On Encountering God

I envy people who state they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I envy people who believe they talk with God. Such encounters I’m sure are life-changing.

Have I had encounters with God? Indeed I have but they are probably not the kind of encounters spoken of in traditional religions. For me, encounters with God have occurred outside churches and religions.

As I observed in earlier posts, some of my encounters have occurred in the presence of great art. Yes, I ran into God at Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey or when contemplating Dali’s Last Supper or Hopper’s Nighthawks. And I have heard God’s voice in the midst Holst’s “Jupiter” from The Planets.

At other times, I have met God in nature. I have met Him/Her along the Tejas Trail in the Guadalupes and on an isolated beach in the Skelligs.

Thanks to a recent book by Rabbi Harold Kushner, I have come to see that some of my regular encounters with God occur in the midst of my many arguments with Him/Her. Kushner has written a thoughtful study of the Book of Job, one of my personal favorite books of the Bible. Kushner observes that God never really answers Job’s outcry of “Why?” yet Job is apparently content. How so? Because, through his outcry, Job encounters God.

This for me is a profound thought and a comforting one because indeed as I have struggled to make sense of suffering it is in those moments that I have a sense of God’s presence. My question “why” ironically brings me closer to God! How can this be?

This wrestling with God requires me to discern just how big a role God plays in my life. My struggle with the question of how a loving God permits tragedy points me toward the presence of that God amidst tragedy. It helps me to a place where I may not believe in an all-powerful God but certainly can embrace the idea of an all-loving God. I find a comfort I would not find without the struggle.

So perhaps the Book of Job stands as an invitation to some of us. Perhaps we are invited not to be ashamed of our outcry but, like Job, to embrace it and thereby to have a genuine encounter with God.

Reflection: In what ways have you/do you encounter the God of your understanding?

Further Reading: Harold Kushner The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person

About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
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3 Responses to On Encountering God

  1. Thank you for sharing that your struggle with god IS your relationship with god. I have discovered that struggling with who god is leads me back to who I am in my essence, and my experience has been that there is not difference.

  2. Annab says:

    I encounter the God of my understanding each day I wake up. I have brain cancer and know my life span is finite. When I wake up daily, I am reminded, the God of my understanding is encouraging me to try and see this day in reality; to participate as best I can; to embrace what I’m given for tomorrow may not be. He’s given me the the good and the bad parts. He gave me the chance to wake up. I can ask ‘why’ which I do often. I’m a young-hearted 50 year old disabled from treatment.
    It’s in the parts of the day where I am not consumed with my whys – that I am closest to my God.I’m learning to accept I will never get the answer I seek while on earth.I am learning instead to cultivate a quiet heart and mind, to look at my fear, and as Pema Chodrun and others suggest, smile at it..Those threads of inspiration I have from time to time, remind me of my purpose as noted in the great gospel hymn “He Chose me” by the O’Neil Twins… where the phrase reads – “He chose me… he can use me till he uses me up. I gave him my heart, I gave him my soul, turned over my life to his complete control, he can use me, till he uses me up.” . Thanks for your entry Dr Patterson,I found it most comforting. Thank you

  3. Rose Mathews says:

    I have encountered God all my life but never so much as when my children were born. I have encountered God all these years as I have seen them grow. The miracle of life is awesome. I know I will encounter God when my grandchildren are born (not too long now!) and watch them grow! I will encounter God when I tell them about Him.
    I encounter God every day of my life in nature, in the people I have met over the years, and in the children I work with daily. I encountered God when I would take communion to the sick and dying. There was Nita and Miss Leah, who I remember clearly, and Miss Leah’s husband, Daddy Mac. I was blessed to have known them. I encountered God when I was a young girl looking up at the beautiful clouds in that beautiful El Paso sky. Thank you for reminding us, Rich.

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