I developed a personal relationship with God after experiencing some trials and difficulties that I knew only he could help me overcome. While I knew a lot about God pretty much all of my life, it took a while to really come to know him. It’s never enough to just know about God because when hard times come, you can’t lean on your knowledge of him for strength. You have to lean on him. To be honest, you don’t need to experience a tough situation to begin developing a personal relationship with God, you can start right now.
So, if you’re anything like I was and you know all the things about church and Christianity but you feel that your relationship with God is lacking, I want to guide you through the steps I took as I began to grow closer to God. I also want you to know that a personal relationship with God is not a far off thing that only your pastor or spiritual leader can attain. God wants to know each of his children intimately, and that includes you.
What is a Personal Relationship with God?
A personal relationship with God is just like a relationship with anyone else in your life. It is fellowship, love, and trust between you and him. It means to know him and to be known by him. It’s much more than just going to church or even reading our Bibles. We were created for relationship with God. In fact, it’s our primary purpose in life.
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. There’s a guy in your life and you have a crush on him. You’ve known him since high school, you know where he lives, you have his phone number, you know some of his interests, and you may even be friends with some of the same people. You talk every now and then but something still feels missing. What’s missing is that you’ve never had a deep conversation with him, you’ve never heard him tell stories about his life, you’ve never seen him cry or become so overjoyed in a moment of celebration. You don’t know his biggest pet peeves or the little quirks about him most people have yet to experience.
It’s the same way with knowing God. Sure, you might have known about God all your life through church and your Christian community, but knowing him on an intimate level is different.
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So, how should 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. So, we have to want to and actively pursue it ourselves.
The thing is, spending time with God won’t always feel like a spiritual high and chances are it may not be as exciting as the worship during your Sunday morning church service. But, think about it, communicating with your significant other or even your 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, or as the scripture says, “pray continually?” Pretty much, this means that you should always have a mindset of prayer and God should always be first in your heart even throughout the day. So, when you have a tough task to complete at work, your first thought is to ask God for help. Or, when something great happens for you, the first thing you do is thank God.
I love that God is a “personal God,” meaning that he isn’t far away and only answers when you have a spiritual need. Actually, last week I was searching for my missing digital pen, and couldn’t find it anywhere. I prayed and a few minutes later I found it in a random basket of papers I never would have thought to look in! God is with us all the time and he wants to hear from us about all things – the good, the bad, the ugly, the big, and the small.
3. Develop a relationship with others
I believe that our relationship with others 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 help 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 and practice obedience to his word
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 any distractions get in the way of you hearing God’s voice. I can go into more on hearing God’s voice but I’ll save that for another article.
It’s not enough to just listen, we should act in obedience when he speaks. 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 don’t trust him, it’s also usually because we haven’t yet developed a deep relationship with him.
5. Be Willing to Trust Him with your heart
Let me tell you this, God is trustworthy.
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, let me tell you this, 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.
6. Don’t compare your relationship with God to that of others
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 girl’s relationship with God won’t look anything like yours.
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 type of fellowship between God and ourselves.
7. Learn how to depend on God
Finally, if you want to develop a personal relationship with God, you should 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.
Developing 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.