Don’t you just hate it when you are in church, and the preacher finally utters those sweet words of promise—“and in conclusion” —but your idea of a conclusion and his are like ships passing in the night? When you hear the words “and in conclusion,” you heave a sigh of relief and start dreaming about beating the lunch crowd at your favorite restaurant, but the preacher keeps going on and on and on.
Okay, I’ll make this brief (that’s another thing that preachers like me say that drives me crazy because when they do I know it will be anything but brief ).
In the “Introduction” to my book, BETWEEN RELIGIOUS ROCKS AND LIFE’S HARD PLACES I invited readers, in case they didn’t like my answers, to improvise their own Christ-centered solutions.
Let me reinforce that invitation. Life is, in many ways, an endless series of questions and dilemmas. In this 21st century, the questions have become more complex, perhaps because we are living on top of so many cultures that have gone before us.
Their contributions, as well as their unanswered questions, are part of our legacy. In reality, every generation since Adam and Eve has searched for answers. In the church world, we have decided to call people who are looking for answers “seekers”—and while that’s a great description, let’s not fool ourselves by thinking that spiritual seekers first arrived during our generation! Let’s also realize that we are all seekers, for the questions of our lives will never be fully answered while we are in this body of flesh.
We are all seeking, we are all searching, and we are all on a spiritual journey. In some ways we are spiritual explorers, and our adventure is never over, not until we leave this earth and journey to eternity, to the place that Jesus has prepared for us.
As you continue your own journey for truth, always base your quest in Christ—look to him as the ultimate Answer for all your questions. It is easy to become side-tracked by basing your quest for truth and meaning on yourself and your own limitations. You can easily see yourself as your own fixer—and there are religious voices that will encourage you to see your efforts as of first importance in finding the ultimate answer.
However, when we assume sole responsibility for solving our questions and dilemmas, our lives become one big self-improvement project. Off we go on an unending cycle of places to go and things to do—all in the name of finding truth, fulfillment, meaning, and significance. When our efforts are the foundation of our search for answers we become our own project—so in search of answers we earn a degree, get that promotion, work on a relationship, try to become a better parent, exercise, diet, take our vitamins, read more books, and go to church more (because the more we go to church the more answers we will have, right?) and, of course, we try to stop doing the bad stuff we know we shouldn’t.
Nothing wrong with doing and not doing all that stuff, but all that stuff is not where you will find the ultimate Answer.
Jeremiah was one of the great prophets of Israel. Jeremiah lived the life of those to whom he ministered—his life was an ongoing roller coaster ride of hope and certainty that came out of deep conflict and despair. The book of Jeremiah leaves no doubt that Jeremiah never ran out of questions.
In chapters 30 through 33, the nation of Judah is about to be captured and taken captive by the Babylonians. In the besieged city of Jerusalem, overwhelmed by famine and hardship, Jeremiah finds himself faced not only with those problems but with the fact that he is held prisoner because he had recommended that people leave Jerusalem and avoid the certain bloodshed that would occur at its fall.
During this painful and difficult time, God gave Jeremiah encouragement that rings true for us today. Even while the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, its capital city, was obviously near and inevitable, and even though Jeremiah himself found himself a prisoner on top of it all, God reminded Jeremiah that He was the source of any answer Jeremiah needed. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).
As you are faced with the dilemmas and questions of your life, by all means use all of the resources available to you. Do what you can do. But in all of your doing, make sure that you call out to God, for no matter how much you do, no matter how much you may accomplish, without God we will never find the ultimate Answer.