The other night, I came upon a startling realization within myself: I have faith in God, but I don’t feel like I have a relationship with Him.
I’m not sure how that happened. I have never really wavered in my faith in Him, in my belief in Him. I talk about the Bible all the time and write about it here on Medium. I pray and I listen to sermons (not as often as I should), and I read the Bible (again, not nearly as often as I should). But that relationship I’m supposed to build with God… I can’t seem to find it.
But I know, deep down, that this is what I’m missing. There’s a big empty in my life, day to day, and I know it is the distance between me and my Savior that I sometimes just can’t find my way across.
On some days, it is there. Maybe it is a line of dialogue in a movie that snags on my faith and bridges the gap temporarily, or maybe it is a sermon that hits me in some kind of way, or a song or even just a moment of serenity in nature that speaks to me. And in those moments, I feel close to God. I feel like I can leave my sins behind, like I can shrug off my addictions and my worldly wants and follow Him.
But then those days pass, and before I know it, I’m back where I started, on the other side of that chasm, searching for that relationship, that connection that I know ought to be there. My faith remains as strong as ever, but that connection seems to ebb and flow.
You might wonder how someone can have complete faith in God but not feel the relationship. But I’d wager that someone else who is reading this who also feels this chasm in their life. And I’m not going to lie to you: this story is not going to tell you how to fix it. I don’t have that information for you.
What I do have is my experiences. Whenever I feel that emptiness withdraw and the chasm close, that’s when I’ve been reading my Bible the most, when I’ve been connecting with other Christians and listening to sermons. In those moments, that’s when songs and movies and other books seem to find ways of communicating God to me through their unrelated words. That’s when I can look out at a lake and notice all of the colors of God’s creation and just feel present in it.
I can’t tell you how to fix your relationship with God, but I know that the first and best option is to open the Bible and just start reading. And honestly, that’s harder than it sounds. I’ve got so many books that I want to read with so many adventures, and sometimes it is a struggle to choose to read the Bible first or instead of one of those other stories. And even when you start reading, it can feel difficult to connect to the Word and make it make sense in your life.
It takes a sort of perseverance that I don’t think many Christians realize. For some, opening the Bible is as easy as breathing. And honestly, the reason for that may be more spiritual than physical; it probably sounds kooky to some for me to say that the devil is working against us and enticing us with our favorite books or movies or other distractions, but he really is. I mean, he’s not going to go after the people who have a steadfast relationship with God, is he? The devil knows he won’t be able to easily sway them. But us stragglers, those of us trying to cross that chasm, we are easy targets to distract from God.
And it won’t always be sin that he uses as his weapons. I mean, sin is clearly something that is against God and pulls us away from Him, but Jesus died to wash our sins away from us, didn’t he? And for most of us, we know when we are sinning and doing something wrong. We can feel it deep within us that we shouldn’t be doing what we are doing, whether it is lying or cheating or stealing or whatever.
The real weapons that the devil will use against us is distraction. You could read your Bible, yes, but didn’t you also want to play that new video game? You could listen to a sermon, yes, but didn’t that new album from your favorite artist just drop? You could talk to others in the faith, but wouldn’t you rather scroll through Facebook on your iPhone?
For me, I know that distraction is one of the primary antagonists in my life. It is the reason that my relationship with God is in tatters while my faith remains solid. I believe in God, but I don’t always feel like giving Him my time. And that’s what I need to change. It will take some work, and I can guarantee that I’ll stumble a few times before I get there. But I’m not a fan of the alternative.
The good news is, as G.I. Joe says, “knowing is half the battle.” And now that I’ve identified what has created this chasm between me and God, I stand a better chance of fixing it.