Sometimes, we need to look for answers in unexpected places. Like when we’re having a hard time experiencing God personally.
In the last few posts, I’ve been talking about this struggle that we all experience. None of us feel as close to God as we want to, at least most of the time. It’s so easy to just give up and accept it.
To begin changing that, in my first post I suggested we bring the hardest things in our lives to God, while my second mentioned three ways reflecting on God’s character and work better can really help.
While I hope those posts are helpful, I think it’s pretty obvious that talking to God honestly and biblically reflecting on him and what he’s done are good ways to move toward him.
In this last post of the mini-series, though, I’d like to tackle something I’m not sure we think about much when our relationship with God is kind of crusty. So instead of ringing the doorbell, let’s try a back door approach.
An Unexpected Way To Experience God
It’s interesting: right after sharing his testimony of God’s deliverance, and his call to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’, David launches into this section about fearing God. And what that means practically.
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
Then, in (15-22), he says, ‘If you live like that, God will hear and answer your prayers.’
Seems random, right? If only Ritalin had been invented, maybe some of David’s psalms would’ve been less ADD.
But here’s – I think – his flow of thought. (It’s poetry, after all…) Stay with me, and have the passage in front of you, so you can follow along.
In (8), we’re invited to ‘taste & see’, to experience God very practically. To do that, David says, make God your refuge. Then in (9) he talks about ‘fearing’ God, another way of speaking about making God our refuge. What we fear is what we hold in awe, find important. If we ‘fear’ God and make him our refuge, we’ll experience God’s provision: ‘lack nothing’, ‘no good thing’ (10).
In other words, if we’ll fear God and find our protection in him, we’ll have everything we need. In short, we’ll ‘taste and see that the Lord is good’.
Then in (11-14), he says, here’s what it looks like, guys, to fear God, make him your refuge. If you want to experience God, have him answer your prayers, treat others with honesty and be at peace with them.
God cares a lot about how we treat other people in our lives. He created them in his image, to be like him. We’re his mini-mes.
In the Ancient Near East, kings would set up images of themselves throughout their kingdom to remind their subjects that they were in charge. If you disrespected their image, you disrespected them.
The Bible makes a similar connection between us and God.
For example, in Matthew 25, Jesus says, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ And, vice versa.
So, if we’re treating others poorly, it shows we don’t love Christ, and it gets in the way of how deeply we experience him. When we treat others the way God treats them, it shows we love him and he blesses that.
Two Starting Points
Our psalm talks about turning from evil and pursuing goodness more generally, but mentions honesty (13) and peace (14) in particular. Can’t go too deeply, but, here are a few quick thoughts to get you started.
Honesty. When there’s a lack of truthfulness in a relationship, it’s no relationship at all. No truth, no trust. Things like deleting our browsing history, fudging our taxes, omitting something unpopular during a hard conversation, or quietly doing something your our boss doesn’t want us to – not to mention outright lies – keep us at arm’s length from others and God.
Peace. Our theology teaches us that God is One God in three Persons. He is Trinity where there’s perfect harmony among God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That’s what he wants for us, too. It’s such a big deal that most of Jesus’s final (major) prayer is all about unity:
He prayed ‘that they [that’s Christians] may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me’ (John 17:21).
This gets very practical. It’s not just avoiding shouting, spreading rumors, and other ‘bigger’ sins. Also included are more subtle things like being proud, avoiding your roommate, thinking we’re probably right when there’s disagreement, being passive-aggressive, and, giving others the silent treatment when we’re angry.
So, if there’s a lack of joy or reality in your relationship with God, it could be partly because of problems in your relationships with others. Because our relational God created us to be in relationships with him and others, how we’re doing in one area will always affect – and reflect – how we’re doing in the other.
The good news is that, addressing our challenges with people will help us get closer to God, too. Kind of like a buy one, get one sale.
A Final Word
As we bring this little series in for a landing, it’s great to know that getting closer to God isn’t about one secret, or, even about getting a bunch of things exactly right.
At the end of the day, there are things we can do, but ultimately it’s about God’s commitment to – and love for – us. ‘This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins’. (1 John 4:10)
Your Turn: What challenges are you experiencing in your relationships? How might working on them help you experience more closeness in your walk with God, too?