Intimacy with God . . . what 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 we know that God created us for intimate fellowship with him. What is that supposed to look like?
For many years, I have struggled with these questions. I long to know God. I want to be able to discern his voice and feel love for him in my heart. Over the past four years, God has taken me on a journey of understanding more fully what intimacy with him looks like. 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 of the universe.
I don’t want the title of this article to mislead you by suggesting that there is some formula for developing an intimate relationship with God. It feels like Christianity has too many formulas already! God is a living, mysterious being. He cannot be tamed or manipulated into a relationship with us. Yet there are things we can do to invite the Lord to draw near to us. As his Word says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13).
1. Desire Intimacy with God
It’s one thing to talk to your friends about wanting to know God, but how desperately do you want it? Is “intimacy with God” one of 20 other things on your goals for this year?
Those who know the Lord have a sense of desperation for fellowship with him. He has become their daily bread. He is not a priority; he is the priority. “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,” David wrote in Psalm 27:4 (NIV). Paul stated his priority by saying everything in my life is rubbish compared to knowing Jesus (see Philippians 3).
There have been times in my life when God became a priority because I felt desperate for him. I have experienced a voracious hunger for his presence—like I can’t get enough. While these seasons are very precious to me, I’ve also learned not to base the priority of Jesus on my feelings. I still want to make him my priority even during “dry spells” in which it’s a labor of love to get up early to seek him.
Sometimes I seek out of desperation, other times out of desire, and still others out of discipline. But always, I want to seek him.
2. Know God’s Love Language
Gary Chapman’s best-selling book The Five Love Languages has transformed countless marriages and friendships. Once you understand someone’s “love language,” you can be sure to communicate your affection in a manner that paves the way for intimacy.
Did you know God has a love language? In fact, he told the Israelites that they were wasting their time in worship because they were not speaking his love language! "I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies” (Amos 5:21). Why? Because God’s love language is an obedient and repentant heart. David understood this: “You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God” (Psalm 51:16–17).
God wants us to love him with our obedience. Jesus said this clearly: “If you love me, obeymy commandments.” You could dance in the aisles of church and sign up for every Bible study and still not be developing intimacy with the Lord. He wants your obedience. Do you have areas of your life that you’ve reserved for yourself, refusing to obey the Lord? Intimacy means giving all of yourself.
3. Love God Affectionately
When I began to go deeper into intimacy with the Lord, I remembered the verse, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Although I’d read the verse a thousand times, this particular morning I was stuck on the word heart. Do I really love God with my heart? What does that even look like?
I know what it is to love Mike, my husband, with my heart. I love my kids that way too. But God? How could I love him with affection?
The deepest growth in intimacy in my personal walk with God began when I made personal worship a daily priority. Worship is how I express affection to my Savior. It is how I give my admiration and love to my heavenly Father.
As a person of the mind, this was a challenge for me. I’d much rather study the Bible than be affectionate with God! Yet, God wants more than my mind—he wants my heart.
Most days, the first thing I do (after brushing my teeth) is to get on my knees in the early hours of the morning and praise God. Often I put on worship tunes to help me express my affection for God. Sometimes in the privacy of my home, I fall on my face or raise my hands in praise. I want every cell of my body to express and declare that I love God!
4. Don’t Give Up!
In this season of rich intimacy with God, I see him answering prayers that I prayed many years ago. We are such limited creatures! We so often believe that if God doesn’t respond to us immediately, he hasn’t heard us.
Malachi 3:16 hints at something very precious:
Then those who feared the LORD spoke with each other, and the LORD listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and always thought about the honor of his name.
This suggests that every conversation I’ve had about the Lord—every prayer—has been heard and recorded by God in heaven. Isn’t that an incredible thought?!
You will never, ever waste a moment seeking the Lord. Even during seasons of discouragement, God sees, God hears, God records, and God will respond in his time.
5. Share in His Work
Although God loves to be intimate with his people, our fellowship with him has another purpose—that his kingdom would come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
Perhaps the most profound unity I have ever experienced with the Lord is when I am sharing in his work. Whether that means interceding for someone he loves, teaching his Word to women, or bringing a message of healing to someone who has been wounded, there is nothing like doing God’s will here on earth.
Jesus modeled this pattern of intimacy with the Father. He regularly sought solitary time to pray, worship, and meditate. Out of that fellowship came his Father’s work. He knew the Father’s mind and felt the Father’s heart.
My friend, please believe this: intimacy with God is not simply for the “super Christians” like Tozer and Mother Teresa. God offers the deepest intimacy for all of his children. The question is, will we seek it?