I have been a Christian my entire life. However, I developed a personal relationship with God after a difficult season that I knew only he could help me through. While I knew a lot about God, it took some time to really get to know him. It’s not enough to simply know about God — he wants a relationship with you and me. You don’t have to go through a hard season like I did to begin working on your personal relationship with God. You can start right now.
If you have been a Christian your entire life, but you feel like your relationship with God is not where it should be, or if you are entirely new to Christianity, here are some things you should know as you begin growing closer to God.
What is a Personal Relationship with God?
Think of your relationship with the closest and most trusted person in your life. Your spouse, a close friend, or a parent may come to mind. A personal relationship with God is like that, only better. It involves true joy, fellowship, and love. God is committed to you, and you, in turn, are committed to God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” In other words, the goal and primary purpose of our lives is to have a relationship with God.
What does it mean to know God?
If knowing God isn’t the same as knowing about God, then what does it mean to know him? Here’s an analogy. You are romantically interested in a guy that you’ve known since high school. You know where he lives, you have his phone number, you know some of his interests, and you may even have mutual friends. You talk every now and then but something still feels missing.
The thing is, you know a lot about this guy and you are acquaintances but you don’t have a true friendship with him. You’ve never had a deep conversation with him, never heard the intimate stories of his life, never seen him cry or become overjoyed in a moment of celebration. You don’t know his biggest pet peeves, or the many quirks he has developed over the years.
Similarly, to know God is to become more than acquaintances. It involves knowing his heart, his character, and his love. Knowing him means that you are able to recognize his voice and feel his presence. When we know God, he doesn’t feel distant or far away. Even when things get difficult in life, it means trusting the plan of God because he has proven to be trustworthy.
So, how can you begin to develop a deeper relationship with God?
1. Spend time with him through prayer and by reading his word
Prayer is the link that connects us with God – A.B. Simpson
If you want to develop a personal relationship with God, start by praying and reading his word consistently.
This is the most important way to grow your relationship with him because practically, no relationship would thrive without intentional communication. God is sovereign but he would never force us to spend time with him. Take time to read scripture and learn about God’s will. Pray and begin to experience his love.
Spending time with God won’t always feel like a spiritual high and chances are it may not be as exciting as the worship session during your Sunday morning church service. But, think about it, communicating with your significant other or even your close friends isn’t always exciting all the time but it is necessary and meaningful for those relationships to grow. Quiet time, praying, and studying the Bible may not always be exciting but it’s so worth it.
2. Talk to God everywhere
I know this one might seem a little weird. How can you talk to God everywhere? The scriptures describe it as praying without ceasing (1 Thess 5:16-18). Praying without ceasing means that we have a mindset of prayer and throughout our day, God is on our hearts. We think about asking God for help when we arrive at difficulty, or we thank God when we experience his goodness.
One of the many differences between our God, and the gods of other religions is that God is a personal God. He isn’t far away from us. He hears us and cares about even the small needs of our hearts.
3. Pursue relationship with other Christians
Another way to develop a personal relationship with God is by pursuing a relationship with other Christians. I believe that our relationship with other Christians is important for developing our relationship with God. I love this verse that says, As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) We need each other. Learning and growing together with like-minded Christians helps us to grow closer to God.
I was a part of a group in college that held Bible study and worshiped together weekly. As each person shared about their experiences with God, the rest of the group was strengthened in their faith and closeness with God. Join a group of other Christians at your school, your church, or in your community. You never know just how much a relationship with Christians around you might strengthen your own personal relationship with God.
4. Listen to God’s voice
A relationship is a two-way street, right? So, while talking to God is important, listening to him is just as necessary. The truth is, God is always speaking but sometimes we fail to hear him. We can get distracted by so many things including social media, TV, our friends, and even work. Be sure that you’re not letting distractions get in the way of you hearing God’s voice.
However, It’s not enough to just listen, we should act in obedience when he speaks. James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” I know “obedience” seems like such a harsh word. But, the Bible actually says that those who love God will obey his words. Obeying God has a lot to do with trusting him. When we don’t trust him, we tend to do the opposite of what he says to do. When we do trust him, we tend to listen and obey when he speaks.
5. Be willing to trust him with your heart
It’s tough to have a personal relationship with someone you don’t trust. And I get it, I’m pretty skeptical and sometimes I have difficulty trusting people. But, God is trustworthy. You can trust him with your whole heart and soul and be confident that he won’t ever let you down.
You can also trust him with the not-so-pc thoughts and emotions that sometimes go through your heart. You can tell him when you feel angry, or when you feel afraid; you can trust him when you’ve sinned or fallen short, and be confident that he won’t turn you away. You can tell him your deepest, darkest secrets and the hidden struggles you’d never want anyone else to know about. After all, he’s the only one who can heal you from those things to begin with.
God already knows how you feel inside. Don’t sugarcoat it with Christian phrases and cliches when deep down inside you are hurting and unsure of what to do. Tell God whatever you feel inside. He’s God – he’s not offended by the thoughts in your heart. Let him help you process them.
|CSB She Reads Truth Bible–soft leather-look, rose gold|
By Holman Bible Publishers
6. Don’t succumb to comparison
There’s a huge problem of comparison within our world today. I guess it probably has to do with social media and our constant access to each other’s highlights of life. But, if you want to have a strong personal relationship with God, you have to overcome comparison. The grass is not always greener on the other side and the next person’s relationship with God won’t look exactly like yours. That’s okay.
I remember back in school, I met up with a group of friends for prayer. Some of them were praying loud, powerful prayers as they paced back and forth on the floor. Some others prayed eloquent prayers and I wondered why I couldn’t get my words together like theirs. But, God just wanted me to pray like me. He wanted to hear my voice, not my best imitation of someone else. Just like prayer, our relationship with God is not a competition. It’s not something to be compared. It’s a sacred fellowship between God and ourselves.
7. Learn how to depend on God
Finally, if you want to develop a personal relationship with God, learn how to depend on him. I’m a pretty self-reliant person and I like to do things on my own. But, I had to learn how to depend on God for everything when pursuing a relationship with God. This looked like, praying and asking him for guidance before making a decision, asking him to be with me throughout the day before leaving for work, or asking him to give me wisdom in my day to day conversations. Depending on God is crucial for developing a strong relationship with him.
Building a relationship with God is a process. It won’t happen all at once and sometimes you’ll think your relationship with him is strong one day and the next day you may wonder if he’s even there. But, that’s a part of the journey. Like any relationship, a relationship with God is complex. You’ll learn more about him and encounter him in deeper ways in each season. As you draw closer to him, he’ll reveal more of himself to you and teach you more about what he is like.