When I was a kid, there was a series of coffee table type books that were all the rage, the Magic Eye books. The books were full of large nonsense images that took up entire pages. Each image just looked like one giant collage of shapes and colors with no pattern or order. On the surface, they didn’t make any sense, but if you know how to look at them, you saw something completely different.
3D images were buried in those page-sized nonsense collages of colors and shapes. It took me years to learn how to see the hidden images, but once I figured it out, it was addictive. If you’ve seen one, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, go to the library and check a Magic Eye book out. Seriously. It’s totally worth it.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but those crazy Magic Eye books taught me a really important lesson about following Jesus.
Today’s verses are Jeremiah 29:10-14.
This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”
Many Christ-followers have heard the famous verse Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” They’re well known and used to comfort Christ-followers over and over again in times when we don’t understand what God is doing in our lives.
What many don’t know is the context. See, God spoke these words to His people just before He sent them into captivity, but He didn’t send them away without reminding them of His promises. God wanted to make sure they understood that even though life was hard (and it was going to get harder), He hadn’t forgotten them, and He hadn’t abandoned them. And if they were willing to look for Him, they would be able to find Him.
That’s a message our world needs right now, both Christ-followers and people who don’t believe.
There are points in my life when it felt like all I did was look for God. I read my Bible. I prayed. I talked to godly mentors. And it felt like I couldn’t find Him anywhere. At that point, I would turn to verses like these and question their validity. Because if the Bible says all I have to do to find God is to look for Him, it was a lie. Because I was looking, and I couldn’t see Him anywhere.
Ever had days like that? Where all you want is for God to just show up? You aren’t even asking for an audible voice, but you just need a sign, a hint, something to tell you that you aren’t alone. Ever considered that you might not know what you’re looking for?
We all have this image of God in our heads, and it’s shaped by different life experiences. And we all have this tendency to tell God how He needs to prove Himself to us. We do. Every does it. We ask God to show us a sign, and when He doesn’t hop to it and wave His arms around for us to see, we give up on Him.
You do realize that God doesn’t owe us anything, right? That’s a hard statement to swallow because–let’s be honest–we all think we’re something. Deep down inside, we think we’re pretty cool. And generally speaking, we’re right. But just because we’re pretty cool people doesn’t mean God is required to prove anything to us.
But He does it anyway. We just have to understand that it’s not what we’re looking for, it’s how we look for it.
Like those stupid Magic Eye puzzles, you have to look for God’s hand in a certain way. You can’t go looking for Him with a chip on your shoulder. You can’t approach Him like He owes you something. And you can’t seek Him with anything less than your whole heart. If you do, you won’t find Him.
God isn’t in the flash. I mean, He can be when He wants to be. He can be as big and flashy and ostentatious as He wants to be, but that’s not really His style. God is in the everyday. He’s in the sunrises and the sunsets that paint the sky a million shades of lavender. He’s in the taste of your morning coffee and the scent of your afternoon cup of tea. He’s in the quiet whisper of the autumn breeze through the leaves, and He’s in every connection you make with other people.
When you learn how to look for Him, you realize He’s not hard to find. He really is everywhere. So don’t convince yourself that He doesn’t care. Don’t tell yourself that He left you behind. And don’t keep asking Him for elaborate signs and wonders when you can marvel at who He is over your first cup of coffee in the morning.
Are you looking for God this morning? He’s right next to you. He’s just waiting for you to open your eyes and see who He actually is instead of who the world wants Him to be.