"I sought but I didn’t find. Now what?"

lost "I sought but I didnt find. Now what?"
I occasionally hear from people who say that “seek and ye shall find” didn’t work for them. They explain that they prayed, read the Bible, researched, asked Jesus to help them, opened their hearts and minds, etc. but didn’t end up any closer to belief. A commenter named Amy once summarized it eloquently in the comments to a post about doubt when she wrote:

Finding faith in 5 steps didn’t work for me [referring to this post], nor did finding faith in 20 steps. I sincerely, truly tried. I prayed. I asked others to pray for me. I sought humility. I went on not only a cynicism fast, but a complete media fasts more than once (no internet, no radio, no tv, no reading, no writing). I cried myself to sleep on more than one occasion, begging God to help me. I spoke to priests. I blogged. I attended Mass several days a week. I signed up for RCIA. I went to adoration. I read books. I went on retreat at a monastery…

I’m at the point now where I don’t even believe that God, if God exists, has any interaction with humans at all, and to me the question of God has become irrelevant, let alone Christianity. I assure you, it is not a place I wanted to end up, but I am coming to terms with it.

I had to smile when commenter Destry offered her own wry summary in response to this post:

Reaching out to Jesus feels like hearing that some guy likes you and wants to get to know you, but never calls. You sit by the phone, wondering what you did wrong.

First of all, a big thanks to Amy, Destry and everyone else who has offered perspectives like this. It takes courage to talk about this sort of thing, and I’m honored that you shared your experiences with us. I assure you all of my prayers, wherever your journey takes you.

Since this is a blog about conversion, I thought this would be a good subject to bring up. I’m going to write a post about it soon, but first wanted to offer a chance for others to share their thoughts: For those of you who are believers, what would you say to someone who says, “I sought, but I didn’t find”?

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Enter the Conversation...

125 Responses to “"I sought but I didn’t find. Now what?"”
  1. Nic (NotPerfect) says:

    Stop trying so hard. I know it's cliched but it's so true. Stop looking and start living your life with a mere openness to God. Give love and kindness freely and abundantly. Pray prayers of thanksgiving: be thankful for the flower in the crack of the sidewalk, be thankful for the rains that nourish the earth. God IS there, but we can't command him to show up in exactly the ways we expect, and maybe, sometimes we're so focused on the rules, regulations and steps we aren't open to the experience.

  2. Kristen J says:

    In a way, this question, though very important, is dangerous because we need to take care NOT to reflexively assume, as Job's "friends" did, that people who look for God and struggle to find Him must be in a state of sin that is "blocking" Him.

    So, what I think I WOULD say to someone in this situation is: 1) I will keep you in my prayers (and then actually do it as regularly as possible, perhaps even fasting or adding some other private sacrifice) and 2) God has His own timing. When He knows the time is right, you will find Him. The best thing you can do is keep open to Him by loving as best you can.

    I'm sure this response is inadequate in some way, but that's probably a start.

  3. Marie says:

    1 John 4:19

    "We love Him because He first loved us."

    Do you love Him? If you do, it is because He loves you.

    Don't chase a certain presupposed feeling you are supposed to have, imagining some unknown ecstatic experience. God is sovereign.

    Rest in His sovereignty.

  4. James Oakley says:

    I'm very hesitant to comment, because I'm no expert in this. But having come out of a fairly prolonged dry spell recently, I guess two things really stuck in my mind:

    1. Act as if it is true (credit to Phillip Yancey who got me on to this). Go through the motions. Read psalms. Read prayers. Keep going to church. For me it was reading morning and/or evening prayer from the Anglican Prayer book. Often it felt a bit artificial or forced, but it also seems (from this end) like the advice I give my 5- and 3-year-old children if they get lost: "Stay put and wait – Daddy will find you".

    2. Something that C. S. Lewis wrote in "the Screwtape Letters" (the speaker is Screwtape, the senior devil):

    Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

  5. Peter says:

    To those who did not find, I'm really sorry. Keep looking. Maybe He knocked but you didn't hear? Keep praying. Pray like He exists.

    Also, I've been meaning to post this for sometime: Thanks Jennifer for this blog. You and http://docisinblog.com/ were huge in re-converting a Catholic gone Athiest back to Catholicism. A couple years ago I decided just to try praying like God existed. I figured even if HE didn't, it wouldn't hurt… it would be like miuttering to myself :-)

    Let's just say that one night, while in a deep black pit of emptiness and despair, He left me no doubt he existed and my life has been richer ever since.

    Keep praying. Sometimes it just takes a bit to get an answer you recognize…like the person who loves you but you've been to blind and self absorbed to notice.

  6. Susab says:

    If you know in your heart that you are a sinner and that only Christ can forgive you and if you have asked Him to forgive you, and to take control of your life, then you are a Christian. You will, however, be unique Christian with your own journey. My advice would be to focus on just loving God and getting to know Him, much like you would a new friend. Try to view going to mass and adoration as an opportunity to get to know this new someone, not as an experiment to see if they exist.
    Here is a weird example. Suppose you are told that someone you've always wanted to talk to will call you on a certain day. You will only have an hour to spend with this person. What do you do? You think about what you want to talk about, maybe read up on what they've written or what's been written about them. You clear your schedule and your mind of all other thoughts so that you can focus just on that person. But what you probably do not do is spend your hour together trying to figure out if it is really him. Why? Because you choose to accept on faith that that person is who he says he is.

  7. Faith says:

    I lost my faith when I was about 12 and didn't fully come back to it until I was 32. And I'm still on the journey. I can still pray very fervently Lord I believe, help my unbelief! Some days I believe very little, some days doubts outweigh the belief (though this is getting less and less the case over the years. I'm almost 50). I wonder what the poster was expecting? Did she have a preconceived idea of what faith was going to feel like and that didn't happen so she got more and more of an empty feeling making her feel more and more disappointed?

    And why would you need to fast from media to discover one's faith? Faith should not require a withdrawal from the world. I think that little fact could be very telling.

    Anyway, I will pray for this woman. Maybe when she isn't looking faith will sneak up on her and surprise her! She should remember she gets points for trying! I think of Mother Teresa and how she suffered for so many years yet remained faithful. Perseverance is an underrated virtue!

  8. notjustlaura says:

    Wow – what an excellent topic! And I'd also like to commend your other commenters for their openness and honesty. As you say, that takes real courage.

    What made everything come together for me was being willing to believe. My sticking point was the Real Presence in the Eucharist. I just couldn't get my head round it, let alone believe it. Eventually I told God that I was willing to believe it if it was true but that He'd have to do something because I couldn't create a belief myself – believe me, I'd tried!

    Then I went on to behave 'as if' I believed. And an indefinable something inside of me changed and, gradually, I came to believe.

    Today I know what I believe is true. I don't need to think and agonise and remember. It just is. And, when I got to that stage, I knew it was time to go to RCIA. With every class I go to or Mass or personal prayer time, things fall into place, bed down, become part of me. I'm looking forward to making my First Confession during Lent and, God willing, will be Received during the Easter Vigil.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Keep seeking. The One you are searching for is worth it. It's completely normal to be weary and discouraged sometimes – but keep trying. When He comes, you'll forget all your difficulties and even be grateful for your long longing.

  10. Dev Thakur says:

    I'm a convert from atheism. My experience was so different from what Amy describes seeking, but I hope I can say something helpful

    I never had an emotional or spiritual "awakening." I just studied philosophy and theology as I was becoming skeptical of the atheist position, and started to see Faith as "not unreasonable." Eventually I saw it was reasonable.

    I dare say that Amy has already made this step — otherwise why would she try to find God at RCIA, a monastary, at Mass, etc.?

    Well, once I became convinced of the arguments for the Catholic Faith, I converted on principle. (If this is true, and this is what God wants, I will do it.) I thought it was all intellectually fascinating, but I had the HARDEST time actually praying. I was more into reading apologetics and history, enjoying the liturgy, etc.

    But any emotional consolations have been very brief and not of any obvious supernatural origin. My life has not become easier, it has become harder, as Our Lord promised, and I have seen plenty of soft persecution.

    My question to Amy and those who are facing similar spiritual questions is, What were/are you looking for? I don't just mean "Faith" or "God" — what do you expect it to actually look or feel like?

    I don't see Faith as an "WOW experience" God gives us necessarily … it is a gift of His Grace, but sometimes it can come through our very ordinary cognitive apparatus. In my own conversion, I just believed I should, so I did, and I still do. Sometimes I am emotional about it, because the liturgy is so beautiful, and Catholicism is just awesome, but essentially I keep going because I believe it's true.

    Not based on experience, but on reasoning (and faith which does not contradict reason but is supported by it).

    My advice, Step 1: study the Faith and religion in general because we are humans who have intelligent minds and so a responsiblity to the Truth. Step 2: When you realize the Truth is in the Catholic Faith, be an obedient Catholic. Step 3: Persevere even if you don't think you get anything at all out of it, since it's about God, not about us. Even if you suffer greatly in this life, for the rest of your life.

    Our true reward is in Heaven.

  11. Carl says:

    God is there but neither I nor anyone can really explain why He has chosen not to make Himself present to you at this time. No matter what may have happened in your efforts to find faith so far, He does know you, love you and wants you to continue seeking Him. If you continue to simply seek the truth, you will find Him. That is His promise.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Been there, done that. I remember a very low period in my life when everything was wrong, I prayed, and listened, prayed and listened. Nothing. Then my parish practically abandoned me in my time of need. (I am a cradle catholic) Then the priest pedophile scandle broke. I tried another church (and denomination) and I felt like every Sunday I was sitting thru a speech debate or a concert. Did not hear anything from God. I quit going to church all together for about 5 years. Then out of the blue I felt a tugging or a inner voice tell me to look again. This was a long process that I won't go thru all the details but now I have come to believe that maybe that voice was there all the time but I was too worked up in my own problems to hear it.

  13. George @ Convert Journal says:

    Praying to God is communicating with Him. I believe He hears us each and every time without fail.

    We are not always so good at hearing His reply! Sometimes we "hear" God's reply when we pray for someone sick and they are healed. Sometimes we "hear" God's reply when a thought pops into our head (recognizing these "thoughts" as God speaking to us can take some practice of discernment).

    Sometimes we can detect no direct reply but that does not mean God did not hear us. His reply is in His time or perhaps His plan is beyond what we can understand.

    We must trust, not test, Him. Like any skill, hearing God through prayer is something that improves with practice.

  14. Debbie says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with James Oakley. My faith is very dry and empty of spiritual "cookies" and warm fuzzies. Maybe that is what the woman is looking for. I have learned to continue to go through the motions and surround myself with people of good faith. Of course, the most famous recent example of this spiritual dryness is Mother Teresa. Maybe reading her bio / letters may help (her and me).

    Love your blog.

  15. Julia says:

    I agree with Nic that sometimes there is such a thing as being too absorbed in trying to feel God. God is a relationship, God is about giving yourself to others. So I would suggest volunteering, taking the extra step to help others, being more attentive to others.

    When I do this, I often realize two things. One is the mysterious workings of God (which I won't be able to explain coherently here). The other is how I fall short. When I try to imitate Jesus, I become painfully aware of how hard it is. Then his love and mercy become a little more real. Real not only because I am a sinner but because the more we try to reach for perfection, the more sensitive we are to it, and the more easily we will recognize Christ.

  16. Kathleen@so much to say, so little time says:

    I would say two things:

    1. I find that sometimes when I'm desperately seeking Presence, I need to shut up and Be Still. I get in my own way.

    2. I think in our society we get caught up in emotion, and without that "feeling" of faith, we think we have none. But emotion is fleeting. I remember going to confession once as a child saying, "I don't FEEL anything." The priest said something very wise. He said that if I see someone who needs a coat, and FEEL bad for them, that doesn't make them warm. A better act of faith, he said, would be to give them a coat, whether I FELT anything about it or not.

  17. JMB says:

    First of all, it is not clear whether the person is baptized or not. If he/she is not baptized but has intended to do so, I would advise that he/she resume her RCIA preparations and behave as if he/she does believe.

    Once a full Catholic, my advise would be to receive the Eucharist "food for the journey" as often as possible. The Eucharist will strengthen your reserve and bring you closer to God. Everything else will fall into place after that.

  18. Tim Terhune says:

    I would first ask:

    "what is it you are looking for?"

    this may help you understand what it is they expect and what their notion of God is. It may be that they are looking for a "god" of that doesn't exist (that is, a "god" of their own making)

  19. BettyDuffy says:

    Sometimes believers receive consolation, or a "feeling" of God's presence–but they are not mandatory for Christian practice. And practicing Christianity does not absolve us from doubt. Doubts persist to the grave. The bottom line is that Christianity is something that one "does." Faith, or certainty in God and Christ, is a gift that often begins when a person commits to going through the motions. Ask for it: "I want to believe, help my unbelief."

  20. Anonymous says:

    I'm sorry if I got the wrong impression, but from the comments it sounded that the individuals were looking for the big "bang"! They seem to be looking for that mystical experience which would tell you without a doubt that there is a God. While such things do happen, it is something which should not be wished for. "To those who much is given, much will be expected…" Do they really want to join Christ in the suffering of his passion? Expect to suffer if you encounter God mystically.

    Instead, it is in the little things that they should look for God. Ask for God's guidance everyday and then you'll see him, in a friend, a stranger, a stone, a beautiful blue sky.

    I have had mystical experiences and they always come before great anguish. I have lived 15 years in a stalking nightmare and now I realize that whenever I have one of my mystical experiences it is just God giving me strength for what is coming. I must say, I'm ever so pleased He hasn't found it necessary to give me extra "strength" for about a year…

    I know what I'm enduring is for His greater glory and I accept the pain (though I do constantly complain to Him asking for an end to the misery.)

    Iris Celeste

  21. Melanie B says:

    This is so hard. I remember Amy, I think it's the same person. I read her blog until she deleted it. I ached for her pain, always seeking and never finding.

    Nothing I can think of seems adequate.

    It's like what do you say to a child whose father is deployed overseas or otherwise gone, who has been gone so long the child no longer remembers him. You keep reassuring her that somewhere out there is a man called 'Daddy' who loves her as much as you do. But you can offer no proof. (Less so these days; but I'm thinking of a book I read recently about a little girl whose father comes back from WWII and is a stranger to her.)

    I don't understand it. Why doesn't God reach out to some people? Why does he let people who are earnestly seeking Him get to this point where they are in such pain and despair? All I can really offer is my prayers and try to encourage her perseverance, to show her God's love by the way I love her. But it doesn't seem adequate. Not at all.

  22. Stephen Weltz says:

    I feel like forgetting about God all the time too, for slightly different reasons. It is a very troublesome issue when one cries out to God and hears silence in response.

    I would just point out how long they had to wait for answers sometimes in the Old Testament. Think about how God took His sweet time before answering Job for his suffering. Think about how many years the Israelites cried out to God in Egypt before he sent Moses. Sometimes God, for His own reasons, waits an immensely long time before even beginning to answer prayer, even heartfelt prayers. He has His reasons, even if we don't understand them.

    I don't know how long you've been searching, praying, studying, etc., but we must keep trying, as Job and the Israelites in Egypt did. Even if it takes longer than we would like. As much as I want to just give up praying (since I'm not much of a mystical experience kinda guy), there one else worth going to than Jesus Christ. Only He has the words of the eternal life. As one scholar put it, "If Jesus Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if He is not risen, nothing else matters."

  23. Ann says:

    I was exposed to Catholicism as a youth attending Catholic schools even though I wasn't Catholic. I dabbled with religion in college. When I met my husband, he wanted to attend church, and we went to several seeking the right one for us. We were unhappy at all of those we tried. I tried reading the Bible but never succeeded in getting through it.

    God did not speak to me, however, until I was in a deep valley of unemployment. Before then, I perhaps had thought I was ready to find Him, but He knew that I was not.

    We do not choose God, He chooses us, when He feels that we are ready, and He sees the bigger picture that we do not.

  24. Roxane B. Salonen says:

    I wonder if reading about the saints who experienced a Dark Night of the Soul would help. Or even just reading Mother Teresa's work, because she experienced this feeling of lack of connection and yet never failed to cling to belief. I think too many of us expect the lightning bolts, when most of the time, faith, and life in general, don't offer them. Some specific steps, though, might include: 1) Prayer, and it can be as simple as, "God, I want to believe you're there. Please help me feel your presence." And just keep praying it until your heart opens to His existence. 2) Stay near those who do believe. It's hard to cultivate a life of faith without proper support. 3) Cut back on dependence to worldly vision. Less television, magazines that promote the culture of death. 4) Pray some more. I don't think we can just step out into the world and say, "Okay, I'm here, waiting for this to happen, so, what's the deal? God, you there or what?" Not that your doubting readers have done that, but I think we simply have to persist, even when the feelings are absent. But trust me, having even a glimmer of hope that there's something is better than darkness and hopelessness. In the meantime, I will offer up a prayer of my own for those who struggle with this. There are many factors and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. I look forward to your post, Jen.

  25. Karyn says:

    My biggest obstacle was only being willing to believe in God if He produced some incredible experience for me – like Saul being knocked off his horse. Once I decided to do my part and at least "go through the motions" I'm finding that my faith is growing in a slow, gentle way that I don't even recognize on a day to day basis. It's just when I look back and see how much happier I feel, how much more at peace, and how much more I turn to God in gratitude and for help.

  26. Christina says:

    Someone just asked me for just this advice yesterday and I was in the process of praying about my reply. I'm very interested in hearing the responses because I had little idea of what to say.

    Reading the comments so far I would like to second what many people have said.

    The quote James gave from Screwtape has always stuck with me. It brings to mind Jesus on the cross, "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me." I know he was speaking the opening lines of a psalm, but it's that cry mingled with his obedience that we are all asked to emulate.

    As Dev Thakur said, Christianity is something that can be determined via reason to be reasonable. It is not acting contrary to reason to start living it's principles (in fact most of the social ones are an ideal that most non-Christians admit they should be aiming for).

    I also second Iris, if someone is looking for flash and bang, they might just get it, but it is always strength for the journey.

    There is a book I'm reading now, "10 prayers God always answers," (I think Jen recommend it actually) and the first prayer is to know God's presence. The author warns not to look for a flash or sign. He mentions that the apostles witnessed so many of Jesus's miracles, and all suffered greatly. Every time you read the life of a Saint who had some amazing experience of Jesus it's always coupled with great suffering.

    It makes me worry about the consolations the Lord has given me. ;)

  27. Jamie says:

    I agree with the advice that these people should stop trying so hard (that list of attempts to find God by the first poster was a litte over the top and must have taken a decade!). What is it that they are expecting? Lighting strikes and earth shattering proof that God exists? That is not what faith is and that is not how God shows his face.

    God shows his face in the miracles around us: the face of children, the buds newly formed on trees, the quiet after a snowfall, the way the sun streaks through the clouds, the smile of a stranger, the touch of a loved one.

    It shouldn't be this hard and it isn't this hard. It really is the easiest thing in the world. Just allow yourself to be loved. The rest follows.

  28. Dani says:

    I have often though of Amy's comments as I was a participant in that discussion with her. And upon praying and thinking about it, and reflecting on my own journney in becoming a Catholic, I'll just say what I truly think.

    Just be yourself.

    Don't be pressured to believe in something because you feel you must. I tried for years and it just didn't work. I did all the right things and nothing. For years. Then one day when I least expected it, God called me.

    But that said, it may or may not be something you experience.

    It's easy for me to want to help the blind to see the way I want them to see. But my wanting to see my way makes it no more possible. Instead, the blind see's in a different way and I have to be respectful of that. I will love and help and pray for the blind because that is what is asked of me.

    Not probably the response I should give, but it's the only one I can really think of. Maybe one feels pressured that if they become a Catholic, they immediately have to be this perfect Catholic and disregard your entire life's thinking to a "new way" and that can be overwhelming.

    But you don't. It's part of life long mystagogia, where you learn things and decide things and maybe come to view on some things and struggle with others. That is the beauty I find in faith.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I am no expert here, but I'll tell my own experience. I believed in God when I was young, and then went through a very dark time in my life and I turned my back on Him and questioned my faith. God gradually made Himself known to me again and now I feel closer to Him than ever. I think God allows us to go through things so that we can learn from our experiences and become closer to Him in the end. He takes us on a journey full circle rather than straight ahead. I think this person should keep praying and keep going to Mass and talking to other Christians. God has a reason for what is happening and He may be allowing her to go through this in order to fulfill His plan for her. If she remains faithful, God will fulfill His end of the deal. He always does.

  30. Solveig says:

    Peter said something to the effect that where else would he go if he didn't go to Jesus. I understand your dilemma–was there many years ago, and the alternative didn't look good. Before my search I'd read so much agnostic literature–was permeated by that mind-set. Coming to faith was hard. I gave up more than once. But I could never escape the possibility of a God. I think it took almost five years. During some of that time I did actively seek. During some of that time I didn't. But the subject never left me because I didn't decide against Him. So my advice? Don't decide against Him. Continue to want Him. He'll bring you through.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Jesus is very quiet. If you're used to listening to the world, the softness and gentleness of the Holy Spirit often feels like "nothing is happening."

    Try to pay attention to when your heart is calm and still and peaceful. It can last for a nanosecond.

    I was in serious mortal sin and prayed one prayer for help. Three weeks later my husband showed up in my life.

    For many months, however, I didn't "recognize" him as my beloved future spouse. He didn't match anything I thought a grand LOVE affair was supposed to have. It wasn't exciting, it was desperate or passionate. The only thing that happened was I was unusually calm and peaceful around a member of the opposite sex, I felt 11 again and kept thinking we were just friends.

    That easy peacefulness was exactly what I needed at the time. All the fireworks came later. If I knew at the time I was dating a "husband" and not simply a decent boyfriend, I would have run for the hills.

    I truly think that is how Jesus works sometimes. He weans us off of the whirlwind of life, to get us more used to the calm, happiness of eternal life.

    If you cried yourself to sleep, maybe that was good. When was the last time you let yourself feel pain and not try to be Miss Happy Go Lucky all of the time? If you signed up for RICA, go. That's a huge step. I didn't feel a huge inner passion for the Eucharist until after I had eaten it for a few months.

    Just keep walking. Faith is called FAITH for a reason. Everything that you're looking for in faith is going to catch up with you soon.

  32. Eric says:

    I'd say this:

    I'm getting the feeling that you somehow misunderstood the verse. Jesus didn't say "Work and ye shall find." Yet you're going on and on about "I did X and I did Y and I did Z…" On the bright side, you've accidentally arrived at the essential spiritual truth (and a lot of people miss it!) that your good works in themselves don't bring you any closer to God. "By grace you are saved through faith, not by works lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

    Here's the verse in its entirety: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7).

    Among the things it does not say:
    - "If you try hard enough to find God, maybe you'll get there."
    - "If you do all the right things, maybe you'll achieve faith."
    - "God is hiding and you're it!"
    - [fill in your own!]

    What the verse does say, three times: "Will." Not maybe He will, not He will if you're good enough. This is a promise, not a formula. All you have to do is "ask" and God will take care of the rest.

    Stop trying (even "sincerely, truly") and start trusting.

  33. Robinsonpack says:

    I just want to say, thank you for the question, and thank you for the comments. Especially Dev, thank you for your story. It is definitely unique, but you are also not alone in your story. Augustine experienced a very similar experience (his first conversion being more intellectual).

    I am a cradle Catholic, and still have many days where I definitely can't "feel" God. However, I have learned that just as love is not a feeling but a decision or a choice (an action to sacrifice self for the other, and give of self completely to the other), so it is with faith. It is less of a feeling and more of a choice. Of course we cannot make that choice without Grace so it is still complete GIFT. However, like other comments have said, referring to Mother Teresa etc. we can often not feel anything (and even at times feel empty and dry), yet we still make the choice of faith. In the same way we chose to love others even when they feel unlovable.

  34. Thou Art Jules says:

    I have found myself in this predicament several times during my 5 year or so journey into the Catholic faith. I have given up, thrown my hands in the air, kicked my feet and then some.

    But… I keep coming back. Over and over and over. I told our new RCIA organizer that I feel like an alcoholic! lol – I am by no means an expert here. Just trudging along like the rest of us.

    However I have realized that it isn't always a grand realization. I have been learning to find God in the little things. I think it has something to do with my attitude (I'm only speaking for myself here!) I pray constantly for faith, understanding and for the Lord to help my unbelief. Sometimes to the point of tears and sometimes quickly as I think about something during the day.

    Through the process I have learned to relish the small things. The kind word, the "coincidental" meeting, the money that comes at just the right time and even the seemingly destructive times that are hard and hurtful but always end with good.

    My only advice would be not to give up! Keep praying and see if you can find the little things even if it's a nice song on the radio at just the right moment.

  35. Carrien says:

    I too have sought unsuccessfully from time to time. Almost always it was because I had a pre-conceived idea of the result I was seeking. Like looking to hear from God and expecting some kind of distinct internal or audible voice because that's the language people often use for it, even though that's not usually how it works. But that idea of what I'm waiting for keeps me from learning how it is that He does speak to me if I'm too attached to it.

    The truth is that God is into redeeming and using our whole self and he works through our individual personalities and minds. His speaking to you could use your intellect, your own thought patterns, your unique way of understanding things. and you could easily think, that wasn't God, that was just me. Because it's meant to be supernaturally natural, not some odd and strange experience.

    I often mentor new believers in this dimension of prayer and hearing. What works best is for them to pray and seek God in the company of more experienced believers. A time of listening prayer and having others share what they were hearing, and realizing that those thoughts you weren't sure about had the same content in them is really encouraging for someone learning how to listen.

    There's a time when the search for God must join with the community of those who believe in order to go forward, and I'm not just referring to priests or other leaders but to relationships formed and life lived alongside other believers, even if you aren't sure you believe yet. Lie and faith in God was never meant to be lived in isolation, so maybe if you are seeking Him in isolation without success it's time to join with others.

    Also, I would recommend that those looking to find God through prayer and retreats, etc. start looking through service and care for others.
    Visit a seniors home, serve soup down town on a cold day, take a minute to talk to the guy begging for change. God lives with the poor, the hurting and the lonely, and helping them is to find him.

    That's just what i think.

  36. christy says:

    I haveb't read the comments yet and I am no expert! I still struggle with this to some extent. I see myself in Amy. I went to church, Bible study, listened to Christian music, had Christian friends, read the Bible, cried and begged so many nights for God to please just help me feel Him! Just give me this love for Him that others have. What do I have to do? Do you need me to quit smoking? Is that the one thing I haven't done yet?

    And then one day it was there. I got it. (mostly, although there are still times…) And I think I just had to quit trying so hard. There's nothing I need to do. No act, no prayer… I don't have to earn it! I struggle with wanting to be in control so I think God is constantly trying to teach me to just let go and let God….
    It's about faith, not feelings. I have to have faith even when I don't have those warm feelings everyone else has…
    I read a great book about this but am at work and can't remember the title. I'll get back here later today and post it.

  37. Anonymous says:

    That's pretty tough. I don't know what to say. You've done so many things that I have not, but I still believe in God.
    May be this will help. Have you ever wondered about what good is, what truth is, what beautiful is, and what evil is? I know may sound weird to you, but, honestly, I've been through some spiritual dry spells, and I have found that the moment I throw in the towel some strange things start happening. Things that I think, "This can't be coincidence".
    My suggestion to you: While you are attending Mass, reflect on some possible answers to the questions I posed above while praying. Have you ever quietly watched the sun rise and just felt floored by it's majesty?

    John

  38. Anonymous says:

    For it is I who gave you those desires -Philippians 2:13

    Remember that it is God who is placing that desire in your heart to get to know him. You are longing to know him because he wants you to. So just let things be because he is already with you.

  39. izhilzha says:

    This is an interesting post, because I've felt the presence of God as long as I can remember, and seeing friends seeking that presence and not finding it has been very hard for me to deal with.

    I would say now, I think, "are you sure you *haven't* found Him? What were you expecting to happen when you did?" Because lately I've seen that some people find God first through the intellect, some first through emotion, some first through some kind of amazing spiritual revelation…but it's all the same Lord, revealing Himself in different ways.

  40. Anonymous says:

    I recommend praying to the Virgin Mary and saying the Rosary. Also read Anne Catherine Emmerich's visions of the Passion.

    http://www.jesus-passion.com/DOLOROUS_PASSION_OF_OUR_LORD_JESUS_CHRIST.htm

  41. Anonymous says:

    I sympathize with your correspondent. There are days when only Pascal's Wager gets me to Mass. How pitiful is that.

    Before becoming Catholic, I read up a bit on the history of churches. One day I at last ran across that comment from the Chief Rabbi of Rome during WW II who later became Catholic and took Pope Pius's baptismal name for his own … when asked why he became Catholic rather than some other denomination, he said something to the effect of "you shame yourself if you believe that God abandoned the Church shortly after he founded it, and then miraculously re-founded it 1000 or more years later." So I have the intellectual and historical bond to The Church. It truly is the source and foundation of all that can be called Christian.

    Between that bond and Pascal's point, it keeps me inside. But there are days when I pray "God are you really there or am I just deluded?"

  42. wingshade says:

    I came to faith after realizing that though for years I had intellectually assented to the tenets of the Christian belief, I had never gotten on the Ark: entrusting all of me, all my future, and the destiny of my soul to the Lord Jesus. I came to Him at His invitation in the Scriptures ("Come unto Me, all you who are heavy laden …" "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He has sent.") and told Him that I was placing all my trust in Him — that He had made full payment for my sins on the cross, that He would "in no wise cast out the one who comes" to Him, and that my eternal destiny now rested in Him because I was His now by redemption. And being entirely His now, I would follow and obey.

    And I considered the matter done because of His word.

    The transaction between God and one created in His image, the placing of faith in Him alone by His work of His grace within, doesn't depend on a sense of His "showing up." He HAS already "shown up" by coming to bear our sins and make His resurrection life available in regenerating fallen creatures who trust in Him, and giving us the Holy Scriptures full of all His communication to us. I didn't wait for Him to call; He already had, and I took Him at His word. I did experience great relief at my sins being forgiven, a sense of giddiness at pushing reset on my life, and, yes, a sense of what I would call His presence, but my new life in Him did not depend on these. My recommendation to one who "sought but didn't find" would be, if she hasn't already done so, simply come to Him and believe, and having done that, burrow into the Scriptures to hear His voice and obey by being baptized and entering into the life of His Church and carrying out His commands. And dig in to everything that is now hers by being in Christ, like the spectacular list in Ephesians 1: adoption, redemption, forgiveness, grace, inheritance, the indwelling Holy Spirit, etc.!! Rejoice! Thank the Father for giving her all this in His Son! Offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, worship and adore. I do feel nearest to Him when I dwell on His incomparable excellencies and His mercies toward us.

  43. A Hermit says:

    If a wandering atheist may offer on opinion I'd just like to make an observation…

    I see a number of people advising that one should act as if one believes, even if one doesn't; to "go through the motions…"

    I have to say this sounds like really bad advice to me. I tried this for many years until the psychological stress of pretending finally got to me and I decided to just be honest about the fact that I just don't believe. In hindsight I think it was really unhealthy to lie to myself like that for so long. I feel so much better now just living my life as if no gods exist.

  44. Christian H says:

    Reading the other comments, I see "obey" come up occasionally. Bonhoeffer suggests that we cannot believe until we obey, and at the same time cannot obey until we believe. We must do both simultaneously. We are in a place where following Christ's commandments is taken less seriously than belief in doctrine and than evangelism. But faith cannot come without obedience.

    Also, and I'm going to paraphrase Battlestar Galactica here, you can only trust if you have no reason to; that's what trust is. Otherwise it's a calculated gamble.

  45. Ali says:

    I would say to pick up the Bible and read some of the Gospel stories. I am an Orthodox Christian, and many people do not come to Christ that way. However, I did. I was going through a difficult time in my life and started to read the stories. And then I started to build a reasonable case for faith. I would say that the Case for Faith and the Case for Christ–both by Lee Strobel–were key in my conversion. The fact that Christ fulfills so many prophecies convinced me. And I also read apologetic works like Mere Christianity.

    And I thought a lot about what I read and asked questions of my mature Christian friends. When I finally made the leap of faith and said the sinner's prayer (I came to Christ with a Protestant mindset), I had a sense of peace, but like you I knew Christ intellectually–not personally. I floundered around for several years, reading the Bible, but not attending any church.

    It was when I attended a Baptism at an Orthodox Church that I knew God was there–and finally understood what it meant to know Christ in my heart. (By the way, I had not been open to Orthodoxy for a while, but I had a friend who pushed and pushed and urged me to continue attending services–and it was because I was there on that day, that God called out to me.)

    I believe that if you are truly open to the faith and are surrounded by loving, Christian friends, He is bound to call to you in His time. But you need to be open.

  46. Smoochagator says:

    I'm not sure I can answer this question without asking one of my own: what do you mean, you didn't find God? To further clarify, what do you think finding God looks like or feels like? I think a problem that many of us have is thinking we know what our spiritual lives are supposed to look like and therefore missing what God is actually doing.

    I've had lots of warm, fuzzy "religious experiences" but I've certainly never had God speak to me out loud. And a more cynical (or one could say rational, LOL) person might dismiss my "God-sightings" as nothing more than coincidences. Maybe I'm just naive, but I truly believe that every good thing in my life comes from God's hand. I don't need proof that he did it; I'm just so grateful.

  47. Kate says:

    "You see, God gave you and I the power to choose who we would BE, and that power is all we will ever need to create the reality of our choice. I know this simple truth seems a little hard to believe, but your only real job in this Game of Life is to choose and re-choose who you will BE. God's Law of Correspondence will take care of the rest." -Darel Rutherford from his book, "Being the Solution"

    In other words, choose to be someone who feels God's presence, thank him for bringing you closer to him, and that will become your reality because that is having faith. He is with you and you need to believe that he is in order for it to become more obvious to you. You can choose to be someone who doesn't feel God and who is always trying to or you can choose to be someone who does feel God…once you make that choice- it will become reality.

  48. Destry says:

    Thanks for the shout-out and the thoughtful comments. I'll keep searching :->

  49. FrankCaiati says:

    Maybe He hasn't made His presence known to you yet because he saw (at the time I'm writing this) 46 other people that could benefit from the spiritual dryness you've been momentarily called to bear. And perhaps by the declarations of faith that these 46 have made, all of us, yourself included, can find His voice and his Sacred Heart amongst them.

  50. Flexo says:

    Well, on the one hand, you cannot "put God to the test." You cannot demand proof, demand that He show Himself.

    On the other hand, sometimes it is kind of like the guy walking through the forest wondering why he can't find any trees.

    And then there is that passage from 1 Kings 19, where Elijah is in a mountain cave — A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD–but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake–but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was fire–but the LORD was not in the fire. After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, "Elijah, why are you here?"

    Often times, that is how God speaks and reveals Himself to us — in a whisper.

  51. Anne says:

    I can't believe the amount of comments this post has generated and I am eager to review them! I might like to post Destry's comment on my own blog with a link if that is ok.

    I have been a life long Catholic, but I know that conversion doesn't happen once and for all, it is continual. Right now, I could use a conversion, because I am feeling like both of those ladies you have mentioned. Here I am, deeply loving God, and I am wondering where He is and why He doesn't love me back. It is a deep, deep blow to my self-esteem.

  52. Anonymous says:

    I would highly recommend getting a spiritual director, and seeing them on a regular basis. I've been seeing one for a few months now, and she's been able to offer me some incredibly insightful advice. I would also say don't give up!! You are going through these things for a reason that you may not understand in the here and now. Keep seeking!

    Jen G

  53. Sister Lynn says:

    My first thought would be to ask – what are you seeking? What would it take for you to believe? What does God need to do to prove His existence to you personally?

    Like many other's have commented. Pray like you do believe. The opposite of faith isn't doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty.

    This is a great question!
    Blessings, Sister Lynn

  54. Flexo says:

    Having now read the other comments, a couple more thoughts –

    It seems that if one is determined to search this much, that in itself is proof of God's involvement in a person's life. That hunger for truth is a grace. That dissatisfaction with a world without God is, at a fundamental level, the nudge of faith. Our hearts are restless until they rest in the Lord (Augustine's Confessions) because that is the way that God made our hearts, implanted with a little homing device.

    Also, the idea (again from Augustine) that belief leads to understanding, which in turn leads to greater belief, is a sound concept.

    In countless areas of life, we simply take things on faith, we simply trust the word of other people, people who we trust know what they are talking about. We don't ask how this Internet thing works, we simply move our fingers on a key board, trusting that words will appear to other people on the other side of the country. If we were to try to wrap our minds around it, we would conclude that such a thing is obviously impossible, and yet it is true.

    If one simply trusts in the word of witnesses who have gone before them, if one simply acts like they believe, then after a while, they realize that the room is not dark after all, that there is a light on, and that light will appear to become brighter and brighter. In short, one will begin to understand. And that beginning of understanding will lead to a deeper, but more mature faith. No longer a blind faith, but one combined with reason.

    So, simply go down the road that folks are telling you to go down. Simply follow the map, even though you do not know exactly where it is going. If we let go of our anxiety about where we are this instant, we will begin to notice that we are, indeed, on the right road. We will understand that the road, the journey, is a large part of the faith.

    The faith is not an intellecual exercise, although pure knowledge is useful. Rather, ours is a living faith. Ours is not merely the written word on paper, ours is the Living Word Incarnate. The Faith is not merely Truth, it is Truth in Love.

    As for me, I knew I believed when, once upon a time, I was in the throes of depression and hated life and repeatedly wished that I would wake up dead, so wretched was I. And yet I kept on going, I did not my "quietus make with a bare bodkin."

    Why? Why not end it all, why not end my misery and say "goodbye cruel world"? Because suicide is a mortal sin. It is both killing (sui- (self) -cide (murder)) and it is a selfish rejection of a gift from God, the gift of life. Being the last act committed, knowing it to be a mortal sin, the result is not a lessening of pain and misery, but an increase of it, i.e. hell. Because I was certain of the existence of hell — the eternal separation from God — because I knew that I would end up worse off if I were to kill myself, I knew that I believed in God. And I knew that had I done that, it would be me sending myself there, not Him.

    Knowing that, knowing He exists, and giving my broken self to Him, that is what brought about the dawn, that is what caused that demon (depression) to depart.

    And, I know that He exists, despite occasionally being buffetted intellectually by "how can that be?" (and make no mistake, the devil often torments us that way), by the fact that nobody forces me to go to Confession and tell really embarassing things to a stranger, and yet I do it. I do it because, deep down, deeper than my puny brain, I believe.

    And that is where we are too look if we want to ask ourselves if we believe. We should not look at the superficial level, at the mere intellectual. We need to peer deep into the essence of our being. That is where the "whispers" of God are heard. And the more we are in tune with that, the louder those whispers are.

  55. Anonymous says:

    Start small. Once, during a year that I kept thinking could not get worse, things kept getting worse. And worse. I began to wonder, where was God in all this? It was what some call a "dry spell". For no particular reason, one day I bought a bird feeder and put it near a window where I could see it easily. After a couple of weeks, birds came every day. Birds of all kinds of colors and sizes. Beautiful birds. Sometimes during that year the backyard birds at the feeder were the happiest part of my day, like a small gift in the continuing sad events going on around me. That was where I started to find God again. Happy to say that once I could see God at work in the small things, it eventually became easier to see His hand in larger things, too.

  56. Daniel S says:

    I read with great interest all of the comments on this post thus far, and am interested in reading the resulting post as well–as I share many of the same feelings as the seeker who hasn't found (or been found). Like the wandering atheist I am wondering about how going through the motions helps one find the truth. Additionally, I noticed a lot of comments that talk about surrounding themselves by Christians may help increase belief. Why not having lunch with Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, and reading various philosophers, as well as books like the Bible not be given as good advice? Shouldn't being exposed to the "marketplace of ideas" be the best way to find the truth?

    Being raised in a very loving Christian home, I am very thankful for the structure that Christianity has provided for my life. That said, hearing arguments made by "atheist evangelists" such as Hitchens or Dawkins gives me real pause for consideration especially as I have a hard time claiming a "relationship with God" because i haven't "experienced" Him like many other Christians claim they experience him.

    This past year has been hard for me personally, and, although I have never stopped going to church, have experienced some of the most significant doubt in my life this year. Oftentimes to me, it seems that life is just made up of statistically explainable events–and then you die.

    I want to believe, as I feel a relationship with God seems desirable, and I do appreciate the social support it has given me thus far in life, but intellectually thus far, my mind has a hard time accepting this. (I also have a very hard time grasping concepts of infinity so maybe my mind is a little strange).

    That said, I have not yet been able to accept the atheist notion that there is no repercussions in the afterlife as to how we live our lives here on earth and so that pulls me back to some sort of belief in a higher power.

    I'm grasping to find anything that i can hold onto, but also do not want to feel that I'm living a lie.

  57. MLM says:

    James 4:3 says "You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions."

    I think a question I'd ask Amy and Destry is: Do you feel angry that God hasn't responded to your calls in the way you think he should? If so, maybe there's something (a feeling, specific knowledge, etc.) you're demanding from him; something that says "I want you, but only on my terms."

    Also, something I realized recently is that I've been making certain things, like "knowing Jesus," more complicated and mysterious than they really are. It was kind of an epiphany to realize that getting to know Jesus is in many ways just like getting to know anyone else in the world (even easier perhaps, since he wants to be known): Read the book he wrote about himself; talk to him; listen to him; believe him; think about him; respectfully consider him; talk to his friends to find out what they know and love about him; etc.

    Pursue him for *him*, and not for something you think he can or should do for you. Don't assume you already know what he thinks or how he'll respond. Don't say, "He's being silent!" when he wrote an entire book full of his deepest thoughts, characteristics, answers and plans.

    We wouldn't insult the people around us that way. Why Jesus?

    Do those things intentionally and for a long time because knowing someone well doesn't happen overnight. It takes time. It's only after you've shared lots of conversation, laughs, vulnerability, questions asked and answered, etc., that you can really start to say and feel that you know them well.

    And, as with anyone else, it might be awkward getting to know Jesus at first. You might have long silent spaces in conversation. You might feel like something you said sounded dumb. You might not understand where he's coming from at times.

    But keep at it. There's no one else in the universe so worthy of the effort. And there's no amount of worship, adoration and pursuit of him that isn't appropriate and deserved.

  58. Geomama says:

    The fact that we're seeking God is actually our response to His calling. "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44). That's why I love the sacred heart and imagery in the Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) – God as the lover who longs for us, who thirsts for our love.

  59. Maegwin says:

    I have struggled with how to explain this Tony husband. He is agnostic with an abusive evangelical background. To him all Christians are stupid and ignorant. The few times we've been able to talk honestly, and without anger, about my faith – I just can't seem to articulate it so he can understand.
    I guess I would say trust that God is present. Even when you think he isn't there, he is. Even on the hard days, trust. You may not always feel him, or discern his plan – but know that the hard days will pass and the peace and warmth will return.
    I would keep going to church, keep praying, study. Especially when it seems pointless.

  60. Peony Moss says:

    I'm not trying to diagnose Amy or any one else; just "what worked for me"….

    Through the years, I have been plagued with feelings that God did not exist, or, later, that He existed but didn't care about me or didn't like me. What got me through this:

    1. An intellectual, 100% above the eyebrows conviction that God existed, that the Incarnation happened, and that the Church was who She claimed to me. It was of no more emotional consolation than any other fact, such as the fact that the Battle of Hastings was in 1066 and not 1067. It got me through the "God doesn't exist" years.

    2. A couple of memorized Scripture verses. For me, it was, "It is not the will of the Father that a single one of these little ones should be lost." So, a syllogism:
    God does not will a single one of these little ones to be lost; I am one of those little ones; therefore it is not the will of God that I be lost. It may sound silly and dry, but it kept me tethered to to the idea that even if God didn't like me, he was concerned enough about my welfare to will that I not be lost.

    What finally helped? Of all things, getting my chronic dysthymia (low-grade depression) treated. I still never feel big thrills of emotional faith, but I don't struggle under the burden of being convinced that either God doesn't exist or God singling me out for disdain.

    Recently I read a book by a neuropsychiatrist on how his patients' faith lives changed and improved after they were treated for conditions such as depression, ADD, etc. He mentioned that the feeling that "God doesn't care" or "God doesn't like me" was characteristic of patients who had organic mood disorders. Grace builds upon nature.

    Will be praying for Amy and those in the same boat.

  61. Anita and Emanuel says:

    Praised be Jesus and Mary! I saw your post and I just had to leave few words. Excuse some spelling mistakes , I am Croatian after all :-)
    When it comes to praying a LONG time and not getting the answer and Feeling that something must be SO VERY WRONG with you, your heart, prayers, the very soul… well I know about that. Imagine praying for an intention over a long period of years and living in a sanctuary witnessing the miracles (more spiritual than physical) on the almost every day basis !!! It can put some "?" over your head many times. Ok, this is starting to turn into a more than few words. Sorry!
    When it comes to prayer there are three very important points (along with the firm faith God loves you and want's the best for you).
    1.Decision
    2.Perserverence
    3. Patience
    As God's time is not our time the point 2. and 3. are quite challenging :-)but it is the only way.
    From my own experience I would say that most of us does not how to pray for our intention. We pray for what we want , while we should pray for what is the best for us. God, who loves us so much has only our best interest in mind so maybe it is not that He is not answering your prayer but rather He keeps you safe from your own ideas :-)
    And here is something I also reflect many times … maybe God chooses certain people while here on earth to reveal them His infinite Love. He as a jealous God waits until chosen person finds its way to His heart. He waits for you to come close, to be immersed into his Love and Mercy and to find all the joy and all the fulfillment possible for a human being to have.Come as close as possible to Paradise. That becomes your ultimate "answer to all prayers" and reason for happiness. Only then, God "answers" your prayers because He is at the "top of the list" … Only problem :-) is that the very process of "getting there" goes through desert /suffering/.
    So, my advice is Rejoice! God bless

  62. Nick M. says:

    John 14 (New King James Version)

    John 14
    The Way, the Truth, and the Life
    1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions;[a] if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.[b] 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
    5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
    6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
    The Father Revealed

    7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
    8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
    9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.

  63. EandE says:

    I can only speak of my own experience, but when I was young in my faith and felt God wasn't answering me, I look back and realize that I wanted it all to be on my terms. I wish I could explain how it changed, but I can't. The closest would be from the responders who said to keep believing, and quoted Screwtape. Also, I've come to realize that God has worked in my life more through adversity. Before reading this post, I was thinking about a series of events in my life that were very painful, but ultimately led me to where I am today; a blessedly happy Catholic. No, everything in my life is not great, but I see God' hand in it all now. When my heart changed from praying for my own selfish wants, to praying for the will of God and good of others, it all changed.

  64. Anonymous says:

    I agree with James and George. I wanted to put in another thought that I don't believe has been brought up. Examine your life. Are you involved in sins that involve the 1st commandment? Are you reading horoscopes? Watch out for the occult. I saw a book of prayers to pray while reading tarot cards. The prayers called on the Lord, but never mentioned Jesus. There is power in His name and the devil thinks he is lord!!

  65. drustee says:

    If God exists, and keeps everything in existence,then He simply IS, whether we 'feel' him or not.

    I once read a story:

    A little fish had heard about the power, majesty and grandeur of the ocean. So he kept swimming here and there looking for it, but all he found was water. In dissapointment, he concluded that the ocean does not exist.

    My suggestion: just trust in Him and keep living your life as best you can. Like others have pointed out, He may speak to you in a personal way when you least expect it.

  66. Babs says:

    In re-reading Amy's post, she says that she is seeking faith. I am going to guess that she is also speaking about a feeling of God's presence, although she doesn't expressly say that.

    For myself, the experience of God's presence, or the feeling of closeness to God, is closely connected with my closeness to others. Because of early events in my life, I developed a hard, protective, shell – one that served me well at one point, but now is merely disfunctional. Many times I've asked God to take it away so that I could feel His presence more. But I have come to the conclusion, that *I* have to dismantle it – not because God can't penetrate it, but because in order to give and receive Love, I have some work to do in the forgiveness department, and God wants me to do it. Perhaps in Amy's life there are matters that need to be attended to in order to open her up to God's love. God's presence, then, could actually be revealed in the day-to-day circumstances that call upon a change of heart.

    For myself, I have faith – shakey faith. But as I come to greater understanding, I realize that God wants something better for me, and that the path to it involves removing walls of unforgiveness and replacing them with love and compassion.

  67. Geoffrey Miller says:

    He who finds nothing, finds God.

  68. David E. Waite says:

    There are two things you might want to think and pray about. The first is simply this: you do not know who God is. It is very difficult to find something when we do not know what it is. That is why so many of us decide – in advance – who God is. Then we know what we are looking for and we go looking for the image of God that we have creted. But the image of God that we have created is not God. It is an image of God that we have created.

    The second thing is simply this: God is looking for you. He created us because He wanted us to be with Him. When we left the Garden of Eden, we left Him, but he never stopped reaching out to us. That is why he sent His Son, and, after the Son, the Paraclete. He is still reaching out to us, just as He was before the Creation.

    So maybe you should quit trying to find God and just let God find you. You don't know what you are looking for, anyway, and it appears that you have proven to yourself that you cannot find Him. So let Him find you.

    Of course, that means that you will have to give up control. More than that, you will have to abandon your will. You have been willing yourself to find God. Give it up. Abandon your will to His.

    And let Him be Whoever He Is, instead of what you think he should be.

  69. The Ryan's says:

    I would say "Did you stop talking long enough to listen?" So many times in my walk I feel abandoned by God…I convince myself He doesn't care…"Why would He?" I ask myself. But He does care…He always has and He always will. When it comes down to it, He didn't walk away, I did. The same is true in seeking His voice. You may think you are listening, but that noise and clatter in your mind isn't truly put to rest. Sometimes when I think I can't hear Him, it is then I realize that I haven't let go of the idea that I know best…that I am smarter.

  70. Anonymous says:

    The first question seems to be – where did you look?
    Did you talk to others? As for tongues, they shall pass away …
    Did you seek prophesy? They will pass away …
    Did you seek knowledge? Our knowledge is imperfect …
    Did you develop faith to move mountains? It is nothing …
    Did you subject yourself to penance? Even though I give my body to be burned …
    The leap of faith that is so hard for all of us is really a leap of love. Do we love enough to bears all things, believe all things, hopes all things, endures all things (even when it doesn’t seem to give us anything – not even peace, not even the sense that it is real to us?)
    Are we really willing to suffer being patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, not arrogant or rude, to not insist on our own way (instead of God’s), to not be irritable or resentful (when God’s way seems a dark, empty path to us)?
    For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face-to-face. Now I know in part (or maybe not at all), then I shall understand full, even as I have (ALWAYS) been understood (even if I didn’t feel it)
    Real faith isn’t about feeling or even having any confirmation that something is real “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen”
    In a way it’s not faith if you know it’s there in the same way you know it’s your face in the mirror. What we see is only a fraction of the real world – the world God sees – souls, saints above, angels just to name a few things we can’t see but are even more real than your reflection.
    I almost never have a sense that someone is hearing my prayers. I don’t feel any reassurances. I cast my net into the deep and can’t see it anymore. I can only have faith that the net is full – someday when I’m (hopefully) face to face with Jesus, I will see it as he sees it.
    If you have been seeking, but felt you didn’t find, be assured that you were found even if you felt like you were still standing alone at the door.

  71. Jet says:

    I would suggest a very basic exercise like keeping a gratitude journal to focus on the positive. Record daily instances of love: patience, kindness, selflessness, humility, modesty, charity in others. Note love in action observed–directed by and towards anyone for any reason. Be an observer. God is our ultimate parent, who sometimes lets us ride our bikes w/o training wheels. God loves us unconditionally, regardless of our faults. Be thankful for everything and tell yourself that you are lovable and loved–and others are praying for you!

  72. Nick M. says:

    In my experience I have found that God has at times not really answered me, except to say to me that I need to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation with humility and contrition to be at peace with Him again, so that He'll start "talking" to me again. Just as the Lord would not speak to Saul in the Old Testament because Saul had disobeyed Him.

    1 Samuel 28:1-20 (New King James Version)

    1 Samuel 28
    1 Now it happened in those days that the Philistines gathered their armies together for war, to fight with Israel. And Achish said to David, “You assuredly know that you will go out with me to battle, you and your men.”
    2 So David said to Achish, “Surely you know what your servant can do.”
    And Achish said to David, “Therefore I will make you one of my chief guardians forever.”

    Saul Consults a Medium

    3 Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had lamented for him and buried him in Ramah, in his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the spiritists out of the land.
    4 Then the Philistines gathered together, and came and encamped at Shunem. So Saul gathered all Israel together, and they encamped at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. 6 And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets.
    7 Then Saul said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.”
    And his servants said to him, “In fact, there is a woman who is a medium at En Dor.”
    8 So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes, and he went, and two men with him; and they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Please conduct a séance for me, and bring up for me the one I shall name to you.”
    9 Then the woman said to him, “Look, you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the spiritists from the land. Why then do you lay a snare for my life, to cause me to die?”
    10 And Saul swore to her by the LORD, saying, “As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.”
    11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?”
    And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.”
    12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul!”
    13 And the king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What did you see?”
    And the woman said to Saul, “I saw a spirit[a] ascending out of the earth.”
    14 So he said to her, “What is his form?”
    And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle.” And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down.
    15 Now Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”
    And Saul answered, “I am deeply distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God has departed from me and does not answer me anymore, neither by prophets nor by dreams. Therefore I have called you, that you may reveal to me what I should do.”
    16 Then Samuel said: “So why do you ask me, seeing the LORD has departed from you and has become your enemy? 17 And the LORD has done for Himself[b] as He spoke by me. For the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. 18 Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day. 19 Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.”
    20 Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, and was dreadfully afraid because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten no food all day or all night.

  73. Christine says:

    I know what it is like to not have God. I know despair. With God I have Joy…not the "warm fuzzy feeling" but I have grace. I have been forgiven through confession and I have grace. Peace in my heart. I do not look for things from God but only to do His Will in all things.

  74. J.A.J. says:

    - To seek and not find is a humbling experience, and that's precisely what makes it valuable. It reminds us that the "opportune moment" lies in God's hands, not ours. All we need do is continue, with patience and trust. (Edith Stein, looking back at her conversion process, could in faith affirm that God had counted her long search for truth as a single prayer).
    - Deep friendship/love can afford moments of "silence": no need to converse; enough to know the other's there. God's always near… even in the silence.

  75. AndreaM says:

    But it's not really about our SEEKING Him and not getting an anwser. That is God's territory, the answer. If we sincerely look for Him in ourselves, in the world, and in others, He will give us what we need when we need it.

    As others have said, going by feelings are not important. To some of us he gives those feelings and signs. To others, intellect to grasp His plan. To others, He gives a dark night of the soul…

    What I would appeal to most are the words of Christ on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?" He shares your feelings of loneliness and abandonment, He chose to do this so He could bring you home to Him…

    If anyone's interested, I have a Catholic blog of my own…www.homethroughrome.blogspot.com. It's nopthing much, just a celebration of my personal journey!

  76. Flexo says:

    St. Augustine, Confessions (A.D. 397-98)
    Book II, ch. 2-3 –

    I was in a ferment of wickedness. I deserted You and allowed myself to be carried away by the sweep of the tide. * * * But in my mother’s heart you had already begun to build Your temple and laid the foundations of Your holy dwelling * * * How presumptuous it was of me to say that You were silent, my God, when it was I who drifted farther and farther away from You! Can it be true that You said nothing to me at that time? Surely the words which rang in my ears, spoken by Your faithful servant, my mother, could have come from none but You? Yet none of them sank into my heart to make me do as You said. * * * It all seemed womanish advice to me and I should have blushed to accept it. Yet the words were Yours, though I did not know it. I thought that You were silent and that she was speaking, but all the while, You were speaking to me through her, and when I disregarded her, your handmaid, I was disregard­ing You, though I was both her son and Your servant.

  77. jrbaab says:

    So many words of wisdom in these comments. I hope Amy and Destry read them! If you have, just to let you know that I've included you in my prayers today. Take some of the advice in the comments. Don't get overwhelmed.

    A few things…

    Here's a cool video you might like by Fr. Barron which speaks to this point in a way…
    http://www.wordonfire.org/WOF-TV/Faith-Clips-new/How-do-we-know-we-are-encountering-God-.aspx
    It may speak to you, may not.

    Remember that God is love. Anytime love is present, we are sensing Him, be it indirectly perhaps.

    Excerpt from 1st Samuel, Ch 15
    Obedience is better than sacrifice,
    and submission than the fat of rams.

    Try and remain obedient to Christ. It's not easy but it's easier than the alternative. Obedience is fasting from our own will so by obediently living the life of faith you subscribe to God's will. Try this, anytime you have a doubt about God, pray 'help my unbelief' or 'Jesus, I trust in you, please increase my trust in you.' I often overthink these things but little prayers help a lot.

    Don't worry about forced prayers or forced sacraments. That's ok. The desire to know God in you means you've already been found by Him. We realize Him on a different timeline and as a unique individual, unidentical to anyone before or after.

    Persevere. I know it's painful. Persevere.

    'Eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love Him.'

  78. Wiregrass Catholic Mom says:

    I would like to know what exactly this seeker is expecting from God? What is it that will satisfy your heart's longing. And I would point to Christ hanging on His Cross on Good Friday and say, gently, this is Love. And this Love felt abandoned by God, even knowing that He was not abandoned did stop Him from feeling the pain of our abyss. This Love asks that we trust that He loves us whether we feel it or not. That's about all I could say without knowing the answer to the questions above.

  79. Anonymous says:

    I would tell people like the ones described in this post to remember that even though you may feel as if God is not in your heart, you are always in His heart. Also, please remember these amazing words…

    My Child,

    You may not know me,
    but I know everything about you.
    Psalm 139:1

    I know when you sit down and when you rise up.
    Psalm 139:2

    I am familiar with all your ways.
    Psalm 139:3

    Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.
    Matthew 10:29-31

    For you were made in my image.
    Genesis 1:27

    In me you live and move and have your being.
    Acts 17:28

    For you are my offspring.
    Acts 17:28

    I knew you even before you were conceived.
    Jeremiah 1:4-5

    I chose you when I planned creation.
    Ephesians 1:11-12

    You were not a mistake,
    for all your days are written in my book.
    Psalm 139:15-16

    I determined the exact time of your birth
    and where you would live.
    Acts 17:26

    You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Psalm 139:14

    I knit you together in your mother's womb.
    Psalm 139:13

    And brought you forth on the day you were born.
    Psalm 71:6

    I have been misrepresented
    by those who don't know me.
    John 8:41-44

    I am not distant and angry,
    but am the complete expression of love.
    1 John 4:16

    And it is my desire to lavish my love on you.
    1 John 3:1

    Simply because you are my child
    and I am your Father.
    1 John 3:1

    I offer you more than your earthly father ever could.
    Matthew 7:11

    For I am the perfect father.
    Matthew 5:48

    Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand.
    James 1:17

    For I am your provider and I meet all your needs.
    Matthew 6:31-33

    My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.
    Jeremiah 29:11

    Because I love you with an everlasting love.
    Jeremiah 31:3

    My thoughts toward you are countless
    as the sand on the seashore.
    Psalms 139:17-18

    And I rejoice over you with singing.
    Zephaniah 3:17

    I will never stop doing good to you.
    Jeremiah 32:40

    For you are my treasured possession.
    Exodus 19:5

    I desire to establish you
    with all my heart and all my soul.
    Jeremiah 32:41

    And I want to show you great and marvelous things.
    Jeremiah 33:3

    If you seek me with all your heart,
    you will find me.
    Deuteronomy 4:29

    Delight in me and I will give you
    the desires of your heart.
    Psalm 37:4

    For it is I who gave you those desires.
    Philippians 2:13

    I am able to do more for you
    than you could possibly imagine.
    Ephesians 3:20

    For I am your greatest encourager.
    2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

    I am also the Father who comforts you
    in all your troubles.
    2 Corinthians 1:3-4

    When you are brokenhearted,
    I am close to you.
    Psalm 34:18

    As a shepherd carries a lamb,
    I have carried you close to my heart.
    Isaiah 40:11

    One day I will wipe away
    every tear from your eyes.
    Revelation 21:3-4

    And I'll take away all the pain
    you have suffered on this earth.
    Revelation 21:3-4

    I am your Father, and I love you
    even as I love my son, Jesus.
    John 17:23

    For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed.
    John 17:26

    He is the exact representation of my being.
    Hebrews 1:3

    He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you.
    Romans 8:31

    And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
    2 Corinthians 5:18-19

    Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled.
    2 Corinthians 5:18-19

    His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you.
    1 John 4:10

    I gave up everything I loved
    that I might gain your love.
    Romans 8:31-32

    If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, you receive me.
    1 John 2:23

    And nothing will ever separate you
    from my love again.
    Romans 8:38-39

    Come home and I'll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen.
    Luke 15:7

    I have always been Father,
    and will always be Father.
    Ephesians 3:14-15

    My question is…
    Will you be my child?
    John 1:12-13

    I am waiting for you.
    Luke 15:11-32

    Love, Your Almighty Father

  80. Anonymous says:

    I think when we are still trying to do things on our terms and in our time it doesn't work. God will make his presence known on his own time. We can't force his hand-it's lesson #1. Thanks Jen!

  81. Tim Terhune says:

    Haha, I was meaning to read a book up on my shelf for the past 10 years, picked it up and sat down. Flipped to the inside cover and there are few quotes to start things off, one of them is:

    "Not the least of my problems is that I can hardly even imagine what kind of an experience a genuine, self-authenticating religious experience would be. Without somehow destroying me in the process, how could God reveal himself in a way that would leave no room for doubt? If there were no room for doubt, there would be no room for me."

    - Frederick Buechner

  82. Rolley Haggard says:

    To Amy,

    My dear friend, I understand. It has been my peculiar burden to wonder all my life why, for some of us, persistent darkness never ends. I’ve met countless well-meaning Job’s Comforters who deny that such can or ever has happened to “true believers”, assuring us that our loving God would never let things go that far, citing such seemingly applicable passages as, “God will not permit you to be tempted beyond what you are able to bear” (1 Cor 10:13). How I’ve wished it were that simple!

    For what it’s worth, Amy, this is what I have observed: There are some Christians – actually many, though their story is not the kind of thing you find people running to the microphone to share — whose experience is just like yours.

    Christ was one of them!

    Do we not learn this from Calvary — that at times God Himself is unable to intervene, even to save His beloved, the one who fervently prays with all the heart, “if possible, let this cup pass from me”?

    At times, it is not possible for the cup to pass.

    In those times, how can the heart cry be anything other than, “my God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”

    When Christ uttered those words from His own dying lips, His was not the cry of one whose faith had foundered, but of one whose faith was in extremity. Like yours, Amy.

    In Christ’s unalleviated suffering He sanctified our own honest despair, as much as if He had said, “it’s okay, child; I’ve been there, and I, at least, understand what your heart is saying, though others may construe it as faith’s abandonment. My child, you are sharing with Me in the fellowship of My sufferings. Not only do I understand what you are going through, but now at last, you can understand what I went through. I know what it is like to seemingly be abandoned by the One you thought would never abandon you. My child, I hear your cry of desperation and know it for what it really is: the prayer of a faith so exquisitely pure that all it desires is God. Dear child, as soon as possible, as soon as the cup which could not pass any sooner has finally been emptied – then, then, you shall be with Me in paradise, which is no paradise for Me until you are with Me.” (Isaiah 63:9: “in all their affliction He was afflicted.”)

    Amy, don’t believe the lie. You have not abandoned your faith. When you cry as Christ did and receive no answer as He did, you are, like Him, commending your spirit utterly into God’s hands.

    God grant me the faith of my sister Amy who has sought You to exhaustion!

  83. Dan Nieman says:

    We do not find God, it is God who finds us. The fact that one is seeking to know and experience God is evidence that there is some level of belief in God.

    Romans 10:17 says "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. (paraphrase)

    Give yourself opportunities to read and hear the Bible. Write down what you have problems with and ask yourself if you can believe the rest.

    Visit churches. Attend services. Appreciate church archectiture. Spend time with Christians (we're not all that bad).

    Read great Christian thinkers. Listen to the music of Handel, Bach.

    Jesus told Nicodemus that "the wind blows where it wills." John 3 (paraphrase). When you least expect it you will discover that you believe in God and Jesus Christ his Son.

    God loves you and we do too.

  84. James Oakley says:

    A Hermit and Daniel S both raised an interesting point: There is a distinction between the rational basis for our faith (the facts), and our reaction to those facts (our faith or trust in God).

    If Amy has not yet given her intellectual assent to the facts underlying faith in Jesus, then a return to the gospels, and to other books talking about the historical basis of Christianity can be really useful. Strangely enough I found some help in reading books by atheists (including and especially Richard Dawkins) – mainly because their arguments did not argue from the facts to "God does not exist", but rather from the premise "God does not exist" to explain how the world could exist without God. Any apparent conflict disappeared once I recognised that the science, including evolution, is frantically trying to explain our extraordinary world assuming that God isn't real.

    Then getting back to the facts – Jesus was killed in a horrific and public way, he lay dead for three days, and then he was resurrected in a very public way. There is ample evidence to confirm this in the historical record, both biblical and non-biblical. Once I accept the resurrection as a historical fact, I can rely much more confidently on the rest of the Bible. Because of this I can believe that God is real.

    It's at this point that faith steps in. As other commenters have said, faith is a decision or an action, rather than a feeling. Just like love. I think it's at this point that it's worth "acting as if" things are true – because I've already done the "head work" of looking at what's true. Now I need to allow that truth to affect my life.

    Do I still question? Of course, especially when reading or listening to evolutionary science!

    Do I still feel alone? Yes.

    Do I sometimes feel like praying is just mumbling to myself? Yes, more often than not.

    But I have recognised that the Bible is reliable, that therefore God exists, that God loves me, and that Jesus died for my sins and to reconcile a sinner like me to Him. That will do, no matter how I feel today.

  85. Gregaria says:

    I am so grateful for these posts, because I am also going through a very doubtful dark time at the moment. I so appreciate hearing from people who actually believe in God. I've been thinking about some things that might be helpful to Amy, namely the reasons for doubt and suffering. Mother Teresa, in her book "Come Be My Light" which recounts her dark night of the soul, suggests that one of the reasons we go through these tough times is to deepen our desire and longing for God, kind of like waiting to eat increases our desire for and appreciation of food. (Heads up, that's a dark book I couldn't finish… but I did find that one suggestion helpful.) Also, I know from going through a very very dark time of doubting previously that all that pain is forgotten and even appreciated after its over. Granted, I'm going through a doubting time again, but I still hope to someday be in that place of Faith and peace that surpasses all understanding once again. Hang in there, my heart goes out to you.

  86. John says:

    I have a friend who has a powerful conversion story to tell. His name is David MacDonald and he has a website called http://www.CatholicBridge.com . He is a talentd musician that has produced astounding CDs. He played in the Broadway production of Cats as the "Rock 'N Roll" cat and was far from the Lord, but through a series of mysterious events one day, ended up laying down in front of the altar of St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal and committing his life to Jesus. I think that most increases in faith don't come that dramatically, but rather in increments. Sometimes the increments are big, and sometimes they're small.

    God Bless,
    John

  87. John says:

    To Amy and Gregaria, and anyone else in their boat, you are welcome to e-mail me at C183068@yahoo.ca (I know, it's not a very creative name) if I can be of any assistance.

    God bless,
    John

  88. John says:

    I know, one last post and then I promise I'll shut up. In addition to this excellent blog, I like this one too: http://www.archbishopterry.blogspot.com/

    John (c183068@yahoo.ca)

  89. eulogos says:

    The answer is different for each person. No one really knows the answer for this Amy.

    I would say…why were you trying in the first place to come to know God, or to know if there is a God?
    If it seems reasonable to you that there is a God, and reasonable that God knows us, then I think it would be reasonable to try to honor and serve that God in some way, even if you have no "feelings" of his/its presence. Pick a prayer and say it morning and evening. A short prayer, perhaps the Lord's prayer or some other prayer which it isn't difficult for you to say. You could make up one, for instance," God, if you are there, I do want to know you and to serve you, but I just can't tell you are there, and I don't know how to have faith that you are. Please let me know about you, and please direct my life in a way which will be pleasing to you. Amen " Just say it, morning and evening. Don't cry and plead and wear yourself out.
    If you can attend a church without people jumping all over you and assuming you are a full fledged believer…and big Catholic churches are good for this, you can go, sit in the back, and leave without anyone pressuring you…then you might go on Sunday, if this doesn't get you upset.
    Whatever you do, I think you should do it calmly, with few expectations.

    You obviously think it is an important issue whether there is a God, and that if there is, you would want to worship Him/It.
    I ask you not to give up yet, but as Nic said, to stop trying so hard. Remember the story of the guy in the cave waiting on God…there were all sorts of impressive and noisy events, such as a whirlwind, but God was not in any of them..then there was a 'still, small voice' and that was God. T.S. Eliot said "Where will the Word resound? Not here, there is not enough silence."
    So I would say, pick some practice which shows openness to God and willingness to serve God, and practice it, but otherwise go about your business.

    I don't know anything about you, not even having read your blog. But I can tell you that although I made prayers like yours at one point, nothing "happened" before I did two things. One was the intellectual part; I had to justify the idea of faith to myself as intellectually respectable. That was particularly an issue for me as I had been raised to think that it was not so.

    The other part was much harder and is much harder to talk about. I had to give up my own ideas about sex. I had to be brought very low to do this. One night I said, in an act of surrender to who or what I had no idea 'I don't know what is the right way to live, but this is NOT the right way to live." It was a week later that I became a believer, and God really did show me His presence.

    I don't know if this is true of you or not, not knowing you. But it was true of me. I had to be willing to let God tell me the right way to live, including about sex, before He made me a believer.

    Susan Peterson

  90. Elizabeth says:

    For me, faith is a deliberate choice that I need to make nearly every day. I make that choice based on reason, though, not on any personal experience that may have "proved" Christianity to be true.

    Though I am now catholic, when I first converted to Christianity, it was through an evangelical protestant denomination, where there tends to be a big emphasis on a personal "conversion" experience. I prayed the "sinner's prayer" and "accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior", as I had been taught, but didn't feel one bit different and I certainly didn't feel like I had a "conversion experience", and I therefore doubted over and over again whether or not I was actually Christian (as though I was waiting for a sign that God "accepted" me into Christianity, or as if I was waiting for God to come introduce himself to me in a very tangible way!!) It took me a while to figure out that God was waiting for me to get busy living a Christian life (a life of prayer and action, a life of love, mercy, justice, forgiveness, etc) and that my reasons to believe, my willingness to believe, would grow as I did so.

  91. Anonymous says:

    If you want to be happy, be – Tolstoy
    If you want to believe, believe

  92. Robin says:

    I'd say in my experience, you can be looking or listening for somthing that is already right in front of you-that proverbial "still small voice."
    Also, I have come to believe that Gods promise of being found is backed-up by the One Who is definitely big enough to not be missed. It's hard to not be swallowed up by feeling lost or alone, when in reality the Truth is all round you, in my experience.

  93. Lucy says:

    I remember this comment from Amy. In fact, I wrote out a long response comment, but ended up not posting it because it just felt so… trite.

    I don't really have a good response for someone in her position. I have never been there. I have felt angry, alone, abandoned, separated from God, but I have never truly doubted His existence. There is just too much proof of His work in my life for me to do that.

    I am Eastern Orthodox. I converted about nine years ago and it has been a wild ride ever since. Truthfully, it was kindof a wild ride before that, too. :) I have learned that I tend to over-think things. Partly because I grew up an evangelical, I still find myself searching for emotional experiences. But I find I have the most "satisfaction," if I dare use that word, when I pare it down and simply pray: Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me. I think of the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. Who walked away justified? So many times, all I can do is throw myself on God's mercy and trust Him.

    I also agree with others' question: what are these people looking for? Part of my journey of being Orthodox has been my re-education of who I think God is and what I think He should be doing for me. This doesn't mean I never ask God for specific things, but I have lived enough to know that even things that look bad can be gifts. But I can say that because I *decided* at a low point that God was good, that He only gives good gifts, that He is the true lover of mankind and that I had to trust Him. It was simple. But it was not easy. An intellectual decision eventually led to true faith.

    And I have always loved the quote from Mother Teresa (whom I have loved my whole life and I'm probably not getting this quote right, but it's something along these lines): God does not ask for success, only faithfulness.

    Save O Lord and have mercy on your handmaid Amy and all those who search for You.

  94. Jessica of Faustina Farm says:

    For my own life I found that when I gave up on getting an answer from God is when I did the most damage to my life and soul. It is when I hurt the people I loved. It was in my impatience and desire to stop suffering and to pursue what seemed pleasurable or more exciting that I shrugged my shoulders saying God didn't really care what I did and stopped waiting for the answer. It wasn't so much that I was choosing to rebel against God as much as it was I thought I could just try my way while waiting on God (If even existed) to give specific instructions. God seemed to be taking too long and what if I never heard an answer and I missed out on my opportunity for happiness. I relied on my own belief in what I tried to convince myself was right for me. I was being "responsible" by "taking control" of my own life.

    You did catch that? I was hiding behind being responsible for myself. MY life, MY choice, MY responsibility… I was full of myself and empty of God. I had fun, but was not at peace. I felt in control, and utterly alone. I felt free, but was blind to my enslavement. I sought to be loved and accepted and received disappointment and regret.

    The progression from independence to God dependence was painfully slow. I had to learn to spend more time seeking and praising God for all the little things He did before I started hearing answers to the big questions in mylife. It is a continual journey. My current family circumstance as given me a real opportunity to completely embrace this concept. I emptied myself and God has filled me. I hurt and have peace. I have no control and feel His loving presence. I am enslaved to Him and see how now I am finally free. I seek to love and accept and finally know what being loved really means.

    It was trial and error that helped me have patience and perseverance while waiting on God to answer and for my own understanding to finally "hear" that whisper.

  95. Dave Mueller says:

    Perhaps the "force" you feel impelling you on to search for God is itself an indicator to you that God exists?

    It's kind of a metaphysical argument, but if we hunger, this indicates that there is something which can fill that hunger.

    At the time of my initial conversion, I had a few bells and whistles that deepened my conviction that He is real, but after this, it has been a long process of learning to see God in everything.

    The deeper prayer life we have, the more He guides us in everyday things and events, at least that has been my experience.

    I would say, continue to seek. Don't give up. Honestly and earnestly seek the truth in all things, and that's all that God or anyone else can ask. Ask that, if there is anything inside yourself that is blocking you from sensing the presence of God, it be removed.

    God's blessing to all those searching. I ache and pray for you to find the peace, joy, and wholeness that are available through Christ and His Church.

  96. Jim C says:

    I'm actually very curious what she is looking for. Jesus promises when you seek Me you will find Me. Are looking for some sort of emotional upheaval, that may not come. I would that because you are looking you have already found and now need to trust Him and abide in Him.

  97. Anonymous says:

    Amy,

    Did you happen to have an encounter with Christ when you were younger?

  98. Amy says:

    Gosh, Jen, I'm gone a week or two, think to myself, I wonder what Jen has been up to and come back to this, my name in lights! Yikes! I had no intention of reading comments for almost an hour, but there you have it.

    First off, a big thank you for all of those who took the time to comment so thoughtfully. Seriously. Wow. And, of course, always to you, Jennifer, for your encouragement in the past and simply for your presence now. I consider you an "old friend" I like to look in on now and again even though our paths are diverging.

    The second thing I wish to say is that I no longer have a desire to discuss this stuff anymore. Maybe I've made the wrong choice, deciding to ignore the issue of gods/religions altogether. But I am so much more at ease now. I no longer have days where I wish I had never been born because I'm too stupid/smart/proud/whatever to believe in the Christian faith. I had a lot of days like that when I was seeking faith.

    It comes down to this: I am happier. I'm more emotionally stable. I no longer have nightmares. And maybe being happy isn't the point of life, but I've spent so many years being miserable about this that I am choosing happy.

    Regardless of my seemingly disappointing end, I am absolutely certain that these amazing and thoughtful comments will be a big encouragement to someone, probably to many someones, who continue to seek. So I thank you on their behalf.

    I would like to address a few questions/comments, but please know I have no intention of getting into a debate, I'm just trying to clarify. And please forgive me for not responding to you by name–it's easier and quicker this way–there were so many comments and they've gotten jumbled together and I didn't take notes because I wasn't even expecting this–I was just stopping by for a few "quick takes" ;-)

    To answer several questions about what it was I was seeking, it was faith, not God or an experience of God (I have experienced what I would have called God–for me an unexpected, unexplainable feeling of a Presence of peace and love–now I call it a psychological experience and leave it at that). At the time I was seeking I already believed in God; it was the Christian faith I was struggling with.

    I was seeking faith. Faith, as in when someone asks me, "Do you believe that Jesus was God?" "Do you believe that humans have souls that continue on after death?" "Do you believe in miracles?" "Do you believe intercessory prayers have any benefits other than psychological ones?" "Do you believe there is a good reason for a child to suffer from disease and poverty and an early death?" I could answer "Yes" with any degree of confidence.

    Okay, the comment thingie is telling me my comment is too long (whaddya expect with 96 comments to reply to?) so I'll have to break this up.

    Continued…

  99. Amy says:

    Continuing…

    And yes, to the person who said it must have taken decades to do all of the things I said I did (I did, I had no reason to make that up), yes this has been a decades long struggle. One that I gave up when I turned 40 this past November.

    Someone wondered if I was baptized, and yes I was, as an adult before I married my husband almost 17 years ago.

    Someone wondered if I dabble in the occult. No. I think that stuff is all hogwash.

    Someone mentioned the importance of surrounding oneself with Christians and participating in Christian community. I attended church regularly for many years. I taught Sunday school. I went to adult ed programs at our church. Most of my friends are sincere Christians.

    To the person that asked why a media fast was necessary, that was in response to a post Jen did about finding faith in 5 steps, that being one of the steps. I tried it. That's all.

    Someone asked if I am angry at God. When I was seeking, there were certainly times I was, but now, no, because as I stated in the quote from the post above the issue of God has become irrelevant. Maybe there's a god, maybe there's not. Maybe it's the Christian version of God, maybe it's not. There's no way for me to know, so I simply don't worry about it. I think it would be difficult to be angry at something that I have no interaction with (yes, I just ended that phrase with a preposition, and yes, I know that's wrong;-)).

    To those who mentioned serving others, I wholeheartedly agree with that–it's something I did when I was trying to believe and it's something I will continue to do.

    And yes, I've read Lewis. And yes, I've read the saints, and yes I've read xyz. And now I'm done. I sold my Christian books to the used bookstore. Except Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. I'll keep them, thank you. And Merton. Just because I'm so fond of them.

    Those were the main questions/comments that stuck with me as far as needing a response. Sorry I don't feel up to responding to everyone, but surely you understand!

    As far as the many offers to pray for me, thank you, thank you, thank you– that is so amazingly kind. But you don't need to on my account. Pray for somebody else–don't waste your time on me. There are certainly enough people who want prayers and who believe they do something. I am not one of those people.

    peace,

    amy

  100. Dave Mueller says:

    Amy,
    A search like that which seemingly found no end point would be very draining. I don't blame you for "calling it off".

    However, I hope that you will continue to seek truth wherever it can be found. I don't think anyone (even God) can ask more.

  101. Sara says:

    This is something I don't understand about God. I have been told that God is a lover and a best friend (this may be more of a protestant idea than Catholic, not sure)but it seems that if someone were genuinely interested in pursuing a relationship, they would show up once in awhile. I have been in this place too; the place of praying, studying, fasting, crying out for God just to speak to you or even for you just to know for sure that he's there and …nothing.
    I understand the concept that most Christians believe; that if God were obvious, we wouldn't be choosing him and that he asks us just to have faith that he exists, but I disagree. When my husband was pursuing me, he did everything he could to win me over; love letters, romantic dinners phone calls, anything so he could spend time with me. In the end, it was still my free will to choose him. Why is God any different? Why doesn't he reveal himself?

  102. MLM says:

    Sara,

    It sounds like your husband is a neat guy, but imagine if you'd completely ignored his pursuit of you. Left his letters unopened on your nightstand; walked passed him without noticing the flowers in his hand; ate the dinners he invited you to share without looking at him or conversing; refused to answer the phone when he called.

    I think that's what we do to God a lot of the time. If you believe God created the world, then you have to believe that he fashioned you: Sara. Which means he thought about you very purposefully (and makes it seem absurd to question his existence). Everything he created speaks of his glory (Psalm 19), but most of the time we walk past it (the beauty of nature and the beauty of people who bear his image) without giving him a second thought. He wrote an entire book that all points toward one thing: the fact that his love for us was so great, he was willing to allow his own son to suffer and die to save our lives. His book is full of details about him: his loves, hates, humor, desires, character. And his book is full of romantic language: we're his bride (Rev. 21:9); he's our knight in shining armor (Rev. 19:11).

    I totally get that it's harder to experience the love of God than the love of our husbands. He doesn't flatter us the way they do, or make us feel like the prettiest girl in any room. But then, if we're honest, that's a pretty narrow and egotistical definition of love and pursuit.

    The truth is that God loves us infinitely more, and infinitely better than our husbands ever can. The beauty he is shaping us into (if we let him) is far more stunning than anything our husbands can ever make us feel. Every earthly love story takes its plot from God's love story, and pales in comparison.

    I don't always feel that, and I don't always live it, but it isn't because God hasn't made it clear. I have to live based on what I know to be true: God loves me and has my best interest at heart. I have to do the same thing in marriage, for my husband, since these days we're much more likely to be drowning in diapers full of poo than each other's eyes.

  103. Sara says:

    MLM-
    I don't think that the analogy of ignoring a husband's pursuit (leaving letters unopened, not noticing flowers) is very accurate. The title of this post is "I sought, but didn't find" meaning that those who share my feelings aren't walking through life oblivious to the love of God. I can only speak for myself, but I was very open; spending time alone in quiet prayer, in fellowship with other christians, studying worshiping. I don't think I was ignoring God; in fact I was trying to see him in everything.
    The very definition of a relationship is that it is reciprocal; both parties contribute. I think that those who are seeking but do not find just want to feel God's presence or have some way to actively communicate. It can feel like a relationship with God is very one-sided. I do realize that we have the Bible, but that is not interactive. It is already written, set in stone, and the only act of God's reciprocation to my communication using the Bible is for me to read a passage and decide that it applies to me or to my situation. Some people want more from a relationship. Additionally, I am not asking God to "flatter me or make me feel like the prettiest girl in the room", only just to say hello.
    There is the argument that God must remain hidden so that we only know him by faith, but what about those who have already chosen him by faith? Why doesn't he show up for them?

    It seems to me that God is only a matter of perspective. If I pray for something and I get it (discernment, healing, providence), that must have been God saying yes. If I don't get what I asked for, God must have said no. If I pray to feel God's presence and I don't, either I am trying too hard, or not trying hard enough, or I just need to wait for God's timing. If my life is good, then God must have blessed me, but if my life is going poorly, then God must be trying to teach me character or perserverance. God seems to only speak to us in ways that can be otherwise explained; a beautiful sunset, a kind note from a friend, etc. Which is more likely, that there is a God who loves us beyond measure, and yet refuses to interact with us in a way we could recognize, or that we choose to see him because we cannot imagine a life without God?

  104. MLM says:

    Sara,

    I can definitely understand the desire to feel God's presence. What a wonderful thing: to know the God of the universe takes time to talk with me, Marsha.

    But perhaps it's a question of motive. If we seek God for the purpose of getting him to respond in a certain way — something we understand and feel as his personal "hello" to us … well, in some ways that's kind of offensive. We're basically telling God, "these are the terms of the relationship. If you don't meet them, I'm walking."

    Sometimes emotion and feeling need to follow truth. "God doesn't make me feel noticed or loved, therefore he doesn't exist" is a way of defining truth based on feeling, and feelings can be, and often are, deceptive.

    God does exist. He did create you and me. He does love us. He did give up his son to save our lives. He does answer our prayers. He does give us wisdom to live life well. He is worthy of all of our worship and adoration and submission.

    Those things are true, no matter how we feel. And God doesn't owe us anything — not life, not "blessings," not a feeling, not a hello that we can recognize. If he gives us none of those things, he's still worthy of all our worship and adoration.

    It seems when many people say "I sought but didn't find," what they really mean is "I did my part, but God didn't do his." The evidence of his existence, from a purely intellectual perspective, is all around us, but when we don't get what we want or think we need emotionally, we're all too ready to reject and deny him.

    I don't want to make light of the desire to know God on a deeply personal level, and to know that he knows me. I long for that too. But I don't think any of us are in a place to demand it from him.

  105. Amy says:

    So you don't feel alone here, Sara (apparently I do still want to discuss this stuff ;-))…

    MLM wrote,
    It seems when many people say "I sought but didn't find," what they really mean is "I did my part, but God didn't do his."

    Yes, that's exactly what some of us are saying. Or in my case I guess I'm saying, "I did my part, but nothing happened, so I guess the Christian portrayal of God isn't true."

    The evidence of his existence, from a purely intellectual perspective, is all around us, but when we don't get what we want or think we need emotionally, we're all too ready to reject and deny him.

    What is this "evidence" exactly, evidence that, as Sara said, can't be explained by other means (science, our imaginations)?

    Now if Christians (or whatever religion, doesn't really matter) were obviously, fundamentally different than nonbelievers–if they were demonstrably kinder, less judgmental, more joyful, more honest–if their societies were less violent, had less poverty–those might be at least helpful indicators that this is the "true" religion and you can tell because the people who practice it are markedly different than the people who don't. Sadly, that's not even the case.

    And to me it only follows logically that if we don't get what we think we want or need (in my case, faith, in Sara's case, a response from God), that we would reject what supposedly is the source of this want/need.

    If I purchased a tool that was supposed to help me, I don't know, remove a doorknob, and I followed the instructions, and when I failed I called the company and asked for help, but their suggestions didn't work either, and when I researched it and found that many many others also had trouble with this same tool in spite of carefully following the instructions, I would most likely toss that tool and either look for a new tool that might work or live with the doorknob.

    I don't want to make light of the desire to know God on a deeply personal level, and to know that he knows me. I long for that too. But I don't think any of us are in a place to demand it from him.

    I don't think Sara is demanding anything. To paraphrase the bible, if a seeker asks for faith you don't give her… nothing.

    But it is supposedly God that wants us to believe! If God really wanted people to have faith, then wouldn't he do what's necessary to make that happen?

    According to Christianity, Moses got a talking, burning bush (sounds a little far-fetched to me, but whatever). Jonah got a big fish. The Israelites got pillars of fire and dust. Thomas got to touch Jesus' wounds. Now, I don't happen to believe any of that stuff actually occurred, but for those who do, I don't understand why it would be such a stretch for this God they believe in to simply show up in some tangible way. Why was it okay to interfere with biblical peoples' free will by God showing himself in various miraculous ways, (including Paul) but now for some reason that's counter to God's will?

    February 17, 2010 1:33 AM

  106. Sara says:

    Marsha,
    Thank you for taking the time to respond to my questions. In both of your responses, you seem to assume that I am digging my heels in the sand, arms crossed demanding that God be exactly who I ask him to be, and that if I would only take a more humble stance, I could accept the truth of who He is. It is unfair to view those who seek in this manner.

    I'm not sure why the idea of asking God for something is offensive to you. In the Bible he tells us to seek, and knock. Jesus himself says in the book of John to ask for anything in his name and he will give it us. Is it offensive if a child asks their father for a hug? All I was asking for was any sort of communication in a way that I would know it was God. I put no demands on how or when, and I spent many months devoting more than two hours each day to quiet study prayer, and fasted each week.

    Amy, one of the subject's of this original post was asking for even less; all she wanted was God to grant her faith to believe. Because God leaves us no proof of his existance, he requires that we see the world through the eyes of faith, trusting with the Bible as our only guide that God exists and that he is good. Is it demanding just to ask for faith to believe that?

    You tell me that we can't base of our faith on feelings but only on truth, so I would like to ask how do you know what is true? You are absolutely convinced that you know the character of God. Why? Why do you believe the things you do?
    For me, the Bible is no longer enough evidence of God's existance. There are too many errors, mistranslations, and I feel the way the books of the new testament were chosen is suspect. If I am not sure that the Bible is accurate, what else to I have to tell me about God? What are the things you think demonstrate the existance of God?

  107. Dani says:

    Sara, I thought your anaology was quite interesting. Because I thought immediately, what about the fact that thousands of others have no problem with the doorknob. Is it a fault of the specific door knob or is it the fault of the user for not being able to wrap their mind about how to use it? And then the question remains…would you be better off replacing the knob, replacing the brand, or investing into sliding doors and forgetting about doorknobs all together?

    K..analogy asides, I think the problem is that there is no possible way any one side can convince the other. I can no more convince you that God does exist based on evedince I can't actually prove, more than you can prove God doesn't exist based on evidence you can't actually prove.

    So this is just me, but as a Catholic, I don't bother. Perhaps that's not the "christian" way to do things, but I didn't seek God to covert others. I seeked him to convert myself. And through my conversion, if that affects others, that's great. If not, meh.

  108. Amy says:

    Sara,

    Amy, one of the subject's of this original post was asking for even less; all she wanted was God to grant her faith to believe.

    Yep–that was me asking in the original post!

    Dani,

    I think this might have been directed to me–re: the doorknob analogy:

    Sara, I thought your anaology was quite interesting. Because I thought immediately, what about the fact that thousands of others have no problem with the doorknob. Is it a fault of the specific door knob or is it the fault of the user for not being able to wrap their mind about how to use it?

    The doorknob wasn't the problem–sorry my analogy wasn't clear–I just made it up off the top of my head. I'll try to clarify it a bit.

    The tool to access the doorknob was the problem. And it's really not about blame as much as it is about acknowledging that the tool simply doesn't work for everyone.

    You are absolutely right–thousands of others have absolutely no problem using the "tool" of Christianity to reach their goal–a relationship with God (the doorknob). I think it's great so many can use that tool. I wish I were as adept at it as they. But for some of us, no matter how closely we follow the "instructions" and no matter who we ask (including the supposed "inventor" of the tool itself), we can't get that particular tool to work for us to loosen the bolts which would give us access to that doorknob.

    Hope that makes better sense. In other words, seeking through the vehicle of Christ and Christianity simply doesn't work for everyone. And the "inventor" of Christianity has seemed strangely silent when many of us have called the help-line.

    And then the question remains…would you be better off replacing the knob, replacing the brand, or investing into sliding doors and forgetting about doorknobs all together?

    Exactly! Since I have tried to use the "tool" of Christianity, and since I have had no success, even after consulting "customer service representatives" (other Christians, priests) and since I have received no response from the supposed "inventor" of the tool (and of the doorknob for that matter), I have indeed decided not to bother with the tool or the doorknob either one.

    Hopefully I haven't made the analogy even more confusing ;-)

  109. Amy says:

    Oh, one more thing:

    I think the problem is that there is no possible way any one side can convince the other. I can no more convince you that God does exist based on evedince I can't actually prove, more than you can prove God doesn't exist based on evidence you can't actually prove.

    I also don't think it is about convincing another that our point of view is "right." As far as I was concerned when I was seeking, I wasn't looking for someone to convince me as much as I was looking for something to help me be convinced, if that makes sense. And now that I'm no longer seeking, I'm not trying to convince commenters here that I'm right and they're wrong — what I'm trying to do is provide insight into the way some non-believers think.

    But I absolutely say good for you Dani that as a Catholic you don't go around trying to convert others — I've found that to be the case with a lot of Catholics, Jennifer included, and it's certainly something that I found attractive about Catholicism.

  110. MLM says:

    Hi Ladies:

    Jennifer, thanks for letting us use your blog for this discussion!

    Sara, you're right: it's not fair of me to assume anything about your heart or motivations in seeking God. I'm sorry if I've come across "preachy." How annoying.

    I don't think it's wrong or offensive (at all!) to ask God for things. I do think it's worth really, deeply considering our own motivations or expectations in how and what we ask for though. The Bible doesn't simply promise that God will give us what we ask as long as we ask in Jesus' name. It speaks a great deal of our heart's motivation. James 4:3 says "you ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions."

    I certainly have no right to make assumptions about your heart. Only you can answer questions like: Why am I seeking God? What do I want from him? Do I want *him* at all, or something he can give me? What do I assume about him? What do I really *know* about him?

    You asked if it's offensive for a child to ask a father for a hug. No. Never. Do you think of God as your father? Do you love him and respect him the way a child does a father? If so, are you ready to accuse him of being a bad father? If not, are you truly seeking with a child's heart?

    If your heart is sincerely seeking God for himself, then please don't give up. If he makes us wait a lifetime, until we see him face to face, it still seems worth it.

    You asked how I know God, which I'll answer in a new post so I don't get too long.

  111. MLM says:

    Sara, you asked how I know God. (I didn't mean to imply we can never base our faith on feelings, only that we must first base it on truth.)

    I don't know everything about God. I know I'm wrong in some of my assumptions and feelings, because I've discovered as much on more than one occasion.

    A few times in my life, God has "said hello in a way I can recognize." One of those was when I was 7 or 8. I said something mouthy to my mom, and my dad told me I'd be getting a spanking for it. So I was sitting in my room, fantasizing about how bad they'd feel if they came in to spank me and I was deathly ill on the floor. I loved thinking about how, instead of spanking me, they'd feel terrible and tell me how much they loved me and how sorry they were. Blah blah.

    For some reason, I picked up a paperback Psalms/Proverbs/NT that was sitting on my shelf. And I randomly opened it near the front and stuck my finger on a verse. Which happened to be Proverbs 3:12, which says basically, "don't despise discipline because God corrects those he loves, just like a father corrects the son he loves."

    It really bugged me. So I flipped to the back of the book and stuck my finger on another verse. Which turned out to be Hebrews 12:5-6, which is a quote of Prov 3:11-12.

    I know that was God. What else could it be? And I felt awed by it, even then. When I got my spanking, I felt very differently about it.

    Two other times, God has spoken to me that directly, through the Bible. And many times in between I've asked questions and not gotten any immediate or discernible answer. Or I've known his answer by studying, asking for wise counsel from someone else, etc.

    I don't know why God chooses to speak to people in different ways. I've never seen a burning bush or heard an audible voice (sounds kinda freaky). But I know people who have heard from him in different obvious ways, and people who haven't but still love and trust him because he speaks clearly through all the "mundane" (if anything about God's hand in our lives can be mundane) ways.

    And because I know and trust him, I can say with certainty that it's worth all the dry years, which I've certainly had. Sometimes I read the Bible and it feels like it's soaking right into my mind and heart. And other times I open it, for months or sometimes years on end, and it feels like I'm eating sand.

    I don't follow any kind of regimen or study plan or routine. I should be a lot more disciplined about prayer and reading. I know it makes a difference in how I act and react to the world and people around me because I've been lazy for seasons over and over again and at some point I always remember, … "oh yeah, duh, I'm not spending any time with God."

    It's only been in the past few months I've realized that I should just stop trying to "make myself into a better Christian," and start seeking to really *know* Jesus. I mean, he's a person (it seems weird to call him that when he's also God) no less real than anyone else I know. I can talk to him, but I should also be considerate and genuinely curious to listen. I shouldn't ignore the obvious ways he is revealing himself to me. I shouldn't approach him as if he's a machine I can operate if I just push the right buttons. I shouldn't seek him because he can make me more patient, joyful, wise, etc. He can do all those things, but that shouldn't be why I pursue him. Because that's just another way of using him, and why should he tolerate that any more than anyone else? (He's gracious, and often does, but I don't know why.)

    So there you go: long answer. But I know God is real and loving. I don't know why he hasn't given us all similar experiences, but I believe he has a good reason.

    Please don't give up.

  112. MLM says:

    Hi Amy,

    Evidence of God. I guess I just mean creation. A growing number of respected scientists are finding that "scientific" explanations of the lack of God (like Darwinian evolution) aren't as reasonable as the theory of a creator. And certainly there's a lot of archeological evidence of biblical stories.

    I don't know the half of it though, and it sounds like you have already read many greater minds like C.S. Lewis and Chesterton.

    You're right that we Christians should be bearing fruit to show that our lives are being transformed and redeemed. And many of us are poor advertisements. I can see how it would look like snake oil.

    You'll never find a perfect Christian, of course. We're human. We have tempers, we're selfish, we can be annoying and wrong and stubborn. We mess up. You'll find drug addicts and porn addicts and alcoholics and gossips in every church. But hopefully you'll also find some honesty, true repentance, hope, and a trajectory toward maturity and redemption.

    A lot of churches don't even call people to change, because it's offensive. And then the offering plates suffer and seats empty out. And that's because lots of Christians love money and pats on the back more than they love Jesus.

    And some people who call themselves Christians, really aren't.

    I hope you meet some who are a better example.

    Re: the doorknob analogy. The whole thing disturbs me because God's not some inanimate object or automaton that we manipulate through prayer, bible-reading, ceremony, Christian fellowship, etc. People have been trying for thousands of years, of course. In Isaiah 2 God tells his own people: "I hate your ceremonies and sacrifices and prayer to me." Because they were coming to him with black hearts and hands "full of blood." They didn't care about God; they just wanted to manipulate him the same way they tried to manipulate all their other idols.

    But in the next breath he says, "wash yourselves, stop being evil, seek justice," "let's reason together," and "though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow."

    Awesome.

    Re: demanding. I think we can demand something without being obvious (even to ourselves). Anytime we give an ultimatum — "you do X or I'm done with you" — it's a demand.

    I believe God is the one who gives faith, yes. I don't think we can get it on our own. But I think we can put blinders on our own eyes and sometimes God chooses not to remove them. Maybe that goes back to heart motives. What were your reasons for seeking faith? Why did you want to "find God"? (I really am interested in knowing.)

    Again, I don't know why God approaches people so differently.

    Re: God's miraculous revelations, like the burning bush, pillar of fire, red sea, etc. Those were exceptions, but God intended them to be remembered so that multiple generations could benefit from them. That's why there were so many memorials set up (piles of rocks, alters, etc.), and so many commands to "tell your children and your children's children." He shouldn't have to give all of us a pillar of fire. Much of what I've learned about God is from talking with people I know and trust, who have experienced him in ways I haven't, or learned things I haven't yet learned. I would be foolish to ignore them. (And also foolish to believe everything everyone said they knew about God. There's a wise balance.)

    If you don't believe the Bible, that does of course put a damper for you on what it says about God. I wish I could prove it to you, but I'm not that cool.

    Thanks for talking more about this.

  113. MLM says:

    Dani,

    (Whew, last post!)

    Why don't you want to "convert" people to Christianity? I mean, if you believe it, and you believe Jesus saves us from the consequences of our own sins (death and eternal torment), why is it "meh"?

    I mean, I know "convert" implies all kinds of sandwich-board, in-your-face, crazy, judgmental, jerk, rude kinds of things. And there's no excuse for being rude and hateful.

    But we're not (we Christians) selling used vacuum cleaners or something. I agree it's not about chalking up converts, but if we truly believe Jesus is who he says he is, then it doesn't quite seem right to feel "meh" about talking about him.

    I don't keep my awesome husband, cool dad or neat and respected friends a secret. I mean, I don't tactlessly insert them into conversation, but I'm always glad of an opportunity to speak well of them to others. And they're not the only hope for mankind.

    Jesus is worth sharing. Passionately. Not rudely, but it does seem appropriate to feel some burden for those who don't know him.

  114. Dani says:

    MLM,

    The reason why I don't believe in actively trying to convert someone to Christianity is simple. When I try to do so, I feel like I am imposing "my" will and not "God's" will.

    Don't get me wrong. I will speak up on issues using my faith as a barometor for how I respond.

    But I prefer to spread God's love through action, which includes compassion, charity, prayer, working on my friend and family relationships etc.

    When I became a Catholic in 2009, someone asked me "who converted me". And I realized that it wasn't any conversation. Or someone trying to tell me about God or Jesus. It was watching and observing my Catholic friends in their day to day lives.

    That was more convincing than anyone preaching from their pupit. In fact, even now, as I come to terms with issues I don't agree with *yet* the Church, having someone "tell" me what to think doesn't convince me.

    I don't feel those comments come from God's will. I feel they come from that persons will that they are trying to impose on me.

    My relationship with God is what it is, warts and all. God supposedly has me exactly where *I* need to be on my journey, not where someone else *wants* me to be.

    If we preach that we are given free will, then why do we then tell those that exercize free will that they are wrong. It could just be that GOD has them where they need to be.

  115. Sara says:

    Marsha,
    I really do appriciate you taking the time to discuss this. I don't have many people in my life who are interested in talking about anything theological, so even though we disagree, I have really been enjoying our conversation!

    First, a thought about asking God for things; the verse I was referring to was John 14:14 "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." In this passage Jesus does not qualify his statement with motive, but in light of James 4:3, I understand. What I think is interesting is that these passages mean that anytime God doesn't give us what we desire, its our fault. If we ask for something and don't recieve it, it is because our motives were impure and we need to examine our hearts. This seems reasonable for someone who is asking for a million dollars or for God to smite his enemy (which, by the way, David does in the psalms quite often), but what if someone is only genuinely asking to know God better? By this logic, it is assumed that anytime God does not reveal himself when I ask, its my fault because my heart isn't in the right place.

    My whole life, God was the center for me. He was my best friend and my dad who I could count on. As I grew older, and read more and had more experiences, I realized I didn't know God as well as I wanted to , so for years my prayer was "God, please show me who you are so I can know you better." I was asking as a child to a father. This is why I began reading the BIble so intently. I figured it was the best place to start to learn about God's character, but what I found what that God was not as consistant as he claimed to be. He had no problem murdering children (2 Kings 2:23) or wiping out whole civilzations. Surely this couldn't be the way for me to know my creator, not if it was so contradictory. This was why I began asking to know God through experience. I would trust that God was good, even when the Bible didn't make sense and just learn God's character through prayer. But God never showed up, no matter how long I spent crying out for him.

    I finally saw no reason for the anguish anymore. If the Bible doesn't hold up to any sort of scrutiny and every event that at one point had been attributed to God can be explained through another, more reasonable explanation, why continue to believe?
    * I am currently finishing my PhD in physiology and I am not sure which scientists you are referring to that think creationism is more reasonable than evolution. The amount of evidence for evolution is staggering.

  116. Sara says:

    *Sidenote: in case anyone is interested, I started a blog a few weeks ago as a place to discuss these types of issues. It just about the process of losing faith and asking tough questions about our religion
    loveandlosingfaith.blogspot.com

  117. Amy says:

    Marsha,

    Thanks for your interest in what I have to say.

    Evidence of God. I guess I just mean creation.

    I see what you are saying, and I used to look at it that way as well, but that no longer does it for me. To say God is the cause of the universe, but nothing caused God isn't much different (in my mind) than saying the universe created the earth, but nothing created the universe. Or the universe came from something that existed before the universe and has always existed. I don't see why it needs to be a deity that requires worship. Again, not wanting to say I'm right and you're wrong, just wanting to show how I look at it.

    You'll never find a perfect Christian, of course. We're human. We have tempers, we're selfish…

    … I hope you meet some who are a better example.

    I know a great many, very sincere, wonderful examples of Christians (most of my friends are Christians, because most of my friends I met through church). I also know many very sincere, wonderful non-Christians. I know some snarky, unkind Christians. I know some snarky, unkind non-Christians. And of course you're right, everyone is human.

    But I think to say "they really aren't Christians" when people behave badly is a cop-out. If that's the case, then hardly anyone who says they are Christian really is one.

    My point is that on the whole there is really no obvious difference between Christians and non-Christians, which to me seems odd if this is the one true religion. What a great way for God to communicate this truth in a way that doesn't interfere with anyone's free will–to show that faith in him through Christ actually does something, something people couldn't do through other means.

    And I know people who say that it was their faith in Christ that allowed them to kick drugs/save their marriage/whatever. And I believe they believe that wholeheartedly. And I think it's great–really, I do. But I believe, in the end, it was simply a choice they made.

    Re: the doorknob analogy. The whole thing disturbs me because God's not some inanimate object or automaton that we manipulate through prayer, bible-reading, ceremony, Christian fellowship, etc.

    Again, my apology for the bad analogy. I wasn't comparing God to a doorknob. I was comparing the goal of gaining access to the doorknob via the tool to the goal of a having a relationship with God via Christianity. I wouldn't think of God as an object to be manipulated.

    But again, it's the Bible (ie God) that tells us to ask God for stuff.

  118. Amy says:

    Continued…

    What were your reasons for seeking faith? Why did you want to "find God"?

    A few reasons. And probably none of them the "right" ones.

    I felt drawn to Christ. If he were really as he is portrayed in the Bible, then that's certainly a compelling reason.

    Living in a culture where the majority of people claim to believe it's true, and where one frequently hears of the "life changing," positive effects of following Christ. Wanting to fit in. Wanting to belong.

    Shortly after a crisis of faith (wherein I either lost my faith or realized I never had it to begin with), I felt inexplicably drawn to Catholicism for quite a while. At the time I truly thought I was being led by God, but now I think it was simply because of the mysteriousness of it and the beauty of the sense-rich worship–the holy water, the bells, the movement, the chant, rosaries, etc.

    The whole, "what if it really is true?" reason. If it really were true, I think it would be good for me to believe it, no?

    Wanting to recapture that child-like belief in fairy tales–Santa Claus, magic, all of it. Please don't take this as me insulting Christianity.

    In the end, though, for me, there was just too much cognitive dissonance. I knew deep down I didn't believe it, and continuing to try was making me miserable. It had a seriously negative effect on my mental health. I was depressed, I began acting impulsively, writing things on my blogs and then deleting them, asking old friends I hadn't seen in years (as well as blog friends) to pray for me and then later telling them to just forget it. I was full of hope one day, in despair the next. Looking back, I really think I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

    Then, in October, my father died. And I looked at my life and thought, What am I doing? Life is too short to be this unhappy. Why am I so unhappy? That's when I realized it was my obsession to find God, my quest to find faith that was making me miserable. And I made the choice to let it go. All of it, Christianity, God, what-is-the-meaning-of-life, all of it. And I began to feel the weight lift from my shoulders. Gradually, I started feeling "normal" again, after three years of feeling (and acting) like a crazy person.

    I rarely go to church anymore (sometimes I go with my husband, or to see friends, but those are the only reasons anymore). I'm an observer there, and I no longer feel conflicted.

    Now I'm content to do my best to live a life of joy, peace, and happiness.

  119. MLM says:

    Hi Ladies (Sara, Amy and Dani),

    I'm sorry I've dropped the ball in our conversation. I've discovered this past week that I'm about at the right capacity of "things going on," and it's been harder than I thought to find time for an interesting and thoughtful blog discussion. It's not that every moment is scheduled, but my husband and I have three boys under the age of three, so there isn't a lot of time in each day when it's possible to sit at the computer and think profound thoughts.

    I wish we could all go out for coffee together and chat about this stuff! (Any of you live in Washington state?) But in the meantime, thanks for the thoughtful exchange and I do wish each of you the very best.

    Warmly,
    Marsha

  120. Amy says:

    Marsha,

    Totally understandable–I really don't know how people with toddlers and babies find any time to be on the computer at all! Actually, I'm pretty busy right now too for such an in-depth conversation, and at any rate, I feel like I've said enough to clarify my position (which was mainly what I was trying to do), so I'm totally fine with letting the ball drop here.

    All the best to you as well!

  121. Anonymous says:

    I would really recommend praying the rosary,you will find yourself closer to the Lord. I personally rediscovered my faith thanx to the rosary as I had become quite lukewarm.It is still a work in progress.But eversince I have started praying the rosary quite regularly, I have seen signs that only could have been from GOD.

    Alain

    Ps: Good luck and keep up the good work with the book!

  122. Iratxe Martinez says:

    I would say that conversion comes when the time is right. I was in that place also and also thought that it would not come for me. It has taken 29 years for me to BELIEVE and feel it.
    I think God knows what he is doing, so to those people I would say wait. It will come. When the time is right.
    It can be a bit discouraging but I dont think we have to force it. For me it came when I had stopped looking for it :)

  123. Gillian says:

    You said you were going to write a post about this soon, did you, could I have the link?

  124. Bonnie says:

    Here is a dictionary definition of faith: “Faith is belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” Christian faith is about believing the testimony of those who wrote the books that make up the Bible. If I lived in 35 A.D. and had never heard of Jesus, and came across a group of the apostles and the early Christian community, what would I think of what they said about what they believed? I could compare my life, my religion if I had one, to what they said. I would think, “Why would these men and women die for something they made up? Is what they believe more hopeful, more truthful, more real, than what I believe?” If I came to have faith, my faith would rest on their testimony. In fact, my faith today does rest on their testimony. If someone told me John Booth shot Abraham Lincoln in Ford’s Theater on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, should I believe him? Maybe so. Why should he lie? Maybe I’d look it up to see if I could validate that. But what is reliable? A newspaper account? Eyewitnesses? How do I know it’s true? It happened so long ago. But in the end, if I believed it, it would be based on the testimony of others.
    Reading the New Testament is like meeting a few followers of Jesus who actually knew Him and listening to their amazing stories, not just of His miracles, but of the truth of His words, His teachings, His promises. Do I think they are telling the truth? Does what He says resonate with me? If you believe Jesus lived and that those who testify to Him are truthful, Jesus Himself then testifies to God’s existence. Either He is truthful or He is not. This is the essence of faith. A skeptic might say, “I believe the disciples and Jesus thought they were being truthful, but I don’t accept their stories.” So either you believe what they say happened actually happened just the way they say it happened, or you don’t. And this is the essence of free will. God will never hold you down and force you to believe. It is a frightening power we hold, our free will, that gives us the ability to deny the very God who made us. Amazingly, God has made us so free, He will not force our belief. It is up to us. It is the power we have over Him and He will not overrule it. He will not definitively prove His existence. He will only give us implied evidence. We remain free.
    It’s hard to understand if Amy is looking for faith in God or for proof of the existence of God. Faith in God is an act of the will. Just as we choose to believe our mother loves us when she tells us so, faith means we choose to believe what the writers of the Bible have told simply because they said so. For those who are doubting, the question to ask is, “What if it IS true? What does that mean for my life?” Because if it is true, believing it makes all the difference in the world.

  125. Bonnie says:

    One more thing to the skeptics writing here arguing about needing material evidence for the existence of God. As recently as 1800 (1800!!!), no one knew what caused disease or spoilage in food, until Louis Pasteur speculated that little tiny living organisms, too tiny to see with the naked eye, were growing in it and leaving off the toxins that made for spoilage. What made him speculate about the existence of something no one had ever seen and no one thought existed? Inference. He did not believe in “spontaneous generation.” He inferred the existence of microorganisms, because life begets life. Can we not infer the existence of God by the same reasoning?