One of my favorite quotes is from G.K. Chesterton, a writer from the early 20th century, who said, “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”
This quote helps explain the danger of succumbing to treating one’s faith like a theory instead of a beautiful relationship with God. Many have allowed their faith to grow into this, a kind of theory, an idea they agree with, an opinion that seems logical enough to which they subscribe.
In the past, I have found myself in this same way of thinking and understand how easy it is to become lulled to sleep in thinking that we serve a God who did a bunch of cool stuff many years ago, and our job is to study that and talk about it with others when we have the time.
However, we are more than archaeologists studying the remnants of a past civilization. We are children of an Almighty King who lives today! What’s more, this King is present to us, and we can have a meaningful relationship with Him.
This is what Chesterton is guiding us to, to center our faith on a love affair, or relationship, with the Lord. We are meant to know Him and not just know about Him. Studying what He did in the past through reading the Bible and other sources has its place, but we should be learning this to be guided to a deeper relationship with God.
The idea of a love affair is excellent because it helps us identify how we should interact with God. Any love affair requires certain qualities to thrive. Take my marriage, for example. If I never spoke to my wife, our marriage would not be so great. How weird would it be if I just sat around and watched her all day long without speaking to her? I may occasionally run over and help her with the laundry, but without any word, I run back and continue to watch her.
This would not be a very good love affair.
However, there is a temptation to think of God in this way. We can misbelieve He’s only silently watching us and keeping His distance, when in reality, He is speaking to us constantly. God does not just want to watch us. He wants to guide us and help us. We have an interactive God!
He speaks, and yet His way of speaking is not always with words. He may give a sign, nudge someone else to talk to us, provide us with peace, give us a strong inclination, or several other methods He uses to communicate. Just like we tell our friends we love them with words, a hug, a helping hand, or give gifts, so too does God utilize many ways to share His thoughts with us.
We should share our hearts and thoughts and desires with God also; however, God’s heart needs to be received by us too. This interchange of love needs to happen not only so we can grow in our relationship with God, but it also feeds our souls so we may thrive in our spiritual life. Think of how the trees take in the carbon dioxide that we breathe out to turn it into the oxygen that we breathe in!
So too must we speak out to God our prayers and then receive His words for us. This gives our souls more life and allows us to climb to new spiritual heights. Some might think that this level of spiritual life is only for a select few. However, I have met too many people from different ways of life and maturity levels who have known some manner of how God speaks to believe this is true. The truth is that there is a lot that God is saying to us, and He wants each of us to know what He is saying.
We must keep in mind that God does not always give us things right away. There is a journey we must sometimes go through in order to fully receive the gifts He wants to provide us with. This can be how He equips us to receive the gift to help us treasure it and utilize it all the more for His glory and our betterment. To grow in your awareness of the communications of God, I invite you to keep in mind the following points.
1. God is gentle.
God often speaks to us softly, as he did with Elijah in 1 Kings 19. He is gentle with us, not simply so we work harder, but to ensure we truly listen. I have heard stories of when God does tremendous miracles to get people’s attention; however, for most, we must practice paying attention to discern what is truly God speaking to us.
It can be something as quick and straightforward as a song lyric that pops on the radio the moment we turn it on, or we might hear the same statement many times from numerous people throughout the day. God is using these things to communicate with us, but we must be sensitive to perceive them.
2. We must forgive.
Often, if not always, carrying unforgiveness in our hearts can keep us from hearing what the Lord is trying to tell us. It locks us in a prison of bitterness and sorrow, filling our hearts with something other than God. We say in the Our Father, “Forgive us AS we forgive others.” We must forgive others to receive the Father’s forgiveness as well.
This may be a future blog post or talk, but briefly, to forgive, you can say you forgive someone “in the Name of Jesus.” After that, you must pray for the person.
3. God’s words are deep; we should think deeply about them.
God is deep, so His communication will also be deep. There will be a temptation to take His words at only face value without meditating more on their meaning. This often happens with His words in the Bible. People miss much more of God’s words when they only look at the literal translation.
So too, we can only look at what He tells us one way without realizing there are many more dimensions and meanings to consider. To battle this, be patient, test what you think you are hearing, and pray to God to ask for this more profound understanding.
4. God will never discourage.
Finally, if you think you are hearing from God but feel discouraged, bitter, or experiencing unrest, this could mean you are not receiving an authentic message from God. The Lord only encourages, brings peace, and inspires love. Experiencing the opposite of these things is a good sign that God is not giving you that message.
Test these messages by asking God if it was truly Him or bring it to others to ask them what they think. God or others can help you discern whether it is genuinely God bringing fruit to your life.
We must be careful, however, not to speak against the workings of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:32). Often, we can be tempted to think of our faith as just a theory and discredit the beautiful ways He communicates with us. We must, however, grow in our love affair with the Lord by trusting that He is constantly surrounding us with His love and look for the ways He shows this to us.