Our perception of God drives our connection with him. View him as legalistic, and rules and fear of failing will consume us. View him as gracious, and we may take advantage and miss obedience. View him as distant, and we never discover intimacy. That principle of perception motivated a search lasting several years, attempting to determine how he can be personal and immediate and simultaneously present in every cubic centimeter of the universe. Was he just a spirit? A force? An expanded body that combined the physical and spiritual?
“God is spirit” proclaimed Jesus (John 4:24), and God himself proclaimed his omnipresence in all the universe with “Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?...Do I not fill heaven and earth?” (Jeremiah 23:24).
But how could he do that? Loosely used, what “form” would allow that? Being primarily rational and analytical, I thought that could be determined. Yet the more I tried to understand God’s nature the less I understood him, the further I felt from him.
So, preferring intimacy with God to an understanding of him, I abandoned that search.
I learned that faith, or more specifically the nature of God, contains mystery, a mystery we are no more capable of getting than an ant can get Einstein. The paradox is to accept mystery and simultaneously accept certainty.
Let’s not allow the mystery surrounding parts of God to cloud the certainty. God is real…and the evidence seems overwhelming. The order in and required for the universe. The accuracy of the Bible over millennia. The abundance of fulfilled prophecy. The transformed lives of his early followers, up to our day.
Some of his traits can easily be understood, and used as a template for dealing with the mystery. We see him acting in love, in sending his son to earth for us (John 3:16). We see him acting with forgiveness toward our faults (1 John 1:9). We see his involvement in the smallest details of life, even to sparrows (Matthew 10:29). We see him delegating true choice to us (Joshua 24:15). We see him trusting humans with carrying out his mission of sharing good news with all the world (Matthew 28:18-20). The list could go on.
But the lesson is critical for us. We do need to have an accurate perception of God, even though much is him remains a mystery to finite minds. My current default for following: rely on the clear and certain traits more than the mystery. Focusing on the unknowable mystery damaged my intimacy with God for several years—returning to the certainty restored the intimacy I missed. I pray you avoid the mistakes I made!
Kick Starting the Application
Have you experienced anything like the paradox I did—when striving to know God just pushes you further away? What issues did you deal with?
What are your perceptions of God? What are you certain about? What do you not understand? Is the latter something you can know?
What takes precedence in your life—intimacy with God or understanding him fully? Why? How can you develop a greater closeness to him in these areas of mystery?