“But seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Mt. 6:33
The circumstances of my life in recent weeks have prompted me to cry out to the Lord, over and over again. With many tears I have pleaded for comfort, for strength, for provision, for protection and encouragement and justice, for my children and for myself. The weight of need and grief and discouragement at times threatened to crush me, yet God seemed continually distant. The Spirit’s only response to my fervent praying was “Wait.” That’s it. That’s all I got, day after day, and I confess that it was not very satisfying.
But then, during a Sunday morning sermon, my pastor read Matthew 6:33: “Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness…” The Spirit pierced my heart with the realization that crying out to God is not the same as seeking him. Immediately the words of Jeremiah 29:13 popped into my mind: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Feeling deeply convicted, I resolved to seek God with everything in me – not to cajole him into hearing my prayers or giving me the answers I wanted, not as a magic cure-all for ridding myself of sorrow, but for his sake instead of mine. I knew that I needed to seek him for no other reason than that he is God. Period.
I devoted the whole next day to seeking God and nothing else. Laying aside my great need, I dove into Scripture. I prayed the words of every psalm and listened to God’s voice in every promise and exhortation. Even when I left my chair for occasional breaks, I turned on my phone’s audio player and continued listening to recorded Bible passages. I was determined to seek God with everything I had.
By evening of that day, I realized that the stone lodged in my gut for the past weeks was dissolving. But then came the night. Lying in darkness, the old doubt and pain surged up and set my thoughts to churning in endless loops. Suddenly a picture popped into my head of Peter stepping out of his boat. As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, Peter walked on water. But the moment he became distracted by the storm, by the wind and waves billowing around him, he began to sink. That was God’s reminder to me that I needed to refocus. At 3:02am I grabbed my phone and found an audio recording of old hymns. The strains of “I Need Thee Every Hour,” “It Is Well With My Soul,” and “How Great Thou Art” soothed my tired spirit. An hour of devotional music provided the peace I needed to finally fall asleep.
In the week since that Sunday, I have continued to seek God “with my whole heart.” Being still before the Lord, I have listened for his voice. His word has disciplined me, pinpointing areas in my life that need to be healed or strengthened. Through Scripture and prayer, God has revealed himself to me in new and encouraging ways. Bathed by the lyrics of praise songs, my heart swells with adoration even while I wash dishes or prepare meals.
God is in the process of enabling my complete submission to his sovereignty. (For someone as stubborn and strong-willed as I am, that’s a pretty big job). The old problems remain, but no longer occupy the center of my attention. Jesus has adjusted my perspective. With my focus on the Father’s love, goodness, power, and perfect plan, I’ve been able to view these earthly situations through an eternal lens. And that’s the Spirit’s doing. I haven’t accomplished any of this by my own efforts. It is God’s calling, his work, his power that molds my heart into the shape of his design. And the result is the perfect peace that Jesus promised:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33