“As the deer pants [longingly] for the water brooks,
So my soul (my self, my life) pants [longingly] for You, O God.
My soul (my life, my inner self) thirsts for God, for the living God.
When will I come and see the face of God?” Psalm 42:1-2
Any of my close friends could tell you where my favorite place is: out on a trail. Even though I know the truth that God is always with me, I feel especially close to God when I’m looking out onto mountain tops or when I see sunbeams streaming through the trees onto a quiet forest floor covered with ferns. I have my best conversations with God when I am on a trail.
“But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness (or deserted places) and pray.” Luke 5:16
Community is essential to a full, healthy life. When we are isolated, we start believing the lies of insecurity, comparison, guilt and shame. Close friends can bring out the best in each other and dispel the lies that keep you from living a free, abundant life in Christ. I am a huge proponent of being an active participant in a group of close friends. We encourage each other, we keep one another accountable, we love and serve our friends, we laugh and cry together.
However, as close as your best friend or spouse is to you…they cannot be your Holy Spirit. Your personal relationship with God is just that: personal.
To be clear, I am not advocating that your faith is to be personal. It is plain in Scripture that our faith is to be publicly lived and shared. Yet the basis of your faith that you are able to share as your testimony is the transforming work of Christ in your life. This transformation never stops and is made possible by your personal relationship with Him.
Just as in any other relationship, in order to get close to someone you spend time with them. When you spend time with someone in a group setting, it is sometimes possible to get to know them on a somewhat deep level. But in fact, to really know someone and all of their nuances, you need to spend considerable quality time alone with them. A deep, lasting connection is started and fed by consistent quality time spent alone with someone- and I believe this is true of our relationship with God as well.
“In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” Mark 1:35
Attending church on Sunday is fabulous, but attending church does not mean that you have a personal relationship with Christ. Attending church, serving at church, and participating in a small group (or leading one!) is amazing and your walk can grow exponentially when you invest your life into discovering your purpose and serving others. However, all of this still doesn’t mean that you have a close, personal relationship with Christ.
To get close to God, you spend time alone with him. You stop what you are doing to seek Him out. You listen. You speak. You take time to understand and to be understood. You accept how He is moving in your heart and life. Feed your Spirit by spending time seeking God.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The Message
Practical ways to seek God everyday:
Personal daily devotional time.
This concept is spoken of frequently and can be quite intimidating. It also lends itself easily to legalism when this time becomes just another box to check on your daily to-do list. Personal time spent daily with God can take so many different forms and structures and can be done any time of day, not just strictly in the morning.
I will admit, there is nothing quite like beginning your day with God. Even if you are not a morning person, try this suggestion from my pastor: five minutes of worship, five minutes of Scripture, and five minutes of prayer. This is only fifteen minutes at the very start of your day, but this short investment of time with the Lord will have a huge impact on the course of your day. If it works better for you and your schedule to spend this devotion time at 10 in the morning or 10 at night, give yourself a break and just do it then! There is no rule that you must rise before dawn in order to be holy.
As with any new habit, there is much to be said to sticking to a routine at first. However, as you get closer to God, you will crave more of His presence and this time will become a treasure, not just an activity you “have to do.”
Time spent away with Him
Take your devotional on the road by taking a walk (or a run) with God. Go through your regular devotion routine while you are walking or running. Have technology work for you instead of against you in this case: you can listen to someone read you Scripture with several different free apps. You can listen to podcasts or messages from amazing people, pastors, leaders, missionaries, writers from around the globe. You can sing along with your favorite worship songs. If you’re not able to do these physical activities, find a nice park bench or spread a blanket out under a tree. Just changing your surroundings to the outdoors can kick start your heart, mind, and soul.
While you are walking, running or sitting with God, also take some time to unplug. After you use your Bible or devotional apps or listen to praise music, take some time in the silence outside with God. Some of my favorite ideas about how to spend time with God while you are unplugged are: Praise, Pray, Meditate and Listen. Praise God praying all of His Names or give Him a praise report for all that He is doing in your life. Pray: pray for those who are sick or in need, pray for you and your family, pray for a certain country or region of the world. Meditate: spend time meditating on one Scripture. Use this time to memorize a verse and let it seep into your soul. Listen to the Holy Spirit while you are quiet. Leave some margin in your life to hear from God. Have you ever tried to have a conversation where the other person is taking so fast that you can’t ever answer them? I sometimes wonder if that is how we talk to God!
Take a hike
I grew up hiking in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, but even if you’re “not outdoorsy” I implore you to get outside of your comfort zone and opt outside! If you’re intimidated by going alone, take some friends and hit the trails. Once you find a great spot, unpack your backpacks and sit nearby each other with your journals and Bibles (or your phones with Bible apps and a Notes app). Even while you are with your friends, be intentional about stopping and sitting with God- spending time alone (but near each other if it makes you feel safer) with God. For an extra special treat, worship alone or together with a portable speaker, music played on your phone (or sing acapella if you’re brave!)
Our time spent alone with God developing our relationship with Him isn’t supposed to be a strict regiment of homework that we check off our daily tasks- it is meant to be a time of love and worship with our Daddy who longs for us. Take your devotion time to the trails and have a time of joy and wonder!
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5
Kristen Love is a peddler of hope with a heart for the lost, for the broken, and for the bruised. She is a devoted follower of Jesus with a living testimony that God can use even our poor choices and turn them around for His glory. She enjoys adventures around the world exploring and marveling at God’s creation while meeting and loving His people. Kristen is (super) mama to a teenage son who keeps things real. She loves to read and is excited to be back in school studying Ministry. Kristen also has the honor of working full-time as a lawyer, planting seeds and watering them wherever she is able (See 1 Corinthians 3:6-9).