I believe a huge part of what makes life worth living is the gift of friendship. Friendship is the blessing that allows you to let your guard down, be authentic, be messy, silly, and enjoy life through connection. Every heart longs for this. I think God enjoys our friendship too. I think he searches the earth for people he can call his friends.
Friendship with God has been a real hunger in my heart for quite some time, and I truly feel like there is a real grace for the people of God to step into friendship with him. He is so in love with his people, he is so after our hearts. He is extending an invitation to anyone who will hear him. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Rev. 3:20). I believe he is searching hearts and looking for anyone who will be responsive to him. Friendship takes us into deeper levels of intimacy. Any child of God is entitled to the fullness of his kingdom, but God reveals his secrets to his friends. What does friendship with God look like? What does it mean? These are things I am learning and will be learning for the rest of my life.
As with all meaningful relationships, friendship takes time. Friendship with God is born in the secret place. If I look back on my life, the most impactful thing I have ever done for my relationship with God is simply spending time with him, one on one, behind closed doors, when no one else is watching. Asking him questions, hearing his voice, reading his word, getting to know his personality, pouring out my heart, and being more honest with him than I can even be with myself half of the time. Interestingly, my most intimate and profound experiences with God have not come from the result of a church service, worship CD, Christian book, the latest Christian conference, or my home group meetings. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in all of those things and think they are wonderful.
But here’s the issue- these things alone will never have the capacity to sustain us in our walk with God. We must press deeper. Everything I listed is a resource, never a solution. We cannot afford to live our lives on secondhand Christianity. I speak from experience because I’ve been guilty of doing this very thing. At some point or another I have fallen into the idea that my life in God could be sustained by somebody else’s revelation, inspirational speakers, church services, Christian books, or even the faith of my leaders or friends. At some point or another I also realized that this just does not work. It’s possible to faithfully read the bible and still not have any real relationship with God. Just because I know things about God doesn’t mean I actually know him. For example, I could read all the books ever written on our president, quote his speeches, stalk his itinerary, and show up to his meetings. But unless I have personally spoken with Mr. President, taken him to lunch, invited him to my house, and shared our hearts over a cup of coffee, I still don’t have a relationship with him and he wouldn’t consider me a friend.
It is so vital that we create personal history with God. The depth of my personal history with God isn’t a reflection of my intellect or church involvement, but rather the small, mundane, everyday life that I intentionally choose to invite him into. Relationship happens when we invite Holy Spirit to fill whatever it is we are doing in the now. Whether I am working, spending time with people, alone in my bedroom, or doing laundry, his presence is there and all I have to do is choose to engage. The more I engage with him in my present moment, the more history is being recorded and the more intimate and meaningful our friendship becomes. And when we taste of his presence, nothing else on earth can truly satisfy. Only time in his presence can fill us. We must lean into his heart, listen to what he is speaking to us, and pour out our hearts to him. And if we lose our fervor, get swept away in the cares of this world, or start to grow cold? Our God is an all-consuming fire. Sit in his company for a while and you’ll start to burn.
A word about hard times:
Trials are promised. They are not optional. “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Life is tough and we all face hardships. Sometimes we have seasons in our spiritual lives when we feel God’s presence very tangibly. These seasons are glorious and completely effortless. Other times we have seasons where we may not feel him at all and he even seems absent. These seasons are training grounds where we learn to possess the things of God by faith and not by sight. We have to learn to rely on God’s promises and not be moved by our feelings or lack of feelings. These are times of inner development. God is always more interested in what is going on inside us than the circumstances around us.
I've experienced God at times when his presence seemed to completely saturate everything around me. I've also been in seasons that seemed utterly and unbearably dry. In the midst of a time when I felt like I couldn't see or sense God at all, I had a dream that really encouraged my heart and shaped how I now view these seasons. In my dream, I was walking down a street at night in complete and total darkness. I could not see a thing and it was pitch black all around me. I was totally alone but was very aware of the presence of God with me. As I continued down the road, I was talking with God and telling him how thankful I was for the “night seasons” because it creates an intimacy with him that cannot be found any other way.
The new season I had entered into was a training ground to walk out, by faith, the revelations I had received in the season before. And as a result, to bring me into deeper relationship and greater friendship. When we come out of our night or “wilderness” seasons, we should be found leaning on our Jesus. That is the invitation. “Who is this coming up from the wilderness leaning on her beloved?” (Song of Solomon 8:5).
Wilderness seasons, when viewed in proper perspective, are actually an invitation and opportunity to step into a greater level of faith and maturity that we have not walked in previously. It’s truly a blessing. The temptation in these difficult times is to either disengage with God because we feel he is absent, or become offended at him. But as we learn the discipline of living in his presence regardless of what we can see or feel, anything that comes against us will actually propel us to go deeper into God. That is exciting! So my encouragement is this: there is purpose in whatever season we are in. We can dig deeper and fully embrace the work that God is doing in each of our individual lives. If it’s a season of the manifest glory of God in our lives, lets embrace every encounter and fully participate in the joy of life in God. If it’s a night season, lets stand on the promises of God by faith and learn to walk out the revelations he has deposited in us as we yield to what Holy Spirit is doing in our hearts. “In quietness and trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). There is so much to be gained in every season we are in.