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In a comment on my posting, ‘Why Does God Hide,’ Judy (my wife, actually) remarked that, “you may have to ask, seek and knock for quite some time before the door opens because you have to be ready to receive and act when it does open.”
Most folk who have ever sought after God can think of times when they have cried out, “If you’re there, why don’t you show me? I’m here and I want to know!” And nothing has happened. Not once; not twice; not just for a few minutes: but sometimes for so long that you’ve forgotten that you ever asked.
Two of the stock answers to this question are, “Because you aren’t ready,” and, “Because you aren’t really sincere.” But those who asked will often respond, “You’ve no idea just how ready I was and how desperately I wanted to know.” And that’s true. People are most likely to cry out to God in moments of intense desperation; and may often do so with a fervency and readiness to change that goes far deeper than anything they have ever felt before. Yet God doesn’t always show up when we think He should. And it doesn’t seem fair. So why is it?
The key issues here are time, change and the nature of choice. In certain respects God and humans are very different. God is eternal: He has always existed and always will. We, on the other hand are just starting out on the path of becoming eternal (that is, if you believe in life after death: if not, we’re on an exceedingly short path from oblivion to oblivion). Our perception of time is based on what we have experienced of it so far. I well remember wondering as a child if I would ever get to be a grown-up, and being daunted at the thought of how long it would be until my next birthday. Now, at the age of 67, I’m shocked by the speed at which months, years and even decades seem to be slipping by. From His perspective, God must have a very relaxed attitude to time… (I started to go off into philosophical speculation as to the nature of time at this point: but quickly realised I was going too far off topic. Some other time, maybe.)
The next point is that the passage of time changes our perceptions and it changes us. When God looks at our lives, he sees our past, present and future as an entire process, by which we have matured from one tiny cell into the incredibly complex person who is now reading this message and onward into the future that is still unknown to us. We, on the other hand, live in the ‘now’ and, naturally speaking, have only our memories and our reasoning and predictive powers to guide us. I am not the person I was as a young teenager; nor am I yet the person I would like to be nor the person I could otherwise become (if I make the wrong choices, yielding to the wrong pressures in the future that I do not yet see). So when I say, “I’m ready,” “I’m sincere,” – even, “I love you,” – I’m really only saying, “… compared to the way I felt before and what I can foresee of what lies ahead.
This brings me to my third point, the nature of human choice. None of our choices are instantaneous affairs. Some reflex ‘choices,’ like ducking to avoid an object that’s about to hit you in the face, are so fast as to involve no real thinking time on our part. But most, even of our so-called ‘snap’ decisions, are not the result of a single moment’s thought so much as the tipping point of a long process of value system and judgement formation. Very few of our decisions take us instantly and irretrievably over a point of no return. In most cases we need to decide upon a course of action and then persist in that decision for a long enough period of time to bring about the desired change. Persisting in that decision changes both us and our circumstances; as also does not persisting or procrastinating.
I have often wished that, the day I gave my life to Jesus, it could have been the end of the matter. That from then on I would have had no further wish to ‘do my own thing’ rather than God’s, and no fear of what anyone might ever think of me or do to me because of that decision. But it isn’t like that. Even though that decision is the one really big decision of my life that, looking back, I have never once regretted, I am still challenged on a daily basis by the implications of following through on it. And I often fail. I am still learning to be more ready, willing and hungry for a closer relationship with God than ever before.
When we tell God we’re ready and we really want to know, we are speaking from our limited viewpoint. But God sees what our decisions will require from us – and how ready we really are – far more clearly than we do. He wants us to succeed: but He also knows that sometimes it is the experience of frustration and failure that will eventually drive us on to greater success. So, as Judy observed, you may indeed need to “ask, seek and knock for quite some time before the door opens;” because God knows, better than you do, what challenges you should to be ready to face when it does.
Passages to ponder: John 13:33-38&14:1-9, 21:15-19.
Page creation by Kevin King
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