Are you going through something hard and struggling to draw closer to God in it? Perhaps you feel disconnected from Him and spiritually dry, or maybe like God is far away. You want more of God in your life. You want to draw near to God and find deeper intimacy with Him in your trial. You really do want to know Him more here, but you’re struggling to, and don’t know how to.
This is something that I understand quite well, and would like to share with you from my own life three things that the Lord has been teaching me about finding intimacy with Him in suffering. I realize that what I’m about to share may rub some people the wrong way. It isn’t easy or comfortable…but then very little in the Christian life is easy or comfortable. However, what I’m about to share could be one of the most important and life-changing topics I could write about on this blog. This is also going to be a little longer than usual, but I hope that it will still be a blessing. Remember too, that these truths are applicable for you no matter where you are at in life. So with a prayer to the Lord for guidance and wisdom, let’s begin.
The first step, if you will, towards finding intimacy with Jesus is,
Surrender All to Him
God began to teach me about this four or five years ago. I was walking through one of the hardest and darkest seasons of my life, where I found myself struggling a lot spiritually and emotionally. In those trials, the Lord began to bring to the surface areas of my life that weren’t right and to deal with them. There were a lot of lies that I was believing, and also a lot of fear. He also, at the same time, began to give me answers to these different issues I was facing. He revealed the truth of the Gospel and the Person of Jesus Christ to me in ways that I had never seen them before, and I began to understand them in ways I had never understood them before. To make a long story short, Jesus Christ found me, and His Gospel set me free!
I then began to sense Him pressing the next step on my heart – to surrender my life fully to Him. You see, Jesus was calling me to let go of my old life of sin and completely come away from that so that He could give me something far, far better. He showed me that the things I was holding on to were like worthless pebbles and what Jesus offers was like a truckload of precious jewels in comparison. I realized that what He offers is so much more than I could dream or imagine. He was offering me Himself and all that is in Him. He was offering me intimacy with Him, and abundant life, and the joy and peace that comes with them. But like the rich young man who had to let go of his riches before he could follow Jesus (Mk 10:17-31), I had to let go of my pebbles first. A verse that the Lord gave me at this time was Song of Solomon 2:10, “My Beloved spake and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” This verse beautifully accentuated the call from His heart to mine to rise up and come away with Him.
I struggled and wrestled with this for several weeks. I was scared. I really was. I wanted to hold tight to what I had and knew. After all, I didn’t know how to live any different.
Surrender friends, is an act of trust. When we know the God that we are surrendering to, and see Him for who He is, then we are better able to trust Him (Ps 9:10) and give Him all. After all, He gave up everything for us. He laid down His life for us. He continues to give of Himself for us. How can we not cry out with the hymn writer, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!” (See also Rom 12:1).
When I saw who Jesus is and how worth it He is, I took that step of obedience and abandoned my life to Him. I truly reckoned the reality that I am crucified with Christ and that it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20). My life would no longer be about me, but Him. He would be in control from this time forward.
It is incredible what happened. Immediately the Lord took me so much deeper in my relationship with Him. It was amazing. Suddenly His Word was coming alive to me in new ways. I found a new delight in prayer. I wanted to witness and share the Gospel with people, whereas I had been too terrified to do so before. I lost interest in the shallow, empty things of the world, in things that had no eternal value, and longed to be in His presence continually, and I gained a new passion for serving Him. I began a journey of learning from God how to walk with Him and live His way. He began to teach me how to build my life around Him, rather than just fit Him in on the side. In short, I totally fell in love with Jesus Christ, and my life has never been the same. 😀
A year and a half later, I found myself in another difficult season where my health was getting worse in spite of everything we tried to do to figure out what was wrong and help it. I had to let go of one thing after another in my life, and felt like God was constantly taking things from me. That was hard. I wanted to cling and hold on to what I had. But looking back now, I realize that God was testing my level of surrender. You see, I had given Him my life in general, but now He was tapping on specific areas of my life and asking me to give them to Him. He was teaching me to trust Him. One by one I let those things go. But I struggled to know exactly what God was asking of me. Didn’t He want me to serve Him? Why was He closing all the doors? I asked Him to make His will so clear to me that I wouldn’t miss it. Eventually I found myself severely ill, unable to walk, and stuck in my bed. It was then I realized that what the Lord was asking of me in this season was different to what I had thought. He was allowing this suffering in my life. When I realized that and surrendered to Him, there was so much more peace, joy, and rest. I was able to know Him and to know His peace through the difficult months ahead.
There have continued to be many times where I have had to surrender to the Lord. You see, surrender is not just something I do once and then am done forever. Surrender is a journey. It is choosing to say “no” to self and “yes” to Jesus. It is choosing to let Him have all of my sin, worries, cares, stresses, hurts, brokenness, relationships, possessions, health, dreams, future… everything. It is choosing to let my life go the way He wants it to go, not the way I want it to go. It is daily taking up my cross and following Him. There are times when surrender is very difficult, times when I have wrestled and fought and struggled out of fear. But I’ve found that, as Amy Carmichael says, “In acceptance lieth peace.” And in acceptance lies deeper relationship with the One I am choosing to trust.
It is important friends, to realize that much of the time, closeness with Jesus is hindered by sin in our lives. Fear, doubt, lies (especially when we believe lies about God), ingratitude, idolatry, pride, selfishness, etc. God often uses suffering to bring that sin to the surface so that He can deal with it, and make us more fruitful, and more like Jesus. John 15:1-2 says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” This is painful and hard. Being pruned isn’t much fun. But Jesus longs for intimacy with us so much that He allows us to suffer in order for these sins to be stripped away, so that we can experience true intimacy with Him, and true life, and so that our lives will show Jesus to a lost and desperate world.
When the Lord presses on things in your life that need to be dealt with, don’t fight Him. Humbly surrender to Him. Let Him have His way in your life. He only wants what is best for you. He’s doing it out of love. The Lord removes things lovingly, knowing that what He has to give you is far, far better than the pebbles you try to hold on to. The joy of knowing and loving Him cannot be compared to anything on this earth in beauty or value.
The second step towards finding intimacy with Jesus Christ is,
Lay Aside Other Things
Social media, devices, movies, relationships, books, internet, – you can define what other things are in your life, but essentially they are things that you turn to for rest, refreshment, satisfaction, security, and fulfillment outside of Jesus Christ. Are these things wrong in and of themselves? Well, it depends what they are. Sometimes they are. But sometimes they are good things that are fine in their place, but even good things can be the enemy of the Best Thing. The question is not, are these things right or wrong, or even whether they should be in your life or not, but where do you turn when things are hard? Who do you turn to when you are lonely or sad? Where do you run when you are afraid? Where are you finding stability when your world is falling down around you? Are you turning to the shallow, empty things of the world, or to Jesus Christ? The things of the world may provide a little temporary relief, but they will never be able to meet your needs the way that Jesus can. They will never bring the lasting comfort, peace, satisfaction, and answers that you truly need. They certainly won’t draw you closer to God.
It wasn’t very difficult for me to say “no” to these things and “yes” to Jesus, because I had found the Real Thing in Him, and I knew that He was the only real answer. I knew that He was the only way I would be able to get through the trials I was walking through, and not just “get through” them, but thrive in them, and to triumph through them.
You will not be able to find the intimacy with Jesus that you long for, until you lay aside everything that stands in the way. I know that this is probably not what you wanted to hear today, but friend, it’s the truth. Turn to Jesus. Remember that He is worth it. Ten thousand times worth it! Nothing can possibly compare to the life, the joy, the peace, the satisfaction that He brings. Everything that we lose for His sake is more than repaid in Him. “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it.” Mark 8:35
The last step I would like to share with you is,
Draw Near to God
Early in my illness, a close friend challenged me to use every hard thing that I was walking through as an opportunity to run to Jesus Christ, to draw closer to Him, to seek Him more, and to know Him more. I really took that seriously, and began to use the hard things that I was walking through as opportunities to press into Jesus Christ and draw near to Him. When I became bed-bound, He had my full attention, and I had plenty of time to sit at His feet and learn from Him. I wasn’t able to do much else! I have been able to really know Him here and go so much deeper in my relationship with Him.
Can I encourage you to do the same thing as my friend challenged me? James 4:8 says, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” And Psalm 73:26 says, “But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Thy works.” Draw near to Him. Place your trust in Him. Then watch Him give you a testimony of His goodness, grace, and power that you can declare to those around you. Come, and spend quality time with Him. Spend much time in His Word and in prayer. If you cannot read your Bible, listen to it on audio or have someone read it to you. Meditate on the Scripture you already know. Don’t feel like you have to give to Him or do for Him. Those of us who are sick simply can’t, and He perfectly understands that. Just come to Him in faith (Heb 11:6), sit at His feet, and receive from Him. Rest in who He is and who you are in Him. Be still and know that He is God.
Every trial is a call from His heart to yours, to deeper intimacy with Him. He loves you more than you can comprehend, and cares about every detail of your life. His plans for you are for good (Jer 29:11). He only does what is good, because He is good (Ps 119:68). Will you trust Him? Will you come to Him and find rest in Him? In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Come. Surrender yourself to God. Lay aside your sin and everything that stands between you and Him. Draw near Him and He will draw near to you. He longs for you. Come, and you will find the intimacy with Him that you long for.
With love, ❤