Intimacy with God . . . a strange concept? How can I be intimate with someone I can’t see, hear, or touch? God and I can’t go out for coffee or even give each other a hug. Yet I know that God created me for intimate fellowship with Him. What is that supposed to look like?
The deep desire to grow closer in relationship to God and to know Him better is the unashamed pursuit of many believers. We live in an undeniable paradox in which we can’t know everything there is to know about God, but we pursue Him, understanding that He enjoys making Himself known to His creation.
For many years, I struggled with this paradox, questioning “if God was real then He would need to reveal Himself to me” This question remained unanswered and was asked regularly for many years. Although I had accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour previously and was enjoying serving Him, this question lingered long for me.
There was a deep sense of desperation for fellowship with Him, to know God. I wanted to be able to discern His voice and feel love for Him in my heart. Then one day it happened. No bright lights, no Damascus Road experience, but the truth of the Word of God, about God ‘To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see’ – Hebrews 11:1 (GNT). Sure I had read this verse many times before but at that moment God became the living reality. No more doubt, no more questions and for over 30 years since then I have lived in and with that confident faith. The Word of God is the most effective way to draw closer to God and combat fear, uncertainty, trouble, and accusation from the enemy.
My relationship with God became and still is all about faith, enduring faith. So, for me to live in enduring faith is the means of realising spiritual reality. George Muller says it well: “It is the very time for faith to work, when sight ceases. The greater the difficulties, the easier for faith.” (George Muller of Bristol, A. T. Pierson, p 437). So my pursuit became a passionate and living reality.
We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. “No man can come to me,” said our Lord, ” unless the Father who sent me draws them” – John 6:44.
For over 20 years, God has taken me on a journey to understand deep intimacy with Him more fully. More accurately I would describe my experience as a pilgrimage.
Psalm 84 has been such a wonderful spiritual guide for me as I am making the pilgrimage.
‘How lovely is your dwelling-place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young – a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion’ – Psalm 84:1-7
While I have a long way to go, I would love to share with you some of what I’m learning about developing intimacy with the God. A pilgrimage plunged me into a learning experience that forever change med. A simple trip will not accomplish that.
- A pilgrim is one who embarks on a journey of growth. The psalmist pictures a band of pilgrims making their way towards the temple through difficult terrain. It seems that these pilgrims have such a desire to be at God’s temple that they make the rough desert paths into highways (see Isaiah. 35:8). Pilgrims know the wonders and pleasures of life with God and this makes a profound difference as they journey.
- A pilgrim has a strong desire for God. ‘One thing I ask of the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple’ – Psalm 27:4 The dwelling with the Lord, experiencing His presence, is the greatest thrill we could ever have. The pilgrims desire for God is actually so strong that it is physical. He speaks of his “soul” yearning, even fainting, for the experience of the presence of the Lord. He is not a priority; He is the priority. He has become my priority
- A pilgrim is characterised by his or her awareness of a very real objective. Each one of us have been designed by our Creator to pursue Him and worship Him fully. Even when we feel that we are seeking Him wholeheartedly, we find the strength of our pursuit enhanced in unstable or troubling times. The reason that the pilgrims were so focused is because they knew that ultimately they are dependent upon the Lord.
- A pilgrim knows God’s presence. God’s presence is found in the dry valleys and journeys of life where one may not expect to find God. They pass through the valley of Baca, which probably means, “tears.” It is symbolic for a place of affliction or difficulty. Even here the Lord brings springs, rain, and strength to those who seek God’s ever-abiding presence. As I have travelled through my Valley of Baca, I have found a fresh outpouring of the Spirit
- A pilgrim goes from strength to strength (God’s strength, not my own), arriving safely to appear before God in Zion. Meeting with God in the company of His people is the joyous goal. But “temple” probably translates better for me as the community of God’s people in and with whom God is present. When the presence of God is my deepest longing then I quite literally live for the presence of God.
Those who experience God’s real presence are brought into a new reality where a dry valley can yield springs and be covered with rain. The living God uplifts and empowers us through this new reality in a way just as real as the Lord led and sustained his chosen people through the wilderness and into the promised land.
‘I am but a pilgrim here on earth: how I need a map – and your commands are my chart and guide. I long for your instruction more than I can tell’ – Psalm 119:19-20 LB