A Sweet Fragrance



“Canst thou by searching find out God?” – Job 11:7


Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. – Jeremiah 29:13

How does a young woman go from a simple childhood faith, to unbelief, and then to a strong, mature faith? In Isobel Kuhn’s autobiography By Searching: My Journey Through Doubt Into Faithshe documents a journey of faith that will give every hungry soul a vision for the life that God offers. Although Isobel Kuhn walked this journey almost a century ago, her story of struggle and growth is written with a timeless simplicity and clarity that holds your attention. Her story gave me faith for other doubting souls, a faith that has not been in vain! I saw someone miraculously turn to the Lord after I read this book. But I am getting ahead of myself . . .

Isobel grew up in a good Presbyterian home and was carefully prepared for expected challenges to her faith in college. All the same, an atheist professor quickly shattered her childhood faith. She decided to “accept no theories of life which I had not proved personally”. This led her to a period of wandering in what she called “the misty flats” - where life has no end but amusement and there is no reason for opposing anything. So she exchanged her Christian habits for a life of worldliness. However, the name of Jesus still called to her. “His name was the sweetest melody I knew and it never failed to stir my heart, even though I had ceased to seek Him. His purity and holiness made me hate besmirching things.” So even though she believed the Bible was a myth, certain habits such as drinking and smoking were offensive to her, and she chose to steer clear of such things. “So amidst the gay group at the university I was considered a good girl, and even a Christian! But I myself knew that I wasn’t.” She spent her evenings dancing, dated non-Christian men, and suffered the resulting heartbreaks. “So I found myself in the slippery places of darkness. Pride wounded me, love wounded me, and sleep departed from me.”

This downward spiral brought her to a confrontation with God. In the middle of the night, while contemplating suicide, she desperately decided to test God’s existence. “God, if there be a God, if You will prove to me that You are, and if You will give me peace, I will give You my whole life. I’ll do anything You ask me to do, go where You send me, obey You all my days.” 

The next thing she knew, it was morning. And more amazingly, she had peace! Thus began a time of searching, stumbling, and testing. She was determined to find God, yet also determined not to believe what could not be proven. In spite of her immaturity and faithlessness, God met her where she was. She found that God answered her prayers even when she doubted Him. She found that He was faithful, even when she asked Him for silly things. However, she also learned that her life of silly nonsense would never satisfy her.

Even after she began to inwardly seek God, outwardly she showed no interest and usually spent Sundays catching up on her sleep. One day, however, her mother persuaded her to attend a Bible class. There, a friend of her father’s shared with her he had been praying for her for seven years. This stirred her to the depths, because it was seven years before that she had rejected her childhood upbringing for worldly things. Gradually, although the world still had a hold on her, she began to climb out of the mist onto the High Way.

For Isobel, the High Way led her somewhere she had not expected. Foreign mission work had never occurred to her until she attended a Christian convention in 1923. A young missionary who had recently lost her husband in a tragic accident was her roommate, and her hunger for the Lord and her total dedication to Him showed Isobel, for the first time, what a consecrated life looked like. “She sought the Lord’s face before that of anyone else at the beginning of each day. There was no wake-up chatter and pillow-flinging nonsense at dawn. This deeply bruised heart hungered and panted after the Lord, and her first waking thought was a longing for His fellowship and presence. And she kindled the same hunger in me. Remember, I had a bruised heart, too.” One thing Isobel learned - “I had promised Him my life . . . . I was no longer my own.” This awakening opened her heart to a life of sacrifice.

As she grew in the consecrated life, she began to see the uselessness of indulgent time-wasters such as card-playing, romantic fiction, dancing, the theater. Her old habits gradually gave way to new ones, albeit very slowly. Little did she know that God had a much grander plan for her, and others were already secretly praying that God would appoint her as a missionary to China!

Stories from J. O. Fraser of the China Inland Mission stirred her. From him, she learned of the Lisu, an illiterate tribe living in villages perched on the edges of deep canyons in southern China. The call, to her, was clear. She made known to Mr. Fraser the calling God had awakened in her. His immediate response, however, was to tell her of his own sufferings. “I believe now that he did it deliberately to sift me. If I were truly called of God, I would not be discouraged by plain talk about the cost.” Carefully, Mr. Fraser explained to her the challenges she would face and the pitfalls she must avoid. “It was an afternoon well spent. Upon the plastic material of a young life had been imprinted standards and ideals which were to last forever. And a deep glimpse had been afforded me into the life that is hidden in God – the cost of it, the fragrance of it, and the power of it.”

Isobel went on to study at Moody Bible Institute and was later accepted by the China Inland Mission. But the theme of this book is not really Bible study and missions. It’s about searching for God – and finding Him. Isobel Kuhn found God. Have you found Him? Have you really found Him? The Scriptures testify of Him – it is up to us to open those pages and find Him.

“When is The Search ended?” writes Isobel. “In one sense, it is finished when our hand, stretched out to God in the name of His appointed mediator Jesus Christ feels the answering grasp and knows that He is there. But in another sense the searching never ends, for the first discovery is quickly followed by another, and that by another – and so it goes on.”

“I have found that He can overcome obstacles and that we do not need to arouse a great hullabaloo to get Him to do so. . . . By searching I have discovered that God has strange and sweet ways of manifesting Himself, at sundry times and in divers manners He is still speaking.”

He is still speaking. Today.


You can get this book here.


March of Books 2013 at Kindred Grace

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One Response to “Book Review: By Searching by Isobel Kuhn”

  1. Rebecca

    I’m only 13 years old and i hear about this amazing woman when i picked up another book about her called, “Nothing Daunted” and her story truly inspires me even at a young age. I can relate to her because my my family and i are missionaries in Nicaragua (central America).


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