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.