“It’s impossible to please God without faith because the one who draws near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards people who try to find him.”
Hebrews 11:6 (Common English Bible)
The beginning of the matter is faith. Faith does not mean the absence of doubt. As Jesus spoke to his disciples for the last time, the Bible tells us that some of them doubted. Their doubt did not bother Jesus. What Jesus did was to command them how they were to live after he left them. Here, faith is the determination to live “as though it is true.” When two people make marriage vows to remain together “until death do they part” they are aware of the staggering divorce rates. They are aware of the possibility that their marriage may fail. Yet, they begin their life together on faith, the determination that they will remain together until death. Hebrews instructs that we begin the search for God “as though God does exist.”
Faith is not putting aside all doubt. It is determining to believe that God is there, just as we are present in the world. Faith is not putting aside all arguments against the existence of God but, rather, choosing to “accept as true” that God loves and understands and is interested in the smallest details of our life. A serious quest for God will put away all excuses for not beginning to seek God, excuses such as not having sufficient time to be alone with God each day, and sincerely strive to be in a personal relationship with someone as real and present as a spouse or dear friend. Faith is an acknowledgement that God is someone who is worth our worship, our love, our striving to learn from and a decision to follow.
Let the one looking for God then turn each day to a quiet place, a place free of the possibility of interruption and distraction. In silence, think of God as present. Perhaps make a mental picture of God standing directly in front of you or seated right beside you. If it helps, picture God as Jesus groomed as your favorite picture of Jesus, wearing the traditional dress of the Hebrew people of Jesus’ day. Some find sitting in a church before a stained-glass window of Jesus helpful, as do I. Imaginatively, look into tender eyes and see arms outstretched to embrace you. In that moment, confess how you have wronged others and God. Pour out your hurts, disappointments, and longings. Share with God your unmet needs.
Then, after the silence, accept the forgiveness of God, the forgiveness you have heard proclaimed from the pulpit, read in the Bible, or shared with you by those who believe in Jesus. Accept the forgiveness even if you find it difficult to believe that anyone can forgive you, even God. By faith, trust the promise that you are forgiven. Trust that God has taken all that you are ashamed of and removed it from you. As God has placed all of it behind you, now make a mental picture that your back is turned to it and you face forward with no guilt. In that new freedom – and in gratitude – resolve to learn from Jesus and to live as Jesus teaches us to live. Hebrews promises that God will reward you – promises that you will find God.