How Can I Experience God More Personally?
Have you ever finished a time of prayer, or bible reading, and felt no closer to God than you did at the beginning? Or just been stuck in a place where you know – intellectually – that God is there, but don’t feel anything beyond that?
I know I have. Way too often, honestly.
I want to experience God in a way that goes beyond just knowing about him, but sometimes he feels more like a bunch of facts, or truths, that should get me excited, but don’t.
Know what I mean?
Not One Size Fits All
The idea of ‘experiencing God’ can strike different kinds of Christians in different ways.
I don’t want to dive into this whole area much right now, but I do want to say that each of us are going to experience God differently. And that’s okay.
God wants us to love him with all of who we are: our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30). We don’t need to choose between knowing God with our minds and knowing God with our emotions. In fact, if Mark 12:30 is right, we must love him with both.
Our Delicious God
That said, how can we learn to experience God more fully? So that he’s not just an idea, or set of doctrines, without passion?
‘Taste and see that the Lord is good.’
If Spotify had a ‘Psalms Greatest Hits’ playlist, that verse would probably be on there somewhere. But – since we can’t eat God – what is David saying? And, what does it have to do with experiencing God?
David is taking something we already know about (sometimes way too much about!) – food – and using it to help us understand something we largely don’t: experiencing God.
So how do we interact with food? It’s not mainly an intellectual experience, right? When we see our favorite foods and beverages, we start to get excited.
It looks yummy. It tastes delicious. And there it goes, down the hatch. Inexplicable happiness and joy ensue. Repeat.
We all have favorite foods and restaurants. We remember our experiences there and want to go back again.
That, David says, is how we’re supposed to relate to God. He’s supposed to thrill us, satisfy us. We’re supposed to look forward to our next encounter with him. And there ought to be some emotion and joy to it all!
[If, like me, you’re from a more intellectual branch of the faith, you have my permission to calm down now by reading your favorite commentary or Calvin’s Institutes until your pulse returns to baseline.]
Deepening Our Experience
OK, welcome back. So here are 3 ways we can experience God more deeply – ‘taste and see’ him – from Psalm 34. (We’ll cover the first one here, then the other two in the next post.)
To experience God more fully, we…
#1 should bring the hardest areas of our lives to him.
We know from the psalm’s superscript that David was on the run from Saul, hiding out with the Philistines when they figured out he was a military stud. (See 1 Samuel 21 for the full story.) All of a sudden, he was in danger of having jumped out of the frying pan only to land in the fire. But, even though he did some quick thinking to get out of there, he threw himself on God’s mercy: ‘Be gracious to me, Lord… (2)… turn, O Lord, deliver my life’ (4).
It’s no exaggeration to say that, had he trusted in himself and not begged God for help, his story (and history) would have ended differently.
Hard times are meant to push us beyond our limits, into God’s open arms. When our son Matthew was diagnosed with autism before most people (including me) knew what it was, our world unraveled without warning.
At first, I naively thought that the right therapy and lots of hard work could ‘fix’ Matthew. But nothing did.
And so, after I figured out my efforts weren’t going to get it done, I started having some really raw, honest conversations with the Lord, begging him to help us find a way forward. Although Matthew wasn’t (and still isn’t) cured, our lives began to sparkle with God’s provision and mini-deliverances.
Even as my world was imploding, as I brought my heartache to God, he seemed so much more personal than he had in years.
What’s not going so great for you? Are you basically trying to engineer your way out of it by yourself? Will you commit to turning to the Lord and begging him to show up?