I’m reading this book called We Want to See Jesus by Roy and Revel Hession. It’s one of those old little paper-backs with everything so richly worded and meaningful that, though it is this tiny sliver of a book, it is packed full of good stuff.
He’s talking about how, as followers of God we often look for ways to serve or ways to be better people above looking for God Himself. But that no matter how much we serve, if we are not seeking God first, our efforts will merely be selfish and prideful striving.
But how do we want God? My normal way is to have a few days a month when I am just longing for Him specifically. The rest of the time I either just want to want Him or it doesn’t even occur to me to want Him
CS Lewis, in The Problem of Pain said, “It is natural to wish that God designed for us a less glorious and arduous destiny… It is a burden of glory, not only beyond our deserts, but also, except in rare moments of grace, beyond our desiring.”
And then Hession says, “Left to themselves, men arrive at a false knowledge of God, a knowledge that only begets fear and bondage, and which repels men rather than draw them to Him.”
What do we do?…
When talking to His disciples before He was killed, Jesus said, “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Dear Philip responds, “Lord, show us the Father, and that is enough for us.”
It’s like Philip’s heart was nearly there. I almost hear Jesus give a short, ironic chuckle after Philip’s request. After all, it’s not an easy reality to grasp. The God of the universe is sitting in front of you. You love Him, you can reach out and touch Him… but is He the one who will fill up that groaning space of empty inside? Is He the one who will return color to its childhood vividness and music to its heart-stirring beauty? Is He the one who will right every wrong and wipe every tear?
Is Jesus the one?
I have heard people say a bit derisively, “If Jesus is the answer, what was the question?”
Beloved, you are the question. Your life is the question. The Christian religion will not save you or be the answer to your deepest longings. You might just want a better job or a nicer car or a more attractive body or a partner that will see and love you. But below all of those temporary longings is a more real, more important need. Many of the things we long for now will not last forever… whenever I go shopping, in fact, I will see things that I MUST HAVE and in order to figure out whether I should really buy the thing, I just carry it around the store while I do the rest of my shopping. Often by the time I get to the check-out, the urgent need has faded and I see the object for what it is. There are many things to be enjoyed in life, and we should enjoy them, but they cannot replace what we need most.
And to be frank, Christianity is not going to fill that deeper need. No set of principles or acts of service will get us to God. It is God that gets us to Him. He is not a static higher being to invoke in oaths or make wooden prayers to. He is living and present.
We had a staff conference a few months ago. One lady, sharing her heart, said that she had not wanted to come because she feared God would not show up. When she sat down, I got up and shared that I felt exactly the opposite. I had been afraid because I knew God would show up and I did not want to be seen by Him… afraid He would ask of me something I didn’t want to do.
I think that is really what lies between us and God most of the time. It is not His distance, because He is as near as an earnest search for Him.
It is between these two questions. Do we fear He will not show up, fear the in between? Or do we fear He will show up and not be what will make us feel good?
They are legitimate fears when we do not know His heart. They are even legitimate when we have known Him a long time and yet feel within us the desire to have our own way. But let’s be honest about the difference because while His goodness and holiness are frightening, His mercy and love are absolutely exactly what we need.