“I want to work on my relationship with God. I feel distant. How can I get closer to God?”
A couple thoughts. Our modern, linear minds desperately want clear and concise steps on how to do something. We don’t handle mystery very well. It doesn’t sit well with our souls. Can you honestly answer some questions with, “I don’t know,” and feel at peace with that? It’s possible but it’s difficult.
So as much as I want to give you clear easy steps and a formula to follow to guarantee an experience of God, I just can’t do that. But writers of the Bible were pretty clear on some steps we can take to start the process.
Check out James 4 in the Message version.
…Where do these quarrels come from? … You want your own way & fight for it deep inside yourselves…If all you want is your own way, you end up enemies of God…What God gives in love is far better than anything else you’ll find…Let God work his will in you…Yell a loud no to the devil…Say a quiet yes to God…Quit dabbling in sin…Purify your inner life…Quit playing the field.
Hit bottom and cry your eyes out…Get serious, really serious.
Think about a significant relationship in your life. A spouse, best friend, child, parent. This person means a lot to you. If you’re wanting to get closer to God, think about how you grow other relationships.
Take the time. When we want to get to know someone, we set aside time. We take a trip. We say no to other things so we can set aside time for them. We do our best to focus on them. Not our cell phone, TV or to-do list. Show them it’s a priority to you. Show God you have that desire and you’re well on your way. *I see time as the biggest reason we don’t get close to God. We want to. We really do. But not bad enough to rearrange our schedule and make it happen.
Give a gift. A gift you put some thought into shows the depth of your feelings. It shows your love is more than your words. There was a Valentine’s Day where I simply picked up a card on the way home and signed it quickly to give to my husband. I didn’t take the time to put my heart into thinking about what he would love. When we casually toss a couple dollars in the plate at church, keep our time and talents to ourselves, we’re missing a great opportunity to give a gift to God.
Listen. If I spent all my time with my husband or friends, telling them about my day, dreams and frustrations, the relationship wouldn’t grow much. They’d mostly just be annoyed that I was so self-centered. But when we actively listen to each other, a mutual love flourishes. It’s the same with God.
It’s a journey. It’s taken me 9 years to get to know my husband to the depth that I do now. If I could have snapped my fingers and had that awareness instantly, it wouldn’t be much of a relationship. We had to work at it. We secretly want an easy relationship with God. We question why the “feeling” isn’t automatically there. It’s a journey. And it’s a beautiful way to live as you explore the nuances of a relationship with God over time. In the church, we call it sanctification or working out our salvation. It takes a life time. Stop looking for a quick fix. Commit to the journey.
All relationships experience conflict. My siblings and I argued over the silliest things when we were younger. It was inevitable as we figured out how to live with each other. As long as we tried to talk about it and work through it, it drew us closer to each other. It’s okay to be mad at God. It’s okay to have doubts. Talk it out with God and others. Work through it. It can make your faith even stronger.
Speak up. Our words are powerful. We say, “I love you. I can’t imagine my life without you. I appreciate you.” Sometimes we fake it until we make it. When we’re not feeling loving towards a friend or child or spouse, we can say these things and we’ll eventually be reminded we do mean them. Same with God. Just because we don’t feel the love, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Tell God what you’re feeling and thinking.
If you still want some kind of formula, try this. Set aside 5 minutes a day to start with. Get quiet. Read scripture. Talk to God. Listen.
God will speak. Just be ready for what you might hear. Your life may never be the same.