Alone With God

Is it possible to actually avoid God while submerging ourselves in spiritual disciplines and Christian activities? I believe it is. I have this bad habit of running to good habits when I sense the Lord leading me to dwell quietly with him for a while. You see, reading big chunks of the Bible comes easy to me. Studying various theological topics comes easy to me. Engaging in thoughtful conversation about the gospel with other believers comes easy to me. Serving in the church comes easy to me. But just sitting still in the presence of God, pondering all that he is as I commune with him through the Spirit—not so easy.

I describe the previously listed activities as “good habits” because they really are good habits. Reading the Bible, studying theology, fellowshipping with other saints, and serving in the local church are holy, righteous, and indispensable elements of following Christ. However, there are other elements of the Christian life that are of equal and vital importance—personal fellowship with God being one.

Can we fellowship with God as we participate in these disciplines and activities? Absolutely! But there is another form of fellowship he invites us into: a quiet, prayerful, meditative form that energizes the soul in a unique way. Don’t be afraid of that word “meditative.” I’m not talking about buddhistic practices or anything of that sort. I’m talking about meditation on the person of God as he is revealed in the Scriptures—meditation informed and directed by the Word of God.

All throughout the gospels we see it was Jesus’ regular practice to pull away from his ministerial activities and retreat into the presence of his Father. He didn’t take the first century equivalent of a devotional or sermon podcast with him. He drew near to the Father alone with nothing but his soul in tow. Every day, I sense the Spirit stirring me to follow Christ’s example in this. However, I can’t tell you how often I resist these stirrings and pick up a book or tune into a podcast, instead.

It’s not that I don’t pray; I plead with God for grace to believe and obey each morning, and I “talk” to him throughout the day. But I don’t regularly retreat into his presence for prolonged periods of quiet and undistracted communion. Why? For a number of [really awful] reasons:

  • I think being still with God will be boring.
  • I think other spiritual disciplines are more effective.
  • I know it will be difficult to focus my ever-wandering mind.
  • I am skeptical that God will actually draw near to me and strengthen me in his presence.

All of these [again, really awful] reasons are birthed out of a fleshly way of thinking that is way out of sync with biblical truth:

  • God is the most majestic, intelligent, creative, and powerful being in existence. He is infinitely interesting and wondrous. When my mind is in a right state, it is no boring thing to ponder on him, pray to him, and hear from him.
  • Bible reading and other aforementioned disciplines are obviously effective, but I err in pitting one spiritual discipline against another and determining which is most effective. All are uniquely effective; each rewards the spiritually awakened soul in a different way.
  • As for my tendency to be easily distracted, I will repeat some of the best advice I have ever received: “You have more control over your mind than you think you do, Matt.” The Spirit of God indwells me and continuously offers me the gift of self-control. I can pull away from the stimulating stuff of the world, quiet my noisy soul, and consciously inclined my mind and heart toward God.
  • My skepticism about God’s willingness to draw near to me and strengthen me is blatant unbelief in a promise of God. James tells us that if we draw near to God, he will draw near to us (James 4:8). Every single time I retreat into stillness and quietness before him, he proves himself faithful to his promise. I may not always be able to sense his presence in the very moment I draw near, but I always see the effects of his presence in the hours that follow. My heightened awareness of gospel reality and the increase of joy and peace in my heart show me that he did, in fact, draw near to me.

Jesus has secured for those of us who trust in him a mind-blowing, life-transforming privilege. As people who have been cleansed of their sins, clothed with Christ’s righteousness, and adopted by the Father, we are able to step directly into the presence of the holy and sovereign God whenever we desire. The holy of holies is wide open to us, and the One who inhabits it actually beckons us to come in! We must not neglect such a privilege.

  • I am still getting used to the fact that I can approach God. I just learned back in November last year I could call him “Father”. This blew my mind as it defied theology for me (thought I was going to hell for being gay). Changed my whole outlook on who He is and was able to develop a personal relationship with Him. I commune with Him daily. Some days are more fervent than others. Sometimes His Holy Spirit reveals things to me I would have never known (like the fact that my best friend who committed suicide had a brother and what his name is). He has been my comforter, my friend, my adviser. I NEVER want to be apart from Him.

    • Regan DuCasse

      Wasn’t long ago, I tried to tell you folks about how I commune, and prefer very private expression of praise, gratitude and commitment.
      And it wasn’t met with very respectful (to put it mildly) responses.

      That’s the kind of thing that would alert someone observing, that Christians are immensely insecure, or have an exaggerated sense of what their influence is supposed to be on other people.
      Which makes how Christians respond to the individual ways (especially if private) another expresses their spiritual selves, rather perplexing when your first response is that person’s path isn’t good enough or couldn’t be as good as the one you choose.

      To be simple, humble, modest, and respectful…tough test for you, I know. But that’s how it has to be, if at least civility is to be maintained or even restored if necessary.
      One of my best friends and a few colleagues have noticed how I can communicate non verbally with children. Especially the fussy ones, or those in pain.
      It comes naturally, nothing special. But it’s those ways in which we humans can do immense things for each other without saying a word that’s going to matter most of all.
      We speak different languages, but thankfully, we don’t have to use it as long as those things we know universally, are expressed first.
      That is one of the greatest gifts Creation has given us.

      Through all the noise, and bright lights, and the way people move around each other like amoeba in a petri dish, we really have so many other options of building trust and kindness in each other.
      Why people trust that less and less, is our tragedy sometimes.

  • Lyle Nelson

    I think that God has wired each of us uniquely. I actually find spending time alone with God easier than the other activities you mentioned. It just seems to feel more “personal” in some way. Does that mean that I should neglect the other activities you listed? Certainly not, it simply means that I have to work a bit harder to do them well, they don’t seem to come as naturally to me. How wonderful that God speaks to us in several different ways, so as to accommodate our individual differences! He wants so much to connect with us that He knows what our special “love language” is, so that we do not become discouraged so easily when the others seem somewhat more difficult.

  • Oneil

    I have the opposite effect. I can spend hours and hours in my bedroom talking to God and studying the scripture, having questions and answers with God. We actually have lenghty conversations (Like I am talking to him face to face) and it is the most amazing experience to have. However, I am having a hard time connecting with the community. I grew up with too much church discipline (the stuff you talked about), that at some point I was doing the activism but not the activity. In fact it was too much of the activism that turned me off at some point from church. Also, when I came out about my SS struggle, the christians had such a pharisees’ attitude that I withdrew to myself. That is when my real conversion began, when I emphasized my relationship with God more on a personal level and stopped being the good christian everyone thought I was, while I was struggling with so many issues inside. Being real with people led to me being misunderstood and somewhat rejected since I no longer fit the “image” of a good christian (Even though I had not even committed the abomination as they see it).

    The danger with the other activities that you mention is that they lead to a performance based christianity which is a big issue these days in the christian community. Performance based christianity hinders your christian growth. it is more about outward appearances than cleasing yourself on a deeper level with the blood of Jesus Christ. It is no longer living with God’s Grace and the strenght of Jesus Christ coming over your weakness. It becomes about using your strenght to become a better christian until you run out of energy and eventually collapse into sin or just collpase eventually. This is what happened to me, putting up a good face became too much for me while I was struggling inside with so many baggages. Also, focusing more on a personal relationship wiht God, allows you to be a loving person to christians and non christians. the more you seek God on a personal level, the more you realize that you are such a mess in need of his grace that you stop being mr goody two shoes. Too often, christians today have a hard time sharing the gospel in non christian circles (workplace) because they often show off on their christian activism. In fact, they have a hard time loving non christians because everything gets centered around inside the church and the expected behavior that go along with it.

    Look at Jesus’ example, the church was going from one village to the next and loving and healing people, not getting people in seven day church program. and when you look at Acts, the christian church was less of an institution but more about a community of brothers and sisters who shared their joys, pains and burdens.

    With my experience with the church, I no longer want to connect to an institution and its set of requirements, I want to connect to brothers and sisters.

    To me sunday morning could also be about eating and praying with three or four brothers and sisters at a home on a sunday morning and spending the day together, laughing, singing, praying, eating, debating, studying the scripture. It is as much rewarding as going to a 2 hour formal church service that feels too scripted and routine. I know it is very controversial to think that way.

    • I was very much damaged by religion, especially when I heard a false message from the pulpit about homosexuals. As a new Christian I didn’t know what I needed to know and I left the church, resorting to a really harsh lifestyle. I was bitter and angry at the church, but couldn’t go back until I had a massive stroke four years ago. My Father came for me, because I wouldn’t go to Him. I’m still trying to undo the damage that was done, trying to unlearn everything I thought I knew about God and forming a relationship with Him.

  • george

    As you all get older you see that no matter how long you pray, how often you read bible, or how often you attend church, you will die in loneliness alone. Because same sex attracted unmarried people are destined to that kind of life. Most of the SSA christian bloggers areas young as 30. Life sucks after that, when you realise that everyone has their own family and they don’t have time for you. You can’t realise that until u reach 40.

    • While lonliness may be true here in the now, it won’t last forever. Often this isn’t emphasized. It is an excuse to get back in to sin. It isn’t a place where I want to be. I was lonely while I lived the gay life and now that I have gotten back to my Lord, I am less lonely. That may sound strange, but it’s true. The gay life is only about sex and has little to do with relationships with other human beings (despite the propaganda of the LGBT community and Hollywood).