“It seems if there were a formula to fix life, Jesus would have told us what it was.”
So why didn’t Jesus give us an easy formula?
That’s the question author Donald Miller addresses in his book ‘Searching for God Knows What.’
It quickly becomes apparent not even halfway through the first chapter that Miller doesn’t believe there is an easy formula for fixing life.
He begins his book by reflecting on his own desire to become a bestselling author.
When attending a writers’ conference, Miller is introduced to the many formulas of popular self-help books, even those written for the Christian market.
Many authors and theologians try to explain the Christian life as a step-by-step process, all with the best of intentions to make it easy to grasp or “practically applicable.”
But this kind of a “self-help” God doesn’t satisfy Miller.
In writing down his thoughts on the complexity of the human story, he wonders can “such a complex existence as the one you and I are living can really be broken down into a few steps?”
This leads him to a deeper question: can the true Gospel and its impact on our lives be broken down into a formula?
And if it can’t, then how should we approach it instead?
“The qualities that improve a person’s life are relational, relational to God and to the folks around us,” Miller writes firmly.
“Formulas [aren’t] able to change a person’s heart.”
He delves deeper into this idea as he goes on, examining humanity’s relationships with these spiritual formulas and to-do lists.
“It makes me wonder if what we really want is control, not a relationship.”
Miller argues that this is a deeply problematic view of Christian spirituality. Salvation is, after all, granted through a relationship with Jesus Christ, not a list of do’s and don’ts.
“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Miller builds his argument on this verse, confessing his own tendency to complicate the verse’s concept with formulas and figuring.
“The god I used to know was a system of beliefs… not a living and active Being,” Miller writes, reflecting on a turning point in his walk with Christ.
When he finally started to think of God as a Person, a Being, Someone to have a relationship with, “the God of the Bible…started making sense of my deepest emotions, quirks, and sense of brokenness.”
From there, Miller connects the deep desire of the human spirit to have “something outside myself to tell me who I [am].”
We long to find identity outside ourselves, Miller says. As humans, we feel an intense need to be considered “good or valuable or important.” But if we try to fill that need with anything besides God, pain ensues.
If we know this about ourselves, Miller writes, then we can understand the Gospel in a radical way—not as a formula or to-do list for successfully entering heaven, but as an opportunity to enter into relationship with a God who longs to make Himself known to us.
Throughout the rest of the book, Miller continues to develop this idea of the Gospel as a radical, life-changing relationship with God. He does his best to deconstruct the theology we often find complicated and writes in a personable, down-to-earth style.
This book came to me at the perfect time. I found Miller’s words both touching and revelatory as he uncovered aspects of the Gospel that I hadn’t been reminded of in a long time.
It was refreshing to read deep theology written from the perspective of a layperson. Miller makes no claim to be a great spiritual teacher or thinker, but his thoughts and insights are applicable and easily understood by all readers.
His personal examples are alternately humorous and painfully true, uncovering what it looks like to love God and those around us.
The book’s longest chapter, simply entitled “Jesus,” offers an amazing exploration of Who Jesus is, not with a sterile list of His attributes, but as a description and story of His life on earth. I was nearly brought to tears by Miller’s reflections on a simple love for Christ.
I recommend ‘Searching for God Knows What’ to anyone who needs to be reminded of the Gospel’s power and the wonder of a personal relationship with God. Find your copy today!