So you’ve decided you want to start a relationship with God. Absolutely fantastic! There’s no other step in life quite like the shift from simply knowing “about” God, being aware of and maybe interested in His existence, to wanting to experience Him—to know Him deeply.
The question is, where do you even a start? Developing a relationship with the Creator of the Universe is no small thing! Often our fear of doing it wrong—or even surmising it’s not possible in our simple mortal existence!—keeps us from taking that first step. Or maybe we just don’t know how.
One important thing to really understand is that God made people because He desired a family! We are built to be in relationship with God. It’s not something that should frighten us or seem unobtainable. It’s actually something God deeply desires with us, and throughout history He has made ways to be in relationship with His creation. This looked one way for His People, the Israelites, and looks different for us today, because in the midst of recorded history there was a shift in the rules precipitated when God sent His Son, Jesus, who gave his life to atone for the sins of the world.
Up until that point, relationship with God was on limited terms, because there was nothing to bridge the gap between the unholiness of sin in us and God’s purely holy presence. But when Jesus laid down his life for us, a barrier was torn; now those who confess Jesus as their Lord and believe God raised him from the dead have crossed over from darkness to light and are able to be in real, intimate relationship with both Jesus and God!
What is Relationship With God Like?
I can tell you this from almost thirty years of experience: in many ways, being in relationship with God is no different from being in relationship with people!
Why not? Well, because God made us to be like Him, and He made us for relationship—with Him and His Son, and with each other! It’s important to keep this clear in our mind: we will never be in a relationship with anyone holier, more just, more righteous, and more awe-strikingly perfect than God. But just because He is infinite in every way that we are finite does not mean that relationship with Him is made of weird, esoteric angles; that belief has unfortunately led to a lot of manipulation of people’s hearts and minds over the centuries, their deeply inherent desire for relationship with their Maker has been twisted and manipulated to serve man’s ends.
In reality, relationship with God has many of the same elements we recognize from our earthly relationships: time, energy, investment, sacrifice, patience, boundaries, getting to know each other, things like that! So I want to lay out just a few things we can do to start having a relationship with God! You don’t have to be ultra-spiritual or have decades of Bible teaching under your belt to start building that relationship. These are easy steppingstones anyone can take!
1. Get to Know Him – Read the Bible!
Throughout His Word, God is actually teaching people how to be in relationship with Him! Sometimes we miss this if we think it’s just a collection of stories that happens to other people; but bearing in mind what we covered earlier, we can see that the Bible shows first how God laid the groundwork to be in relationship with the Israelites within the confines of his holiness, and then with His family, the Body of Christ, with Jesus as the go-between to remove those confines.
Think about when you first meet someone you want to get to know. What’s one of the first places you might go to get to know about them? If you’re from my generation or younger, probably you’re going to add them on social media and give their Facebook, Instagram, etc. a good perusing. This is how people get familiar with some details of a new acquaintance’s life; we learn what they’re interested in, how they speak, what they talk about, what they’re invested in, passionate in, etc.
Similarly, starting a relationship with God requires getting to know Him—what He is interested in, how He speaks and what He speaks about, what matters to Him, etc. And He was generous enough to bear His heart for all to see on the pages of His Word! So take the step to get to know Him by seeing how He has conducted relationships through the millennia!
2. Grab Coffee Together—Take Time to Pray!
There’s no shortage of rote prayers to be learned in Sunday School and across denominations, but nothing compares with deep, heartfelt intimacy of praying to God from the places that matter most to you. Like we might do with any new friend who we take out for a latte and an afternoon to connect, we have to take time in conversation to get a better understanding of God’s heart. While there are those who say God never speaks back, I’ve found the opposite to be true; when I bare my soul to Him, I very often find Him speaking back, either in a whisper of a thought I know doesn’t come from me, or in the words I write or speak to others.
It’s also important that we learn the sound of God’s voice, so we can tune in to how He speaks to us. This is something else we learn by exchange, speaking and then listening for a reply. The reply may not come by a spoken word, but by a dream, an image, a passage from a book or in the Bible that we’re led to read, a song to listen to, and many more ways. These are all part of a robust prayer life and vital in building our relationship with God!
3. Establish Boundaries—Get to Know Your Standing with God
Every single healthy relationship has one element in common: healthy boundaries. Our relationship with God is no different. For His part, He utterly respects our freewill choices. God never forces people to do as He wishes, and though He may send warnings if we’re traveling in an unhealthy direction, He allows us to make the choice—even if that leads us to walk away from Him. He doesn’t even force us to love Him! He respects our freedom to choose Him or choose out.
Just as He respects the boundary of our freedom of will, we too need to get to know the boundaries on God’s side of the relationship. There are certain standards and rules He tells us not to violate, ways of behaving, training our minds, and conducting ourselves that respect that we are in relationship with Him. Anytime we break these, the relationship can feel unbalanced, severed, and unfulfilling. Anytime we feel those things, we need to assess if we’ve violated a relationship-boundary—and if we have, then like in any relationship where we realized we violated a trust or crossed a line, we need to say we’re sorry, ask for forgiveness, and work to do better!
4. Find the Places You Connect – What’s Your Part in the Plan?
When you enter into relationship with someone, oftentimes one of the key things you want to know is where you’ll fit into each other’s lives. Will this person be a confidant? A business partner? A good friend? A best friend? Someone platonic, romantic, etc.? With God, it’s the same. We want to figure out what part we play in His plan—and what position He takes in our lives!
The Bible is another great place to learn the framework of the role God plays in the Christian’s life; for example, it makes it really clear that God should be our above-all. The only One we give worship to, the only God in our lives, the One to whom we swear loyalty and who we follow always. He should be on the throne of our hearts and we should consider His ways, means, instructions, and purposes above everyone else’s—even our own! As another example, because we often connect with God on a parent/child basis, we have to learn the way those things fit together just like any kid does as he becomes aware of his role in the family. How does he relate to his mom and dad? In what ways are they alike and how does he fit together with them? With God, we find the same, often by reading what His Word says about our conduct and God’s expectations for us as His children.
But there’s another side to this, too! Again, like any connection, our relationship with God runs two ways. So where do we connect with Him? How do we fit into His plan? There’s an overall way we fit in as part of the family of believers, as laid out in places like Ephesians; but there’s also the aspect of what we are individually called to do. Are we called as teachers? Preachers? Prophets? Caretakers? Singers? Writers? Servers? Leaders? This looks different for everyone, and pursuing it in prayer, reading the Bible, and even seeking advice from trusted fellow Christians who can mentor us is a huge step in ramping up our relationship with God. It’s a powerful thing when we begin moving in our connection with Him!
5. Be About the Other – Invest in What They’re Invested In
If you’ve ever had a relationship that was one-sided, you know how much it hurts. When someone is all about themselves, things get tedious, unbalanced, and the relationship becomes a breeding ground for resentment. No one ever really wants to sign on to just be someone’s sounding board, cheerleader, or tag-along. And we don’t want to be so self-focused we force someone else into that role, either.
When it comes to our relationship with God, we need to have the attitude of Jesus—being about our Father’s work. But we also need to recognize that God doesn’t abandon us to our pursuits, caring only when we step into the “faith arena” and having nothing to do with us the rest of the time. Whether it’s job, family, friends, hobby, etc., there is nothing we can’t take to God in prayer. For my part, I try to actively consecrate every day of writing to Him, inviting Him to be an active part of my passion; and I also refocus my brain regularly—sometimes I have to do it constantly, even!—to ensure I’m invested in what God is invested in, what He deems important, not just what brings me satisfaction. With this mindset, we grow the breadth and depth of what we can accomplish in the areas that matter to us; and we can also trust that we are doing our diligent best and keeping our lives above reproach when we’re putting forth the effort to be about what God is about!
6. Always Make Time – Recognize the Power of Priority
As most people know, one thing that can float or sink a relationship is whether we’re investing time and energy into making it work. You can hit it off great with someone, but if you never take time to follow up with them, things fall through. As the saying goes, “You make time for what matters to you”—and our relationship with God is no different. We can start to feel really adrift if we don’t take time to do the things we’ve covered here—getting to know Him, taking time with Him, assessing boundaries, finding where we connect, and investing in what matters.
The beautiful thing is that God is always ready and able to make time for us. There’s no queue we have to get in and wait our turn. When we read the Bible, pray, pursue him, bare our hearts and pour ourselves out into the relationship, He is right there, ready to reciprocate! So that puts a lot of the responsibility on us; we have to make the time and prioritize our relationship with God. Otherwise, like a friend we never call, text, DM, or see face-to-face, the emotional intimacy wanes and we can feel like we’re drifting apart.
Thankfully, also like the most cherished friends we’ll ever have the pleasure of knowing, our relationship with God is one of those where we can pick right back up even if we slack off. Whereas the people in our lives may cut us off or choose not to respond after too much radio silence, God isn’t like that. He is always waiting for us to rearrange our priorities and place him back in that place He belongs, at the forefront of our hearts and the core of our lives.
But we don’t want to take advantage of this just so we can run off and do our own thing for a while! We have to make sure we’re respecting the relational nature we have with God, prioritizing Him even when it’s hard, not just when it’s convenient. When we have our priorities straight, it truly helps the relationship grow and thrive for the betterment of all involved!
When Do I Start?
Feeling fired up now, like maybe this relationship-with-God thing isn’t so impossible or daunting after all? Great! If you’re still unsure when or where to start, though, my encouragement to you is this: now, and with Step 1! There are plenty of great Bible apps you can download and just start reading the Word (I highly recommend kicking it off in Ephesians, a great Book that summarizes what God has done for us and what we should do for Him!). You can also pray at any time…remember, your words don’t have to be fancy, just sincere! Get to know those boundaries, pursue your purpose, start cleaning out the junk in your life that gets in the way of being about what God is about.
You don’t have to wait. You don’t have to hit a certain number of days, weeks, months, or years as a Christian to start a relationship with God. You just have to start, wherever you are, whatever you’ve been through. Begin prioritizing and actively pursuing Him, just as He’s already actively pursuing you.
Today’s the day and now is the time to truly begin, or take to the next level, experiencing your relationship with God!