Desperation can cause us to look for answers where no answers can be found. I was reminded of this in a quote attributed to Leo Tolstoy who, while reflecting on extreme poverty in Russia, wrote, “The people of Moscow were looking for food in toy stores and hardware stores.” Tolstoy expresses how desperation can cause us to look to improbable sources for our answers.
Keeping Tolstoy’s quote concerning those starving in Russia during the late 1800s in the back of our minds, we may find that we too at times are uncertain of where to look for our answers. Recognizing the irony of looking for food in toy and hardware stores, we remain uncertain of where to find a trustworthy source for answers.
As Tolstoy speaks of those futilely searching for food while starving, we can feel a similar futility as we search for spiritual answers. Some give up, declaring God cannot be found, while others know he is there but are uncertain where to look. I have found that often the real problem is we are looking for God in the wrong places.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus gives us an important promise: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) Jeremiah 29 agrees saying, “When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul, I will make myself available to you,’ says the Lord.” (13-14) The question is, how is He making himself available to us?
In Romans, Paul explains how God has done this. Romans opens with Paul’s testimony of the calling God has given him: “Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.” (Romans 1:5) He is writing this letter so that we can discover the spiritual food needed for us to believe and obey and bring glory to His name.
Our spiritual hunger and thirst for righteousness, our search for spiritual answers, will be satisfied when we open our eyes to see what God has done. For as Paul says, “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” (19) Yet, we may retort, “How has God made it plain? I’ve read books, I’ve gone to church, why can I not see God?” It may be because we are looking to the wrong source.
Paul says God has revealed himself to us in creation. “They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” (19-20)
His invisible qualities, “eternal power and divine nature,” are made visible to us in creation. No, God is not a sunset nor a majestic mountain, but through these God makes himself known to us. Paul may have had David’s words from Psalm 14:1 in mind: “Only fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!”
Failing to look to God for our spiritual answers is as foolish as looking for food in toy or hardware stores. Paul observes, “Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.” (Romans 1:21-22) Their foolishness was seen in their looking to culture and self to define truth rather than to God who is the source of all wisdom.
What are we to conclude? That God has not only made himself visible to us in creation, but He has also made himself available to us through Christ. As Tolstoy’s image reminds us, when we are hungry for answers we are wise to look in the right places. Where are you looking? What are you turning to satisfy your hungry and thirsty for righteousness? To self or to a religious system? Why not look to the God who reveals himself to us in creation, and to the Bible, the source of our spiritual answers.
Eldon Peterson is pastor of the Cache Valley Bible Fellowship. His column appears on the Faith page. He can be reached at email@example.com.