How Does Someone Know God?

How does someone know God?

I used to think knowing about God was the same as knowing him. I remember sitting in a room full of future pastors at seminary. I always felt a little out of place. Maybe it was because I was a girl in a room full of men; maybe it was because I sat there tearing up, listening to professors talk about God while everybody else was taking notes and arguing dispensationalism.

As God was being dissected in front of me, I kept looking around at all those guys, thinking, Did you hear that?! This is ludicrous. I was freaking out as we talked about angels and hell and how our souls transform the second we trust Christ. Come on, people.

It’s insane.

At the lake one weekend, I had a deep conversation with a close friend that triggered a big question for me: how does someone know God? She strongly believed the only way someone knows God is through reading Scripture. I agreed. We do not know God apart from Scripture, and every other experience must be held up to his Word, since it is the clearest revelation from him. It was the foundation for every understanding I held about God. I clung to it as I would the very words of God because I believe that is, in fact, what Scripture is.

But it still seemed too simple to me. I knew that experiences, friends, prayer life, worship, church, and books had also brought me closer to God . . . helped me to know him.

On Monday I posed the question in class to one of my favorite professors. The answer that followed went on to shape my view of God. He began by listing all the ways we grow or know God: prayer, studying Scripture, church, worship, experiences, suffering, confession, community, and on and on. Then he said, “But obviously each of these is unpredictable . . . many people who study the Bible never find God. Many people who go to church never really know him. The only exercise that works 100 percent of the time to draw one close to the real God is risk.”

I think the whole class started questioning him . . . looking for proof text in our minds, trying to find a category for what he had just said.

Then he went on, “To risk is to willingly place your life in the hand of an unseen God and an unknown future, then to watch him come through. He starts to get real when you live like that.”

We were all speechless. Knowing God, really knowing him, was getting more complicated. But if he was real, if he was God, then certainly he was worth knowing—not just the facts, but knowing what it is like to run with him, lean on him, have his hand alone holding us up.

Scripture describes a radical, reoriented life for those who trust Christ—one full of living for the invisible and the future. It is a life fully surrendered to an invisible God whose agenda for my time here is contrary to my own, a life very different from the safe, comfortable one I was creating.

I started craving something that had never seemed acceptable to me until that day . . . a reckless faith, a faith where I knew God was real because I needed him, a faith where I lived surrendered, obedient, a faith where I sacrificed something . . . comfort or safety or practicality . . . something. But my heart raced faster when I thought of it, and something about it resonated.

Stepping out wholly dependent on God to come through, stepping away from what is secure and comfortable exposes the holes in our faith. And then if God comes through, it expands our faith.

Something about stepping off cliffs where God leads allows God the opportunity to move in greater ways. When we step off and he shows up, we see him differently than we would if we were standing safely looking over the edge.

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You can read more of this post in Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul. You can find a copy here.