How can I have intimacy with God?The question of perceived intimacy with God is an interesting one. Many Christians who feel that they do not have intimacy with God actually do have intimacy with Him, but they are misinterpreting a lack of emotion for lack of God's presence. There's nothing wrong with feeling emotional about God, but those feelings should not be relied upon as a proof of His presence. We know from experience that some people are more emotional than others, and that emotions are not always consistent. Thankfully, God's love and presence do not depend on anything so changeable.
The proof of God's intimacy with every believer is evident in Scripture. Because of our faith in Christ, we are righteous before God (2 Corinthians 5:21; Jeremiah 33:16; 1 Corinthians 1:30) and we know that He is intimate with the righteous (Proverbs 3:32). In His High Priestly Prayer, Jesus described the intimacy He has with believers, saying "I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:26). He spoke to His disciples about how the Father and the Son make a home with those who love Him (John 14:23). Nothing is more intimate than making a home with someone.
God's intimacy with His children is a fact, and our knowledge of it is based on faith in His promises, not on an internal sense of His presence, or on a swell of emotion or lack thereof. We do know that God desires obedience, and that the one who loves Him will keep His word (John 14:23). But that obedience is a result of our intimacy with God, rather than something we do to woo Him closer to us. He is a proactive God; He loves proactively—as the Scripture says, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). He has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6).
Sin will always make a believer feel unhappy, but this is not because God has walked away—it is because of our intimacy with Him that we feel unhappy in those times. His Spirit dwells in us, and when we drag Him through sin, He doesn't like it and makes His unhappiness known. This is why Paul tells Christians not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God (Ephesians 4:30). If we did not have intimacy with God, and He was truly far from us, we would not feel His displeasure when we sin. We are always in an intimate relationship with God. But, just as in a marriage, if one spouse hurts another, it can cause brokenness and pain. Ask forgiveness, and a loving spouse will return without holding a grudge. A believer's relationship with God is the most forgiving relationship there is—the moment we return to Him, He forgives and loves, without bitterness or resentment. "As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust" (Psalm 103:12-14).
True intimacy with God is the situation of every believer, but even in human relationships, intimacy is not always pleasant: the most severe wounds always come from the most intimate relationships, from being vulnerable with those we love. God places Himself in a position of vulnerability by choosing to be intimate with fallen, broken creatures. And, at times, His love creates pain for us as well. Like a loving Father, He disciplines us, and it can be disappointing and confusing when that pain arrives. But it is also a sign that both His love and His intimacy with us are real (Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:5-11), and we can take great comfort in that.
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