“How can I be close to God?”
From my experience as a counselor, this seems to be an important and often unspoken spiritual question that a lot of people are wrestling with. For many people, questions of God’s nearness are at the heart of despair, loneliness, and insecurity.
When we believe God is near we are filled with hope, comfort, encouragement, and peace, even in the midst of uncertain circumstances. We have a strength to continue on because we know we are not alone.
When we don’t feel like God is near we begin to doubt and become discouraged. It’s easy to feel alone, and we start asking questions such as, “Has he left me?” “Have I not been good enough?” “What do I need to do to feel close to Him again?” “Is my faith not strong enough?” “Should I pray more?”
These questions are our attempts to solve the problem. If only we can figure out what we are doing wrong or what extra things we should be doing, then we can do them and feel comforted. But even in this, as pure or as desperate as these questions may be, the primary focus is still on us…revealing a deep rooted belief that we are the ones in control, not God. Whatever form our questions take, they are all essentially asking, “What can I do to be close to God?”
Yes, we can seek God through prayer, fasting, worship, gratitude, and other spiritual disciplines, but these do not guarantee we will always feel close to God. So,what if we turned our focus toward the truth of God? Taking God at His Word, rather than relying on our feelings. When we do, we will realize that learning how to be close to God is more about understanding who God is and less about what we do. It’s about understanding the nearness of God as a fact, not a feeling.
What a relief to know that God is already near and always within reach. He desires a close relationship with us, regardless of how messy, dirty, or imperfect we are. He loves us more deeply than we can imagine, and He wants us more than we can know. He wants us to talk to Him and spend time with Him because He enjoys our company. He wants us to enjoy His company as well. He wants us to listen to Him because He really does know best. He knows that if we listen to His direction we will gain all we truly need and want. (Matthew 6:33)
So what does it take to be near God? Realizing He is already near.
The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. – Psalm 145:18
…that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; – Acts 17:27
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you – James 4:8
Wide awake to the presence of God, I realized I had been so focused on asking why a good God allowed bad things to happen that I was missing out on the nearness of God all along. In becoming preoccupied with the why, I was missing the who. – Margaret Feinberg from the book Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God