We all long for something more than what we can grasp with our five senses. Whenever I feel that things are not how they should be, or when I experience an inexplicable joy in nature that seems to point beyond itself, I’m somehow reaching for something that feels both real and yet intangible.
Have you experienced that? King Solomon seems to point to this longing when he said of God, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into their heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Deep within us is something that refuses to be satisfied with the temporary and often painful nature of life. Don’t we all want to experience ultimate joy and meaning? Don’t we all want to overcome our fears and anxieties? We might be distracted by temporary flashes of happiness and temporary escapes from worry, but even the fabulously wise and wealthy Solomon found that the negative feelings somehow manage to creep back in.
What if God truly does offer the absolute antidote to all our fears?
Maybe you’ve heard people suggest that the love of an all-powerful, all-knowing, just, compassionate, and eternal Creator is what we really long for. Some might find that too easy and “pat,” and others might find it too complicated or hard to believe. But what if God truly does offer the never-ending fulfillment of all our desires as well as the absolute antidote to all our fears?
If you are considering that possibility, you might be surprised to find that life is filled with clues telling you that God is real.
Clues to God
One of the most obvious clues is that tingling sense of yearning we sometimes experience. When we feel transported with wonder over art, music, beauty in nature, or some other transcendent experience, could that be a pointer toward the Artist behind all creation?
On the other hand, consider why most of us hate the thought of our mortality. To some, it seems like death somehow sucks the meaning from our lives. Others find it tragic when good things end, no matter how long they may have lasted. Maybe we are offended by death because we were meant for something or someone eternal, and anything less is painfully disappointing. And sometimes disappointments are the best clues of all. Disappointments reveal deep longings, and deep longings reveal deep needs.
Some people might dismiss spiritual needs, writing them off as psychological weakness. But if we are spiritual creatures, we’re going to have spiritual needs (just as being physical means we need air and food). Denial doesn’t make spiritual needs disappear—it just fools us into ignoring or misunderstanding them. If we deny that we need God, we start to look to people, things, and experiences to meet our spiritual needs—and sooner or later we are disappointed.
We’ve been looking for something right, only in the wrong place.
The good thing about disappointment is that it lets us know that we’ve been looking for something right, only in the wrong place. We set our hearts on careers, portfolios, relationships, or even simple comforts, and they don’t hold up. They get crushed under the weight of a need they were never meant to bear—a spiritual need.
Where Do We look?
The weird thing is, you can be looking for God without even knowing it (although knowing helps).
Think about Jacob’s story in the Torah. The dysfunction in Jacob’s family was not unusual. He was his mother’s favorite, while his brother was his father’s favorite. Perhaps that led Jacob to value his father’s approval above all things. He wanted the fatherly blessing (declaration of approval used when passing on favor and legacy), and he went against his better judgment by lying to get it.
Jacob didn’t see that the blessing he most needed was from God. So, when he had to flee from his brother’s rage, where did he look next for happiness and blessing? Not to God, but to Rachel. And in making Rachel his everything, Jacob allowed himself to be deceived and manipulated by her father. Jacob wasn’t wrong to want Isaac’s blessing, or to want Rachel for his wife. But neither could deliver what Jacob needed to satisfy his soul.
So it almost seems like Jacob is just drifting through life—until he ends up in a mysterious wrestling match with God (maybe it’s the battle he’s been avoiding all along). Finally realizing his true need, Jacob refuses to let God go until He gives him a blessing. And this is where the name “Israel” comes from. Once he wrestles with God, Jacob receives the ultimate blessing and is able to fulfill his destiny.
What are you wrestling with? If you could believe that God not only exists, but might actually love you and want you to know and love Him as well, what would you be willing to do to find out?
Looking for Love
Nothing brings joy or knocks out fear like love—especially if the object of your love knows everything about you and wants to be with you forever. Talk about the love of your life! And looking for God is like looking for the love of your life. Here’s why.
Looking for Love Isn’t Passive
Looking for God is like looking for the love of your life because you make the effort to search. You want it too much to risk doing nothing. Maybe you find an app, maybe you start frequenting places where you could meet someone … maybe you even listen to friends who want to set you up with someone they know. Each of those things has a potential parallel when it comes to efforts to find God. Think of Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
Love Affects Our Choices
Looking for God is like looking for the love of your life because it can change your life in ways you don’t expect and might not have chosen. Once you find love, certain decisions that used to be only yours will now be shared. Important decisions will no longer be based on what you and you alone desire or believe is best.
Opening their hearts and minds to God’s desires made them people of destiny.
That takes faith. Think of Abraham and Sarah, and all the decisions they might have made differently had God not been at the center of their lives. And yet opening their hearts and minds to God’s desires made them people of destiny.
As Love Grows, It Changes Us
Looking for God is like looking for the love of your life because if you’re like most people, you think you know exactly what you want when it comes to love … but later you discover that you only had the slightest inkling.
Sometimes people think they are looking for the love of their life when actually, they are looking for someone to make them feel a certain kind of way. Eventually they discover that those feelings come and go. The same is true about looking for God. God definitely will make us feel a certain kind of way, but it won’t be all the time—and there’s a whole lot more to the relationship than that.
Love Isn’t a Transaction
It’s not a bad thing to want God to do something for us. Looking for help with anxieties, healing for broken hearts, or to fill a spiritual void is often a first step to looking for God, and that’s great. But at some point, the search for God either becomes more than that, or it ends in disappointment.
Imagine if your family and friends were only interested in you for what you could do for them. No matter how glad you are to be able to help them, they aren’t really reciprocating your love. They won’t know and love the real you until they can see your value as far more than what you can do for them.
The same is true with God. You might start to know Him by how He meets your needs, but there is so much more. His love provides a missing piece that helps you to see your value, your potential, your destiny, in a whole new light. A relationship with God puts everything into perspective. So why wouldn’t you want to know Him? Maybe for the same reason that I haven’t always wanted to know Him.
Mixed Feelings Are Normal
Most of us deal with mixed feelings when it comes to God. We long for God and yet avoid God. It’s not hard to see why. If God is real, we’re not the self-sovereign people we’d like to think we are. It’s perfectly natural to long for the one who understands and cares for us as no one else can … yet we avoid God because we might not like what He has to say. Or maybe we fear that He won’t be happy about our choices.
If you feel drawn to God, it’s because He knows who you are and is calling you.
And yet the longing for God doesn’t go away. The good news is that God created us with that longing and can use it to overcome our fears of finding Him. If you are feeling drawn to God, it’s because He knows who you are, wants to heal you of any wrongs you’ve done, and is calling you to come and discover His amazing love for you.
As Messianic Jews, we believe that God has filled the world with clues to help us find Him—in the Bible, in nature, and in the lives of those who know him through the Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus). The clues are everywhere if we’re willing to see them.
What Are You Looking For?
Are you willing to consider that what you might be looking for is God?
Wherever you are in your journey, you can ask God to guide you. Some of my best prayers have begun, “God, if you’re there …” If you are willing to open your heart to that possibility, I think you’ll find that God welcomes those who don’t yet believe to wrestle with Him. Don’t be surprised when God wins the match … but I can tell you that when God won my heart, I won everything my heart longs for most.