When I Find It Hard to Seek God
By Naomi Neoh
I often tell myself: I just need one more hour to work through this news article. Just one last shot to write that perfect lead.
In my three years as a journalist, asking for help at work has been an on-going journey in putting my pride aside. God has used successive bosses and colleagues to nudge me, push me, and sometimes snap me out of my self-destructive mode, which strives to produce perfect assignments by working endlessly regardless of deadlines. Oftentimes, He has used assignments to show me that despite my best efforts to track down information or interviewees, the successful completion of these ultimately rests with God alone.
My journey in learning to trust God for outcomes has been a long one, one that I have grappled with since my university days. I am thankful that despite many close scrapes, God has been gracious to bring me through successive all-nighters, exams, and even a traumatising twelve-thousand-word thesis.
Our recent study of 1 Kings has renewed my conviction that even as my streak of perfectionism in work has hampered me from seeking help from others, it is far more dangerous if I were to adopt the same mentality when it comes to seeking God and His wisdom.
My encouragement is that we deeply understand and internalise the fact that that it is never too late to return to God and pursue Him wholeheartedly.
1. Recognising our limited self before God
What struck me most about Solomon stepping into a God-ordained but nevertheless daunting role as Israel’s ruler is his childlike humility as he comes to terms with his limitations in the face of the magnitude of his responsibility.
“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties… So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:7,9 ESV)
From Solomon’s communion with God flows his humble yet confident petition to God for the moral discernment to rule Israel. He is cognisant of the necessity of God’s empowerment in preparing him to rule.
This has brought me to repent of the many times when I’ve focused on amassing all the resources possible to fulfil a responsibility or complete a work project, yet failed to consider how God was using those moments as opportunities to cause me to recognise my great need for Him and my inability to bring to completion any work I set out to do apart from God’s enabling (Psalm 127:1-2).
2. Making God-pleasing requests
It’s an amazing privilege to be able to bring our prayer requests before God as His children. But how often do I think about what I’m asking for?
“The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, ‘Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.” (1 Kings 3:10-12 ESV)
Solomon’s request for discernment, in contrast to temporal things like long life, wealth or vengeance, is a reminder that while we may ask God for anything, what we ask for reveals the true focus and priorities we have in our brief earthly existence.
We may not explicitly ask God for wealth, but often in my prayers, I recognise the underlying pattern for comfort and avoidance of suffering that is “too major” or “devastating”, rather than a longing to be equipped to carry out all the work that He means for me to accomplish. I find this whenever my prayers revolve around achieving a “moderate” level of success at work or wanting to be generally well liked by my peers, rather than how I’m reaching out to them with the gospel.
I still struggle with holding less tightly to these things even though I know they are temporal and ultimately do not truly fulfil our deepest need. But I recognise that until God comes again, His ongoing work in me will not stop.
Little by little, in all my cycles of distress and crying out to God, each time is yet another reminder to me of His faithfulness, gentleness and generous provision in my life.