God.  There may be many reasons why we see others’ faults without seeing our own and it would be well worth the effort to think about it.  (6) Why do you seek to kill me? (John 7:19)  The persons to whom Jesus addressed this question thought he was crazy.  “Who is seeking to kill you”, they asked.  People do not outright confess to wanting to kill Jesus, yet in their beliefs and ways of living, they would be rid of Jesus rather than to submit to His commands.  For example, many people seek to eliminate Jesus as the God to whom they must answer for how they live their lives.  If you are one who does not follow Jesus, what are your true reasons?  (7) In light of Jesus words, “Why do you call me good, no one is good but God alone”, (Mark 10:18) here are two fun questions for you to think about and try to figure out:  Do you consider yourself a good person? If so, why?  Secondly, why can you do good things if no one is good but God?
We are now ready to discuss that other kind of why we mentioned earlier, the kind we have when things go very badly.  When Jesus was suffering execution on a Roman cross he cried out to God, “Why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)  It is a common human cry by most people who suffer traumatic loss.  Somehow, we humans have a belief that life is supposed to work out for good.  We get attached to people we love and when we lose them in untimely manners - by accident, murder, natural catastrophe, or whatever; we feel deep emotional pain that causes us to complain to God with an outcry of “why”.  Our search for a satisfactory answer is elusive; we hear nothing in response, only silence.  “Why’s” in these situations are mostly screams of frustration, pain, or anger.  In many cases we expected our prayers for protection or healing to be answered, but they were not.  My friends and I prayed for a baby with leukemia to be spared, but the baby died.  Many years ago five missionaries were killed by people they tried to love.  Their families knew these efforts were dangerous and they prayed for God to protect them, but it was not to be.  When we experience such loss, how do we keep faith in God; how can we continue believing in goodness?  I remember a concept I learned from Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of one of those five missionaries, in her reflections titled, “On asking God Why”.  She struggled with “why” when her husband was killed.  Eventually, she concluded that there is no answer from God as to why He allows evils to prevail over good, but she did come forth with a mature conclusion in the face of her tragedy.  There is only one safe place to be; it is the place where Jesus was when he suffered his own cruel death; loving God and faithfully doing His will.  John the apostle said it in one of his letters to believers.  He said, “the world is passing away…faith is the victory…and those who do the will of God will abide forever.” (1 John 5:4; 2:17)  Jesus lived in an evil world and it seemed that any good done in this world would never prevail.  But by his example of committing his life to God, and doing God’s good will, day in and day out, he was in the safest place he could be, for God always rewards those who do His will, whether in this life or the next.  To this day, Jesus is still reaping the joyful benefits of his voluntary sufferings – and so shall we if we remain faithful to the end. (Revelation 2:10-11, 26-28; Matthew 24:13)  But to give up on a lifestyle of faithful love and obedience to God in doing good would only result in evil being the victor instead of faith and goodness.  In other words, doing God’s will is the safest place to be, even in a world of uncertainty and evil, a world that makes no sense to us.  Maintaining such an attitude and way of life in the midst of evils is a result of having hope in God’s promises; knowing that such hope will never disappoint us.  To live with hope in goodness winning out is to be able to persevere the why’s of painful tragedies. 
The power of why – try asking why more often and following it to its often surprising destinations.


In the movie, “The Lord of the Rings”, there is a creature named Gollum.  Gollum has become wretched, degenerated, a vile and hideous person who got to be that way because of his prolonged contact with evil.  Frodo, another character in the film, now has the task of destroying the evil that is destroying Gollum, but by his contact with this evil, it is now destroying him.  Frodo is good to Gollum, but Frodo’s friend, Sam, wants to see Gollum destroyed.  Sam asks Frodo why he takes pity on Gollum and wants to save this miserable creature. Frodo answers, “Because I have to believe he can come back.”  Frodo has to believe this because he sees the same corruption in himself that is in Gollum, and he needs to know that in the end he can be saved from evil’s effects.  Evil has damaged all of us to some greater or lesser extent and God is the only person who can bring us back and restore us to goodness.  God knows the way out better than anyone and He has the power to make it happen.  Whatever goodness we may have in ourselves is never enough to overcome our evils; without nearness to God, evil wins. 

I can think of two primary motivations for a person wanting to be close to God.  The first is simply to enjoy being with the One who loves you more than anyone has ever loved you.  Being loved draws a person to desire deeper intimacy with that One.  A heart that wants to be with God simply for who He is, rather than for what He can give, is expressed by the Psalmist:  “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And besides you, I desire nothing on earth.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from you will perish…But as for me, the nearness of God is my good.” (Psalm 73:25-28)  This kind of desire for fellowship with God leads to the fulfillment of the second motivation, namely, to gain the benefits and life-saving helps that He grants through such a relationship.  Indeed, the Bible tells us to “draw near to God with confidence so that we may receive mercy and grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)  Drawing near to God gives us the power to overcome whatever we fear, even the loss of our life or existence, and it gives us power over whatever is threatening the good purposes of God for our lives.  Frodo, in the “Lord of the Rings” could not have gained victory over evil without his relationship with the Christ-figure of the movie, as well as with the other resources that issued from that relationship.  Unfortunately, many people want to put the benefits they receive from God as the primary reason for having God in their lives.  It is true that we need God for His blessings, the first blessing needed being His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), but it is wonderfully and astoundingly true that God Himself desires a close relationship with you and me. (John 17:3)  

The Bible says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)  In the beginning God walked with the first man and woman in their garden.  They were familiar with His presence. (Genesis 3:8) They were able to participate together in conversation. (Genesis 3:9)  I am reminded of a famous hymn of the church written by C. Austin Miles entitled, “In the Garden”.  The three verses begin this way:  “I come to the garden alone…He speaks and the sound of His voice is so sweet…I’d stay in the garden with Him…”  The chorus says, “And He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”   Even though we may have become right with God through repentance and faith, only if there is a hunger in our heart to be with Him, will we have a tendency to draw near to God. (Mark 6:30-31)

That God wants us to be close is expressed by Jesus, whose name “Immanuel” means “God with us”.  (Matthew 1:23)  As victor over evil, He offers to meet with us and help us to overcome. (Revelation 2:7)  But, overcome what?  A phrase I learned from some of my recovering alcoholic friends is, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”  Are you tired of the negative trends in your life?  Are you tired of bothersome thoughts that plague your mind?  Are you tired of being on the go and feeling rushed much of the time?  Are you tired of busyness that offers little satisfaction or meaning?  Are you tired of having to be responsible for everything?  Are you tired of dealing with problems and troublesome situations that never go away?  Is it a tiredness that makes you feel like you will explode, or go crazy?  Are you at a point where you feel an urge to want to run away and escape from it all?  From where do quiet, peace, and relief come when we know that running away is not an option?  From where does strength come to responsibly handle life’s stresses so we can move on to life’s enjoyments?  Surely, our strength comes from God’s offer, “draw near to me and I will draw near to you”? (James 4:8)  Many tired and hurting people have yet to understand and experience the gracious invitations of Jesus, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  And another: “I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door; I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)  The ever-living and life-giving Jesus gives us the opportunity to sit down with him and feed on that which nourishes and strengthens us.  What we talk about together, and what we receive from Him, is what enables us to overcome the conditions that are threatening our undoing.  Christ-followers will never be free from the suffering and pain of this world because this world in not home to us, but we can find a place of peacefulness and comfort that gives us what we need to endure and overcome.  That place is time spent drawing near to God.  Is not this what Jesus invites us to do?  Can you feel a desire for Him?

It takes time to meet together with someone.  We need to decide on a time and place and meet as often as we can.  In Richard Boyd Munger’s booklet, “My Heart - Christ’s Home”, he portrays our relationship with Christ as one in which we have invited Him into our home and He now lives within us and has free reign to visit all the rooms.  Mr. Munger writes that one day he was hurrying past the living room and noticed Jesus sitting by the fireplace.  Suddenly the thought occurred to him, “He is my guest.  I invited him into my heart!  He has come as my savior and friend to live with me.  Yet, here I am neglecting him.  I stopped, turned, and with downcast glance I said, ‘Master, I’m sorry.  Have you been here every day?’  ‘Yes’, he said, ‘I told you I would be here to meet with you.  The trouble is that you have been thinking of our meeting as a time for yourself - for personal Bible study, prayer and spiritual growth.  This is true, but you have forgotten that this time also means something to me.  Remember, I love you…Whether or not you want to be with me, I want to be with you.’” Jesus wants our fellowship; he wants to be with us. (1 John 1:1-4)  What are the ways that we can draw near to God?   There are many, and each of us must discover the ways that work best for us and enrich us the most. 

One good way of drawing near to God is through meditation in the Spirit.  Even though meditation was a common practice of people we read about in the Bible, it is often misunderstood by many modern-day followers of Christ.  Some are quick to identify meditation with Eastern mystical religions or with new age cults; therefore, it is to be avoided.  Such cautions are well-advised and need to be seriously considered, but we also need to understand the differences between those forms of meditation and the form of meditation that Scripture promotes.  Scriptural meditation is entering a quiet place where we can focus on God’s revealed words and hear Him speaking to the deepest parts of our heart. (Hebrews 4:12-13)  Meditation involves reflection, thinking, analyzing, imagining, digesting, pondering, and reviewing words or concepts of God’s word over and over in our minds and hearts. (Psalm 119:15, 23, 48, 97, 148)  Some liken meditation to a cow chewing her cud – bringing up previously digest food and chewing on it some more to get every bit of nourishment possible.  Others liken meditation to mining– digging deeper to find those valuable gems that cannot be discovered on the surface.  A helpful way to meditate is to ask God questions about His words you are contemplating.  For example, What does this word mean?  Why are you saying this in this context?  What do you want me to do about this in my life?  Listen for answers from His Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:12)  It helps me to stay focused in meditation if I write God’s words in a notebook, write the questions that come to me about those words, and then write any answers God’s Spirit may give.  Apart from journaling, others may use their God-given imaginations to visualize Biblical stories and teachings, and they are best able to meditate using that method.  Once again, each needs to find what works best.  Meditation is not just for the purpose of seeing things, but it leads us to various responses to God – maybe a praise or thanks, an emotional sensing of God’s love, sharing what God showed me with others, a prayer for help, or a resolve to obey something God has pointed out to me.  Sometimes our emotions may be touched in such a way that a rare moment with God, or a healing, takes place.  Following are some of the verses in the Bible about experiences and benefits received by persons practicing meditation.  For example, Joshua meditates day and night on God’s word, so as to do what it says, with the promise of a prosperous life. (Joshua 1:8)  Meditation yields a life of Godly fruitfulness. (Psalm 1:2-3)  Meditation is a practice that pleases God. (Psalm 19:14; 104:34)  We receive wisdom and understanding and insight from meditation. (Psalm 49:3; 119:99)  A New Testament command suggesting meditation is to “let the word of Christ richly dwell within you.” (Colossians 3:16)  Another is to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)
One hindrance to drawing near to God is an inability to enter quietness.  We must be able to rid ourselves of all the noises around us, both within and without, because they drown out God’s life-giving voice.  Elijah’s experience during his time of depression is interesting in this regard. (1 Kings 19:9-18)  Elijah did not hear God in the strong destructive wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire.  He heard the voice of God in a soft, mild, gentle and rustling tone.  I have seen lakes in the quiet of the evening when they were as smooth as glass.  The image of the moon shining on the lake is clear and undisturbed.  But if the lake is disturbed by ripples, the clear image of the light is interrupted.  I read somewhere that, “God’s thoughts cannot get through to a restless soul.” 

Another way to draw near to God is through prayer.  Although meditation is a form of prayer, I have a particular, very short kind of prayer in mind that is especially rewarding.  It consists of only a few words that can put us in touch with God in an instant, at any time, any place, and under any circumstances.  The words come from a personal need and from the Scriptures and they bring us into an immediate awareness of God for experiencing immediate help.  For example, a person often troubled by inner fears and unwanted anxieties might think this thought at the very moment the fear strikes, “Do not fear, I am with you.” (Isaiah 41:10)  Or, someone who senses a temptation and does not want to yield to it may in that instant pray, “Deliver me from evil.” (Matthew 6:13)  Whenever I become aware of an unusual and health-threatening bodily condition, rather than let panic overwhelm me, I have learned to be calmed and refocused by, “The Lord is my healer.” (Exodus 15:26)  Or, suppose you have difficulty loving someone when you come into contact with them; pray, “Lord, help me love as you loved me.” (1 John 4:19)  Find your own words from Scripture that apply to any problem you struggle with.  You may discover that you have to repeat your prayer a number of times in a given situation before God’s Spirit calms you or enables you to act as He wants.  This is not the vain repetition Jesus warned against (Matthew 6:7), but prayers that produce a closeness to God, a growing confidence and trust in Him, and help from His Spirit that enables you to experience inner life change, outward obedience, and victory over evil.  It is a way to instantly draw near to God in the time of your need, and there find grace to help.  The more often you use your prayer, and think about the words, and thank God for what it means, the nearer to God you will be and feel.

Besides meditation and prayer, there are other ways we can draw near to God.  We can master the way of Brother Lawrence by practicing the conscious presence of God in whatever we happen to be doing throughout our day.  We can also be drawn to God through nature.  Job came to a great self-revelation and knowledge of God through nature’s clues. (Job 38-41; 42:1-6)  Perhaps a reason some prefer to meet God out in nature is because there is less distracting noise to blot out His voice, and His grandeur is visible before us.

Here is another hindrance that prevents us from being able to experience God’s nearness.  There was a period of five years in my life when every time I tried to get near to God, I could not.  During that time my spirit was not allowed to intimately connect with God’s Spirit because every time I approached Him, He would remind me of a matter from my past that He wanted me to correct.  Although I still had a relationship with Him, I felt Him shutting me out of a close one, until I took care of the matter.  I eventually came to the point of writing a letter to confess my wrong and ask forgiveness.  As soon as the letter was in the mail, I felt a tremendous weight lifted, and God, being pleased, once again allowed me into His intimate presence.  Our relationship had been strained and I never want to lose that closeness again.  I always looked at that event as His test to see whether or not I would obey what He wanted me to do.  It took a long time to pass the test, but thankfully, by God’s patient and loving endurance, I eventually realized my relationship with God was more important to me than anything that stood in the way.  I am reminded of an Old Testament story about the prophet Azariah who brought to the Judean King, Asa, a message from God.  The message said, “The Lord is with you when you are with Him.  And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” (2 Chronicles 15:2)  I also can relate to the New Testament words of Jesus, “If you are presenting your offering at the altar, (in my case presenting myself to God), and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (Matthew 5:23-24)  In James 4:7-10, we learn what is needed to draw near to God.  We must be in humble submission to God, recognize our need for Him, and mourn over any double-mindedness that prevents a pure heart toward God; a purity of heart that is needed to resist the devil’s temptations and be affirmed by God. 

To know someone and to be known by someone is one of our inherent and deepest needs and desires.  That is why we seek real friends.  That is why we marry.  The Bible states, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)  We know from experience that when we are with someone a lot, something of their thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors rubs off on us so that we are changed.  When we are with God, His nature and words begin to rub off on us and we are changed, ever so slowly, from one degree of improvement to another. (2 Corinthians 3:18)  Jesus clearly implied that there are some things in this world worth having that far outweigh anything else. (Matthew 13:44-46)  Nearness to God and what we receive from it is one of those treasures.  It seems more often true than not, that we give time and energy to every facet of our lives, except the one thing most important, fellowship with the One who gives life and meaning to our existence.

Is God the center of our being to the extent that, if all else around us is shaken, we would remain unshaken? (Hebrews 12:26-28; Habakkuk 3:17-19)  Is He enough?  That is how we need to know Him.  Of course, God’s plan is not for us to have nothing but Him, like some religions imply when they intimate that our life’s goal is to become like a drop of water that loses its individuality in a vast ocean.  This is not God’s intent for His creation. (2 Peter 3:13) He created us to exist in an environment of other created objects, and therefore, our completeness is wrapped up in a satisfying relationship, not only with God, but with all of nature, including other people.  If however, our relationship with God is missing, or eschewed, we will learn that nothing else, not money, not fame, not power, not human relationships, not work; nothing else will bring us fulfillment.  

How can we grow closer to God?  He promised to never leave or forsake us and to be with us always. (Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20)  We have opportunity, if we are willing it to be so, to meet with God at a designated place in our home, or wherever we choose, as often as we can get away.  And, I can also meet with Him in the depths of my heart, at any time, day or night.  These become our special places.  Whenever I go there I sense God’s presence and it becomes a place where I long to be.  Sometimes, it feels like we can hardly wait to get there.