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Struggling to Find Closeness to the God with Us

By Debi Russell

It’s Advent Season. Growing up, I was not part of a tradition that emphasized Advent but as an adult I have enjoyed taking time in December to think about how God came near. It has become a time to reflect and remember the God who came to be with me. In Christ, God came near. A beautiful and amazing gift yet the more I talk with others the more I realize many times we all feel, though God came to be with us, we are somehow missing Him. We sing songs of adoration and praise for Emmanuel, while feeling disconnected and disappointed that the emotional experience of closeness seems so elusive.

Feeling close to God is a struggle for all of us at times. We know in our minds he is with us, but we can’t seem to feel the emotions we so easily experience with our friends or spouses. We quietly wonder if we are doing something wrong or God just doesn’t want to be close to us- maybe we are less likeable than the other kids in the Kingdom.

As I have been reflecting on pursuing closeness, I realize so often we have created that a path that would never lead to that end. We set out to become close to God by working hard on behaving right instead of believing right. I see in myself many times a desire to prove to God that I love him, instead of allowing the truth in scripture to prove that God loves me. It’s as if I start believing God needs to find a reason in me to love me, forgetting that His love is based on His character, not mine.

No one ever flew across an ocean to adopt a child because they thought the math skills or sense of humor or cute smile would make the sacrifice of adoption “worth it”, yet I sometimes behave as though God is counting on me to impress Him in order to find me worthy of loving. Here is a beautiful truth: God does not need to be connected to me- He wants to be connected to me. But, equally true and significant is I do need to be close to Him.

So where do we start? By digging deep into the best source for learning who God is and how He loves- His word. The Bible is the story of a God who pursues people for their good, not His own. In fact, in scripture we see how His pursuit of our hearts cost him dearly. We also see how as he slowly changes us, we usually foolishly run from His love. Then we learn of his amazing grace, his complete worthiness and his awesome power.

The more we ingest a steady diet of his word, the more we know him and begin to feel known as well. The more we understand why He alone is worthy of our worship. And slowly, over time and constant taking in of truth, our hearts are rearranged.

There is no deep emotional connection in any relationship that did not start on a foundation of trust. As we read the Bible and see God’s character, we slowly begin to trust Him with our obedience and feelings. We can’t feel close until we trust and we can’t trust until we know who He is.

The times I experience closeness to God are always marked by consistent time in His word and a focus on His love for me. It’s not a formula- it follows the pattern for how I build every other relationship in my life, and it is no different with God except, of course, He never fails me.

If you feel disconnected or distant from God this December, remember he came to be near you. He is not impatient or angry and does not need you to perform for Him. He longs to be close to you because of His extravagant love. Open your bible and read. See God revealed and do not give up.

Posted by Debi Russell with
in Faith

God Knows Us

By Megan Evans

I’m really forgetful. I forget to take my medicine, I forget to give people back things I’ve borrowed, I forget to return phone calls – the list could go on and on. But I’ve been learning lately what I am most forgetful of and it’s the most worrisome of them all.

I forget who God is. 

I have all this head knowledge of who he is and could easily spout it out to you like familiar song lyrics. But do I really and truly believe who it is that I’m speaking to when I start to pray? When I worship? When I tell a friend what he is doing in my life? Or do I let routine rule my heart?            

I needed and will always need a reminder of who God truly is and how he cares for his children. Thankfully, he has revealed everything we need to know of him on this side of glory in his living and active Word.

The God Who Sees

So she named the LORD who spoke to her: “You are El-roi,” for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?” (Genesis 16:13 CSB). 

Hagar was a woman weighed down with her circumstances. She was pregnant with Abram’s first son, Ishmael, and Abram’s wife was hateful toward Hagar and mistreated her because of it. While we could dive into a lot in this story, what is important to notice is what happens when Hagar runs away from these circumstances. I don’t know the exact thoughts going through her head when she ran away, but I can assume that she was filled with dread, fear, and worry of the future. She had just run away from everything she had ever known, a slave pregnant with another woman’s husband.

But God sees her.

It says in verse 7 that “The Angel of the Lord found her.” God comes to her in the form of an angel and talks with her. He meets her where she is and lets her speak what is on her heart. Because of this, Hagar calls him “El-roi” or “God Sees Me.” The ESV says “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”

I forget that God sees me and looks after me. Often when I pray, I feel like I’m praying to the air or saying words aloud to myself. I have to reshape my thoughts and heart, remembering people like Hagar, to remind myself that I am praying to a real, living God who not only hears every word and thought, but cares to. He sent an Angel of the Lord to Hagar and he sent his only Son to die for me to prove it.

The God Who Knows

Lord you have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I stand up;

you understand my thoughts from far away.

(Psalm 139:1-3 CSB)

Where can I go to escape your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

(Psalm 139:7 CSB)

We all have a desire to be known. We want our parents to notice us hit our first t-ball. We want our best friend to watch us slide down the slide for the first time in the park. We want to be a part of the homecoming court so everyone in school knows our name.

No one has to teach us how to want to be known. God knows us in a very different, intimate way though. He knows every thought. He is able to search our hearts.

We can’t escape his Spirit or his presence and we don’t want to. God’s presence in our lives today is a very real person that walked on this earth, Jesus Christ. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose for us to be with him again one day, it was to bring us into relationship with the Father.

The gap that sin created was fully taken on Jesus’ bloodstained body. When God looks at us, he sees his Son, so we no longer have to fear that he sees our guilt and shame but can rejoice that he sees a perfect Savior. 

I can convince myself that there are a lot of things in this world that can fully know and see me, but each leaves me broken and empty. I’ve convinced myself that my boss’ approval at work is the way to be seen. I’ve convinced myself that people on social media know who I am through my posts.

I’ve convinced myself that buying enough clothes and things will get people to notice me. I’ve convinced myself that sex outside of marriage was how to get someone to fully know me.

I have forgotten and will continue to forget who God is. 

But praise the Lord that he has not forgotten me. He sees me and allows me to have a relationship with him, just like Hagar, no matter my shameful past. He has searched me and known me, just as David spoke of in his psalm. He has seen me at my worst – apart from him. Yet he still wants a relationship with me and has graciously given me that chance through his Son. 

He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 CSB)

Thank you, God, for becoming sin for us through Christ. Thank you for giving us your righteousness.

Posted by Megan Evans with