Asking God for a sign

starrynight Asking God for a sign
This post was originally published on August 11, 2006.

I was reading author and former atheist John C. Wright’s fascinating conversion story the other day, and something he said brought back an intense memory from this time of year back in 2005. He wrote:

A friend of mine asked me what evidence, if any, would be sufficient to convince me that the supernatural existed. This question stumped me. My philosophy at the time excluded the contemplation of the supernatural axiomatically: by definition (my definition) even the word “super-natural” was a contradiction in terms. Logic then said that, if my conclusions were definitional, they were circular. I was assuming the conclusion of the subject matter in dispute.

A couple days after I started this blog I went on vacation to the beautiful Ruidoso, New Mexico. The subject of God was very much on my mind. For the first time in my life I was open to the idea that God might exist — or, at least, trying to be open to the idea — but I felt lost and confused and didn’t know where to turn.

I was becoming increasingly dejected that I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere spiritually. I didn’t feel God’s presence, I wasn’t basking in the warm feelings of Jesus’ love for me. I didn’t feel…anything. And it didn’t seem like I ever would.

The second night we were there I couldn’t sleep. I was tossing and turning, the question of God weighing too heavily on my mind for me to sleep. I was depressed about some other things going on in my life and felt particularly low and hopeless. I felt like I was hitting a spiritual rock bottom, so I begged God to help me.

I begged him for a sign to let me know he exists.

I felt so bad I started crying and, not wanting to wake my husband, around three o’clock in the morning I decided to get out of bed and go sit on the balcony. Our room boasted a spectacular view of the Southern Rocky Mountains, looking out at two huge peaks. When I stepped outside I was stunned to see a storm raging silently between the two mountains. The only sound was the rustling of a mild breeze as the lightning flashed brilliantly to illuminate the great cloud, probably a hundred miles away. It must have been 60,000 feet tall with raging winds, battering the ground below with rain or hail; and yet it seemed like it was framed neatly there between the two mountains just for my amusement. An artist wouldn’t have painted it as such because it would seem too contrived.

The rest of the sky was completely clear, and packed with stars. Just as I looked up to try to pick out some constellations, a large meteor sparkled across the sky. Then another. I saw probably eight in total that night, many of them large with long, dazzling trails. It was breathtaking.

It was the middle of the night and the grounds below were still, the hotel silent. I was probably the only person watching this display.

“Well,” I smirked to myself, “be careful what you wish for.” I had asked for a sign, and this was about as “sign-ish” as it gets. What more did I want? Yet I wasn’t convinced. Even as my heart raced upon witnessing the grandeur before me I wrote it off as just a storm and an unexpected meteor shower. I refused to believe that there was anything more to this than a random cumulonimbus and some dust entering the earth’s atmosphere.

I realized then that there was no sign that God could give me.

If this wouldn’t suffice, nothing would. I wasn’t open to it. Had I walked out on the balcony to see “HI JENNIFER, IT’S ME, GOD!” written across the sky I would have been impressed but ultimately written it off as a practical joke. If Jesus himself materialized to shake my hand and greet me I’d write it off as a hallucination. Because, in my mind, there was a natural explanation for everything, so therefore anything supernatural was impossible.

I arrogantly assumed that because I knew how something worked that God couldn’t be involved. I watched the storm and thought, “That’s not God, that’s just condensation!” And the tightness in my chest and tears welling up in my eyes? “That’s not my ‘soul’ yearning for anything, that’s just chemical reactions in my brain!”

This was another major turning point for me. I realized that night that I wasn’t going to see God if I was determined not to.

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Enter the Conversation...

29 Responses to “Asking God for a sign”
  1. MaryLouise says:

    You said "I realized that night that I wasn't going to see God if I was determined not to." and as you found out your statement was true. Being open to the possibility, allow God to enter your life in a big way.
    I (and many others, I'm sure) and glad you did, what a blessing you are, and oh, so many blessings you give to us. Thanks.

    I want to add, on the "I don't 'feel' anything" ,
    people who insist they must 'feel' it, something, …. also, shut God out.
    Trust

  2. Bethany Hudson says:

    That is SUCH a beautiful story! I am so convinced that God is doing incredible things through your ministry of writing. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing so vulnerably.

  3. Elizabeth Mahlou says:

    How interesting that your blog coincides with one that Fr. John just put out on Catholic Spiritual Direction. (Do you know his blog?) He talked about "believing is seeing," i.e. starting first with believing, after which it is possible to see. Here is the URL to that posting: http://rcspiritualdirection.blogspot.com/2009/08/29-believing-leads-to-seeing-mt-927-35.html.

  4. Amy says:

    This is such a good point. As with any relationship, you get out of it what you put into it. My husband and I are both Christians, and he struggles so much at times with his doubt. He ultimately wishes Jesus would interact personally with him in a way that makes sense to him. In his words, "if God is so personal, why doesn't He talk with me in person?". He'll say that he's never seen his prayers answered. I find it very hard to try to convince him otherwise. It totally depends on your perspective! If you choose explain things away, you will never see what God is doing in your life. It wouldn't surprise me if there's spiritual warfare involved with our doubts. I'm sure this is one of the Enemy's favorite tricks, because it is so effective.

    Thank you for helping me remember that we won't see God if we have our eyes closed, and if we want answers, we have to be listening.

  5. Nadja Magdalena says:

    Oh, Jennifer–this sounds so much like my own early experiences. It is hard to come to faith from a totally irreligious background. I spent the early part of my conversion begging God to let me know that He loved me when His steadfast pursuit of me over many years ought to have been proof enough. I would approach Him and then go off and do something totally stupid and unforgivably sinful, and yet He continued to hold our His hands to me.

    It took a few years before my prayer went from, "Lord, let me feel your love of me" to "Lord, grant that I may always love you, and then do with me what You will."

  6. Johanna Holmes says:

    Beautiful, Jen. Just beautiful.

  7. Amy says:

    Your posts have been freakily (yes I know that's not a word) spot on for me of late. I was going to leave a comment here, but I think what I'm wanting to say feels more like a blog post. It should be up sometime today at my other blog, ego sum via

  8. Christine says:

    Thanks for the congrats!! Surprised me!

    Your blog is the best and inspires me so.

  9. Amy says:

    okay, here it is–

    seeing what we want to see

    thanks for this "rerun"–I needed to see it.

  10. Karyn says:

    I'm in the place that you have described in this post. Thank you so much for opening something up for me.

  11. Karyn says:

    I'm in the place you describe in your post. Thank you for helping me move a step forward.

  12. Kelly says:

    When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

    So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

    He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

    Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

    Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven."

    (Mt. 16:13-17)

    I grew up in church. I was "saved" at a young age. And I know some 20 years after my "prayer" that my faith, such as it is on any given day, is not of myself; it is the gift of God. (Eph. 2:8-9)

    How amazing it is that He should reveal Himself to any of us…

  13. Jen says:

    Lovely post. Thank you.

  14. e2 says:

    I love this ol' post. So true how the will plays the biggest part in our journey to God. This is itself a little "sign" for me–I'm trying to come up with a talk about the supernatural/immaterial for a group of atheist neuroscientists. Thanks for the reminder!
    Many blessings to you as you seek Him.

  15. Scott Johnston says:

    A key step toward the start of my own conversion process (from agnostic to Catholic), was my firm conviction of the reality of human free will, and of just how great and important this is.

    I knew that if God were real, He would not create mankind only to give us an illusion of freedom. If our life was to truly have the dignity of authentic personhood, I realized that the gift of faith must be given in such a way as to preserve our freedom. Otherwise, faith would mean wiping out our humanity, making us automatons, creatures who were merely deluded into thinking we were free.

    And for adults this freedom comes with a price. We are able to doubt God, to resist Him, to close Him out. Because we can do this, we can likewise have the awesome dignity of truly taking part in embracing His love.

  16. Alexis @ tobebeautiful says:

    Wow, here I was thinking I am the only person that constantly asks God to "show me a sign"! Thank you for this post.

    I have found in my journey that even though God doesn't "show us" how we imagine, evidence of Him is all around us. We just have to look for it.

    Thanks for being vulnerable. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who has cried because God isn't "showing" me He's real.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Your story, as you tell it, is always so brutally honest. You are pretty amazing and I am sure God wants you to be with Him always.

  18. Flexo says:

    what evidence, if any, would be sufficient to convince me that the supernatural existed.

    Of course, if you are talking religion, a good many folks will automatically reject the idea and insist that they believe only in science.

    And yet, if you are talking about science, a great many people in the science realm have accepted theories regarding the existence of a reality beyond the known physical universe.

    What makes many of those same people unscientific, of course, is their automatic rejection of the possibility of any connection between the two, that the two are actually two ways of thinking of the same thing.

  19. thegypsymama says:

    For me, it was the moment my firstborn was placed on my chest, turned his as-yet-unopened eyes in the direction of my voice and stopped crying. Co-creating life with God. Breathtaking.

  20. Maria Lúcia says:

    The signs of God are important. We feel them in many occasions of our life.
    God bless you!

  21. monica_divineoffice.org says:

    Amy said:"It totally depends on your perspective!" I couldn't agree more!

    We also are dependent on what we see, hear, can tough, smell, so it's easy to believe in this things and it's also easy to reject anything else, and call it "supernatural".

    Liturgy of the Hours

  22. Joseph LeMaistre says:

    Uhhh…even if I weren't ready to see an elephant, I would see one that were placed before me. That is a characteristic of things and people that actually exist; and note that the notional God is bigger and more present than an elephant….

    You might at that point argue that we know of the existence of some things by their effects; I would simply argue theodicy at this point, saying that this does not look like a universe containing the sort of God I believe you hold to exist—I am aware of probably most of the hems and haws and epicycles used to explain this, and have never found any of them convincing in the slightest…for example, if by the intercession of the Holy Spirit Mary was born free of the taint of Original Sin, why not everyone else? Why must anyone be given at least the chance of not being damned from the moment of conception (or of quickening, in more Traditional times)?

  23. Mia J says:

    I found your blog after I typed in the same title. I didn't ready the whole blog – maybe my question is answered somewhere.
    I was born and raised a catholic. I still am. In my Catholic world there's no way I can ask God for a sign. There are so many Saints between me and him. That's the mentality I had and…have(sort of).

    A couple of years ago I joined this company and a colleague asked me why I wasn't married. I told her I didn't find the right person. She asked me how I'd know if the right person comes. I paused. Then she asked if I've asked God for a sign. That was foreign to me. I asked her how can I ask God things like that. She told me I could. Working with her I saw so many things happen in her life and she got her confirmation from God by asking for signs. I was so amazed. Then I asked for a sign regarding the right person for me.

    My sign a certain weird color. If the guy gives me anything in that color then it's him. I started seeing this guy and was waiting for the sign. So we are in a car in Georgetown (DC) waiting for the traffic light, and out of the blue he said "if I had money, I'd buy you this" I turned and saw two items on the window. One of them was my sign color. I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. I asked him which one and then he chose the wrong one. So he is history now.

    Then there was this homeless guy whom I helped a while ago. I do translations (in hospitals) and I gave him my number in case he needed help. He'd call me every now and then to tell me his progress. Then one day he wanted me to show him how to use the computer(internet). I told him I was glad to help me and took him to a public library. He told me he had a little gift for me and brought out a small thing wrapped in one of those gift tissue papers – the exact color of my sign. And what he gave me was an address book which I was thinking of buying. I was in SHOCK. I was so overwhelmed by the thought that God the almighty could hear me…me a dust, me a nothing, and a sinner at that. I called my friend in panic (the only person I told about my sign story only few days ago.)One of the first things that I said was"omg there is God" and she said of course there is.

    I don't know what this means.

    I'm not remotely attracted to the homeless guy. I don't even think of him that way. I don't think about him PERIOD. I saw him after a year and didn't even recognize him at first.

    When my colleague told me about asking God for a sign I was very skeptical and thought she was nuts. Then when I saw her experiences I was like "hmmm.." then I said "ok God this is my sign" – I don't think I was sincere when I asked for the sign. I kind of gave God a challenge, I think.

    Now good people…please help me. I'm sure all of you have good personal relationship with God and know what this means or how it works.

    Does this mean he is the one? Do I have to marry him? What will happen to me if I don't? Am I disobeying God?

    In my Catholic world this "sign" thing is not practiced. I didn't know about it until my colleague told me and she was a Catholic and is born again christian now.

    What does this mean?
    I had listed down so many traits and said and the one who gives me anything in the weird color is the one.

    Please help me.

    And to those who are skeptical, God the almighty listens everything. I am a testimony to that.

  24. Elizabeth Mahlou says:

    Dear Mia,

    I see that no one has responded to you and you did not leave an email address. Perhaps Jen will weigh in on this. What I would tell you is that there may be signs; I know a lot of Catholics who believe in them. I think God guides us in many different ways. One might call that guidance signs, but, for me, signs has never been a part of it. I have been fortunate enough to have more obvious guidance (perhaps God knows how oblivious I am to most things around me and just strikes hard because that is the only way to get my attention). I do know there is somewhere in the New Testament where Jesus is asked for a sign, and he refuses to give it. I don't know whether or not that has wider application. I do know that there are in this life pure coincidences that have nothing to do with God's guidance. I would not marry someone I was not attracted to because he HAPPENED to give you something you were going to buy in a color you had arbitrarily chosen. I would think part of any "sign" of God's guidance would be your heart being inclined to love that guy. That does not sound like it is the case.

    My very strong advice to you is not to seek your spiritual guidance from bloggers, as experienced as some may be. You need to find yourself a spiritual director who can help you with these very serious questions. Your priest may be able to perform that function for you, or your diocese may have a list of spiritual directors. (It sounds like your friend[s) need a spiritual director, too.) Spiritual directors are trained to answer the questions you are asking and to help you discern where God may be leading you.

  25. Elizabeth Mahlou says:

    Dear Mia,

    I cannot believe what I am about to share, but actually I CAN believe it because it happens to me all the time. After responding to your post, I went to daily mass where the gospel reading was the passage I referred to. Now I can give you the references: Luke 11: 29-32. After mass, I read through the daily blogs that I follow, and Fr. John Sullivan, a priest from Massachusetts who posts thoughtful daily homilies has a homily on the topic. Here is the URL to his homily: http://frjohnl.blogspot.com/2009/10/this-generation-will-seek-sign-but-no.html.

    I hope this helps — and Jennifer, thanks for being the conduit for this information.

  26. Jennifer J says:

    I know this is a very old post but I just had to comment… I constantly ask for signs from the Universe and I get them all the time but I still struggle to believe that they are 'divine signs' and not just coincidences. Example: I was driving one day and said "Just give me some Hope" .. within minutes a car pulled in front or me with the license plate "Mr. Hope"

    So this morning I was asking for a sign that I'm not delusional and that these really are divine messages to me .. I stumbled accross this post about 10 minutes after I asked and one line blew me away "HI JENNIFER, IT'S ME GOD" .. my name is Jennifer :)

    A sign that I'm not crazy for believing in signs?

  27. Anonymous says:

    Jennifer,

    One sees and hears what one believes is from God. Your story is inspriring and though this post is old, what we see and hear openly is there as a sign of God.

    I have been very low and troubled over the last 2 and a half years. Many times signs have appeared out of nowhere that all would be ok. Even with this, many have told me that I am trying to form coincidences as signs from God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus.

    Last weekend in Church, I asked,
    God and Jesus "If you are here with me, please make a sign that all can see." A few minutes later a large light over my head, a little in front of me went out. Believing as others would tell me, it is a blown lightbulb. I asked that the light be relit. Throughout the mass I watched as the light went out, burned low to brightly and became fully lit again. My Mom tapped me on the shoulder at the end of mass, asking me if I saw the light, how it kept going out and relighting slowly again to full brightness.

    The following week I was sitting next to my sister at church. The same light began to go out and began relighting again. My sister jokingly blamed me for the light going on and off. Saying God was doing this, due to me being in church. I had been away from the church, and returned 3 months ago. I asked her if Mom had told her, what I had told her the Sunday before, after she asked me about the light and my sister answered no. So I related to her what I had asked God and Jesus to do the preceding Sunday.

    I told my Dad about the light, as he is in the hospital recovering from pneumonia. He stated I am not to test God, that this is wrong. I explained to my father that I do not see this as a test, as I already believe but see this as reassurance in what I believe in. My father told me there is never any wrong in asking for God's reassurance.

  28. Anonymous says:

    All I can say is, is that it definately sounds like New Mexico. I'm from the the Northwestern end of it. We find it hilarious that we see storms past our town by going above us, below us, or sometimes we'll be that hole in the storm. I like to think it's God's way of making sure we get to see his beautiful sunrises and sunsets every day! :)

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