Encountering God

Human beings from ancient days have looked to the skies in a state of wonder, and attributed the scope and beauty of what they see to a Creator.  For those who believe in God, that sense of wonder has increased in recent years as science has made us increasingly aware of how very unlikely it has been that life of any kind happened.

Like many people, Christians look at nature and marvel.  In it they find powerful evidence for the existence of God.  It speaks of the character of God – powerful, eternal and with a special place for humans in his purposes.  However, it also poses unsettling questions about God, because nature is a place in which catastrophes can overtake men and women in a way that seems meaningless and entirely unfair.

Deep down in human nature is a curiosity that leads us again and again to speculate that there may be a God.  These encounters take place in circumstances in which we confront something that money cannot buy. Sometimes it is a shock that leads to these questions – the loss of a job, a friend or health.  Sometimes it is joy – such as the birth of children and the longing to give them a future full of hope.  Sometimes it is disappointment that the activities of life do not make us feel fulfilled.  Occasionally people encounter God through supernatural experiences that they cannot explain.

There are many circumstances in which people find their attention grabbed by the possibility that God might be making himself known to them.  However, Christians have always recognised that the most significant way that God has made himself known is through a specific event in history.  God has lived in a human body.  At the start of the first century AD, God inhabited human flesh, and walked and talked on this planet – Jesus, the founder of the Christian faith.

When a child asks, ‘What is God like?’ a good answer would be, ‘He is like Jesus.’  Christians study Jesus’ life and teaching because they appear to answer some of the questions they have about God.

What the Bible says about it

An extract from the Bible:

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

Where to find it:

Hebrews 1:1-2

About these words:

From a letter written about thirty years after Jesus in order to help Jewish readers understand the significance of his life and death.

And they said…

John Glenn, astronaut, US senator, and the first American to orbit the earth in space, 1921-2016:

To look at this kind of creation out here and not believe in God is impossible.

Ringo Starr, musician formerly of The Beatles and the voice of Thomas the Tank Engine:

God is in my life.  I don’t hide from that.  The search has been on since the 1960s.  I stepped off the path there for many years and found my way back on to it, thank God.

Samantha Morton, Oscar nominated actress, interviewed in The Observer, 9 May 2010:

I would not have survived without my faith.  I felt watched over as a kid … I feel that you are closer to God when you are messed up.  Definitely.  That’s when you most need God … I’m not a Bible thumper, and I don’t want to go on about it because it will always be misinterpreted, but I have a wonderful joy in my life and that is that I have always believed in God.  I just have and I think I’m lucky.  Some people question that faith but, when you are little, and you find something as powerful as that, you do not question it.  It’s what got me through it all.

Meister Eckhart, monk, 1260-1327:

God is like one who, while hiding in a dark room, clears his throat and so gives himself away.

Carl Saga, 1934-1996, astronomer:

Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality.

John McCarthy, recalling five years of captivity by terrorists in Beirut:

I relived much of my life and made endless plans for the future.  So many of my recollections had left me feeling inadequate that I really began to doubt that I could cope alone.

One morning these fears became unbearable.  I stood in the cell, sinking into despair.  I felt that I was literally sinking, being sucked down into a whirlpool … I could only think of one thing to say: ‘Help me please, O God, help me.’  The next instant I was standing up, surrounded by a warm, bright light.  I was dancing, full of joy.  In the space of a minute, despair had vanished, replaced by boundless optimism.

What happened?  I had never had any great faith, despite a Church of England upbringing.  But I felt I had to give thanks.  But to whom?  Unsure of the nature of this experience, I felt most comfortable acknowledging the Good  Spirit which seemed to have rescued me.

It gave me great strength to carry on and, more importantly, a huge renewal of hope.  I was going to survive. Throughout my captivity, I would take comfort from this experience, drawing on it whenever optimism and determination flagged.