Missing Jesus

Once we become Christians, we start to hear all about how we need to share the good news. After all, Jesus himself said to “[g]o therefore and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). But as we focus outward on others, do we forget about our own relationship with God? Do we really know who Jesus is? Or did we miss him completely? Charles and Janet Morris’s new book, Missing Jesus: Find Your Life in His Great Story, addresses how even after salvation, we can still feel that God-shaped void in our soul. “We can start to treat the crucified Son of God like it’s all about us, and He’s just an accessory who adds a little glow to our existence,” they write. If this rings true to you, you may then say, “OK, great, but how do we find Jesus again?” As a preview to their book, which releases March 1, Janet offers some how-to suggestions for putting Jesus back at the center of your life. It’s time to evangelize to yourself.

The first interview was last Wednesday. 8:00 AM.

Believe me, I prayed. But as we sat at that table in the studio with those headphones clamped over our ears and those big circular microphones in front of our faces, my mind was wiped clean like an empty hard drive. There was nothing there.

The interview was about a book we’ve just written. We titled it Missing Jesus but it’s really about not missing Jesus.

We know from personal experience how even as believers we can miss Jesus and how our lives shrink down when we do. And we know how our lives expand when we’re seeing Jesus and taking in the glory of his grace.

I was immersed in the writing of the book for months on end, but when the interviewer asked what it was about, for the life of me I couldn’t remember.

Thankfully, Charles comes alive in front of a microphone and after a few minutes of letting him carry the conversational ball, I was able to chime in and say a few things.

But there was that one question I couldn’t answer: What do we do? We all want our lives to center on Jesus, but how do we do it? Ever since that interview, I’ve been trying to answer that question. Why did it stump me? Now I think I understand.

I needed to remember that God isn’t asking us to do something … he’s asking us to see something.

“What do I do?” is my automatic response, that natural tendency I have to think it’s always up to me. It’s such good news to realize that God doesn’t want to me to go there. He wants me to look away from myself to Jesus, to comprehend the fullness of his grace, to take it in and let it set me free.

But still it’s a valid question because sometimes no matter how hard we try, we can’t see Jesus.

Over Christmas, I read John Milton’s description of what it was like when he lost his sight in midlife, how he would roll his eyes around and peer with all his might and still not be able to see. It was frightening to read because I could relate. I know that helplessness of looking and not seeing. What do we do when it’s like that, when we’re a lot more like blind Bartimaeus than the eagle-eyed apostle John? What do we do when it all just seems remote and unreal and disconnected from the life we’re living? 

I’ve been reading the journal I kept over those months of writing the book and it’s helped me realize just how often that’s true of me, how I end up like Bartimaeus with his non-functioning eyes and have to pray like he did, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” It’s made me remember that there really is something we can do—we can go to Jesus.

We don’t have to sit passively on the side of the road accepting our blindness as our lot in life. Jesus is always saying, “Come to me. Ask me for what you need. Tell me what you want me to do.” When Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus didn’t hesitate. He said, “I want to see again.”

I have to pray that prayer pretty much every morning, “Jesus, I want to see again.” It’s what I can do. I can ask him to open my eyes. And I can know for certain that when I ask, he’ll always answer, again and again, because that’s what he does—he gives sight to the blind.

“Blessed are your eyes, because they see,” Jesus says. (Matthew 13:16).

Janet Morris is a mother of three, a grandmother of three, and wife to Charles Morris, the speaker and president of Haven Ministries. She helps write the programs for Haven Today, has co-authored two other books—Jesus in the Midst of Success and Saving a Lifeand is also a women’s Bible study teacher and leader. Janet confesses that she also drinks one pot of Chai tea a day, talks to her dog, and is close friends with C.S. Lewis. But most of all, she needs Jesus every day.

This testimony from Marci Wollen can be found on page 140 of the book Missing Jesus: Find Your Life in His Great Story, by Charles and Janet Morris, released by Moody Publishers in March 2014.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to have children.

As a little girl, I even dreamed of being a teacher so that I could be surrounded by children on a daily basis … that is, until I could have some of my own.

I had no idea the grip that this idolatry of family had on my heart. The Bible talks about children being a gift from God, and I always thought my motives were holy and pure. I longed day in and day out for God to give me the desires of my heart.

The problem was that those desires were not surrendered to God and his authority to do his perfect will in my life. I was missing Jesus.

I wanted to be a mommy more than I wanted anything else in the world. When my husband and I got married, I knew that I wanted children right away and thought my dreams would finally come true.

Little did I know that we would have to wait seven years before the birth of our first daughter. Each day, each month, each year that passed increased my pain, anxiety, and feelings of emptiness.

I felt like something was missing in my life and in my marriage. I truly believed that children would fill all those empty places in my heart.

My ever-wise God needed to remind me that the only thing that will ever truly satisfy me is himself, and that anything I give my worship to is sin. He began the process of extracting that idol from my heart. I’ll never forget the moment I truly surrendered it to him. I was reading my Bible and praying one morning.

My heart was so broken over not being pregnant yet again. I cried out to the Lord in desperation for him to fulfill this insatiable longing. Then I heard the Holy Spirit prompting my heart with this question, “Marci, what if I never give you children? Would you still love me?” I was stopped in my tracks. “Lord, you know my heart,” I said. The Spirit prompted again … “I want you to say it.”

It took me several tries, but little by little, I felt idolatry being uprooted from my heart. Finally, through painful tears, I uttered the words, “Lord, if you never give me children, I will still love you and I will still follow you.”

I have to admit that I felt a hole where that idol had been … but only temporarily.

Christ overwhelmed me in that moment with his comforting presence and I knew that as long as he was with me I could go on. Over time, the desires of my heart began to transform into the desires of his heart. Not my will, but his became my deepest wish.

But I wasn’t done with this idol yet. I was still missing all of Jesus. I thought that once I had completely surrendered, God would give me children. Yet two years after this event, I was still waiting.

A book I was reading challenged me to think about that one prayer request that I’ve prayed over and over. That was easy … I wanted to be a mom. The book pointed out how easily we get consumed by our number-one prayer that we believe God isn’t answering and we end up shifting our focus off all that God is doing.

I immediately stopped reading, pulled out my journal, and began writing down all the ways I saw God working in my life. I was amazed at how long that list was! I realized what an exciting adventure I was on, and I didn’t want to miss out on anything that God was doing in and through me. I thanked him for all the ways he was working in my life and for allowing me to serve him. I became so excited about it that I realized maybe I didn’t even have time for children right now.

Little did I know that at the moment I was composing my list, I was already about two weeks pregnant! But the pregnancy isn’t the happy ending. It isn’t the consummation of my dreams. More and more, Jesus is.

There was a time in my life when I thought that the gospel was just there to save me, and then I moved on. But the truth is, the gospel has been changing my life every day since.

A native of Colorado, Marci Wollen first believed in Jesus at age five, studied elementary education at Biola University, and now mothers daily for the glory of God. Marci is married to David Wollen, the executive vice president and COO of Haven Ministries, and mother to Elly and Hannah. You can find her story on page 140 of Missing Jesus by Charles and Janet Morris.

Being a youngish pastor’s wife, I have a special place in my heart for the teenage girls and young women in our congregation.

Two summers ago, I had them over for a sleepover, to enjoy pizza and movies and girl time. I also gave a little talk about beauty and modesty.

We discussed some practical tips: Choose clothes in colors that flatter your skin tones; use makeup, but use it tastefully; compare scandalously dressed pop stars with Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy—both generally tasteful women, still revered for their beauty.

Beauty and modesty are not mutually exclusive, we agreed. Because classy modesty is more beautiful than attention-getting, eye-assaulting provocativeness.

Of course, in Christ, we have freedom to choose how we dress using wisdom. And in everything, including beauty, we are to glorify Christ.

But now, thanks to two books: Missing Jesus by Charles and Janet Morris and True Beauty by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre, I see that we were missing something. 

The former explains how easily we can get distracted by good things from what matters most: Jesus. And the latter how beauty is an area where we can get distracted.

Beauty for women is not making sure not to reveal too much. It’s not forgetting about acne and weight to lose and trusting that inner beauty is all that matters.

It’s not even making sure that we enhance our reflection of God’s beauty with the right colors, cuts, and styles. 

In fact, it’s something so much bigger than all of that. 

Beauty isn’t about me, or you, at all, actually.

Beauty IS God. Beauty IS Jesus. 

“True beauty is to behold and reflect the beauty of God,” write Mahaney and Whitacre:

The Bible shows us true beauty. It reveals God as the beautiful One. Long before the ins and outs of changing fashion, God existed in perfect beauty. He is the ultimate, unchanging, eternal standard of beauty. He is the Author, Creator, and Bestower of beauty. His beauty transcends time and culture. It never changes and never fades. It order to know what true beauty is, we must see God. 

So the answer to all of our beauty problems, is a paradox. In order to feel better about ourselves, we are to forget about ourselves. “We must, like David, seek to behold God’s beauty all the days of our lives. … This is how we start to shed our preoccupation with ourselves and our own beauty,” Mahaney and Whitacre explain.

Are we to take good care of our bodies, which are temples (1 Cor. 6:19)? Of course. Does it benefit us to work out, so that we can better chase our kids? Yes. Is it OK if we value beauty and enhance our own through good taste? Absolutely. 

But we won’t find freedom in getting rid of that acne, or losing those last 10 pounds, as much as we want to believe it. We will only find freedom in losing ourselves and finding God, who is beauty. 

When we find Jesus, we find our beauty.

We must remember: it’s always, always all about Jesus.

Lindsey M. Roberts is the editor of the All About Jesus blog. She spent years writing exclusively for secular journalism, including such outlets as The Washington Post, Architect, and Gray magazine, before she first tried to write about Jesus. She’s thrilled to explore in words how everything from cleaning the kitchen three times a day to delighting in the maritime history of Nantucket is an opportunity to meet and glorify God. Lindsey lives with her husband, a pastor and U.S. Army Reserve chaplain, and son in Virginia.

You can find this story in the new book, Missing Jesus: Find Your Life in His Great Story, by Charles and Janet Morris—released by Moody Publishers in March 2014. And make sure to hear Peter tell his own story on Haven Today.

I will never forget that morning.

I’d gotten up early to pray and Jesus had shown himself to me in that breathtaking way he has. I wasn’t seeing him with my physical eyes, but I was still seeing him with a special sort of clarity when our 17-year-old son Peter stumbled into the living room and sat down in a heap of dejection.

Just that week, he’d told me he was no longer a Christian. I now knew for a fact what I’d been suspecting and worrying about for a long time—Peter wasn’t seeing what I was seeing.

It was like there were some rods and cones missing from his eyes. As he sat there bleary eyed with sleep, I knew we were occupying two entirely different worlds and it broke my heart.

Years passed and we continued on our different journeys, mine upward, Peter’s downward until he hit his nadir. After graduating from high school and studying for a year at a local university, Peter left home to hang out with some friends in Portland, Oregon. Eventually he ended up living with a girlfriend in her uncle’s home.

One night we got a call from the uncle. He’d just discovered that both his niece and our son were using drugs and wanted to know what he should do about it. Charles told him to give them a choice—they either went into a detox that very day or they were out on the street.

Thankfully, they chose detox. We packed our bags and started driving up the West Coast while our daughter Kate headed over the Cascades from where she and her family lived in eastern Washington. Kate got there first. She’d made up her mind that Peter was going to accept Jesus as his Savior whether he liked it or not. After they talked awhile, she made her fighting pitch: “Jesus is he only answer. You have to accept him as your Savior right now.” Peter looked at her and said, “I did, Katie last night. I asked him to give me a new life.”

Charles and I got there the next day and I will never forget that morning either.

Even though he was shaky and weak from detoxing, Peter clearly had the rods and the cones in his eyes. He was alive and he was seeing Jesus.

This story of the blind man receiving sight ends well. Peter and his wife Katrina are now heading off next year to serve as missionaries in Peru.

Jesus has to be alive because there’s no other explanation for Peter’s abrupt aboutface and the radically transformed lives of so many other former pagans. 

In subsequent years, while Peter was studying in seminary, he read the works of a church father by the name of Athanasius and suggested we read him too. Among other things, Athanasius wrote a defense of the reality of the resurrection where he argued that Jesus changes lives. What he said in the fourth century is just as true now, all these centuries later:

“Look at the facts of the case. The Savior is working mightily among men, every day. He is invisibly persuading numbers of people all over the world to accept his faith and be obedient to his teaching. Can anyone in the face of this still doubt that he has risen and lives … ? Does a dead man prick the consciences of men so they throw all the traditions of their fathers to the winds and bow down before the teaching of Christ? If he is no longer active in the world … how is it that he makes the adulterer [cease] from his adultery, the murderer from murdering …? This is the work of one who lives, not of the dead; and more than that, it is the work of God.”

Janet Morris is a mother of three, a grandmother of three, and wife to Charles Morris, the speaker and president of Haven Ministries. She helps write the programs for Haven Today, has co-authored two books—Jesus in the Midst of Success and Saving a Life—and is also a women’s Bible study teacher and leader. Her third book, Missing Jesus, Find Your Life in His Great Story, comes out March 1. Janet confesses that she also drinks one pot of Chai tea a day, talks to her dog, and is close friends with C.S. Lewis. But most of all, she needs Jesus every day.

We put our trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of our sins, desire to please God with our life, and yet, our day-to-day experience of faith lacks the vitality we know it should have. We feel like we’re missing something and we probably are. We’re probably missing Jesus. In their new book, Missing Jesus: Find Your Life in His Great Story, Charles and Janet Morris write, “We can start to treat the crucified Son of God like it’s all about us, and He’s just an accessory who adds a little glow to our existence.” As a preview to their book, which releases March 1, Janet offers some thoughts on how much we need Jesus at the center of all of our experiences.

I opened the glossy envelope and there was my life all summed up:

“Janet, as the companion of Million Miler, Charles Morris, we are pleased to award you MileagePlus Premier Gold status.”

That sentence says it all, especially this last year when it seems we’ve made a trip nearly every other month. The gold status means the long layovers can be spent in the comfort of a lounge with tea and coffee and snacks provided. But in spite of the perks, there’s a downside to traveling so much, at least for me. I wake up many mornings not knowing exactly where I am. Chicago? London? Amman? Lilongwe? Or is it Albuquerque?

Charles always seems completely grounded wherever he is the world but to be honest, I love waking up and realizing we’re safe at home in our own familiar bed.

And to be really honest, even when I’m safe at home I can have that same, disoriented feeling I have when I travel.

Because I can miss Jesus.

I can wake up in a state of exile with my heart a million miles away from home, and just see two options for facing the day—either living it on my own, disconnected from the Lord, or trying hard to find my way back home to him.

Thankfully, by God’s grace, there’s a third option. I can wake up and realize that I’m already safe at home in Jesus.

Because that’s what the cross did.

That’s why Jesus chose to go there—to take away my never quite getting it right, and my often getting it very wrong, and all the alienation that comes with that. Those are the very things that send my heart into exile and it’s those very things that Jesus tore down and cleared away so he could bring me close, so close that he could say, “Remain in me.”

Paul says it 73 different times, that phrase, “in Christ,” and I need to realize it again every day. There’s no million-mile journey back to Jesus. I’m already there, safe in him. I can live my day in that safe place with all the guilt and condemnation gone and all his grace supplied to me for free. And tomorrow morning when I wake up jangled by life and isolated and uneasy about where I stand with the Lord I can realize it all over again:

I am in Christ.

Never did I need it more than that morning 10 years ago when I slowly emerged from sleep and remembered: “Our son is dead from a drug overdose and today is his funeral.” Facing all those people, facing the service, facing the lowering of his body into the ground—all of it was hard enough. But what was impossible was the thing we’d decided to do. We were the one who could speak firsthand of Jeff’s precious value, we were the ones who’d heard the Lord speak words of deep comfort—so we decided that we were the ones who should do the funeral.

I knew I couldn’t do it.

But lying there that morning it came to me that gutting it out pathetically on my own, or bailing out altogether, were not my only options. Jesus offered himself to me as a refuge and I stepped into him like stepping out of a storm. All that day I was sheltered from the shame that could have descended on my head. All that day I sensed him crowning me with love and giving me power to testify about his death that won the victory over death.

I lived that day in Jesus.

But I don’t just need him on those worst of all possible days. I need to wake up every single day and remember that I’m not in exile anymore—I’m in Christ and “There is now no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Missing Jesus: Find Your Life in His Great Story


Janet Morris is a mother of three, a grandmother of three, and wife to Charles Morris, the speaker and president of Haven Ministries. She helps write the programs for Haven Today, has co-authored two books—Jesus in the Midst of Success and Saving a Life—and is also a women’s Bible study teacher and leader. Her third book, Missing Jesus, Find Your Life in His Great Story, comes out March 1. Janet confesses that she also drinks one pot of Chai tea a day, talks to her dog, and is close friends with C.S. Lewis. But most of all, she needs Jesus every day.