And you will seek Me and find Me [nearness], when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Does your heart long for deeper intimacy with God?

For a clearer understanding of intimacy with God, consider the word nearness. It means proximity or the lack of distance between two or more objects. And it applies physically as well as intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. People in agreement or of the same mindset have a sense of mental nearness. Those in romantic relationships experience a connection or emotional nearness. Having the same faith or beliefs gives people a sense of spiritual nearness. Shared commonalities in each realm draw people closer together. Exploring these common bonds strengthens their sense of togetherness—they become more intimate in their associations.

Nearness also spans time and space; yes, entering the very throne of God. We consider future, expected events as drawing near. For example, “The day of the LORD is near” (Ezekiel 30:3). Or the future judgment of God in the valley of Jehoshaphat, “The day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14). Traveling through the vast expanse of space brings us closer in proximity to planets and stars. And yet, there is coming a day when God will “gather us all together from wherever we are—in heaven or on earth—to be with Him in Christ forever” (Ephesians 1:10, TLB). That will be unmatched, eternal nearness. Through it all, we find the constant theme of the nearness of the presence of God.

God Desires Nearness with Us

God’s Word speaks specifically regarding His closeness. “You are near, O LORD (Psalm 119:151). Jesus promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20). God wants us to draw near to Him for our overall good (Psalm 73:28). He invites us to come near to Him with a sense of urgency and immediacy—”Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). He promises to be near those who come close to Him (James 4:8) and is especially close to the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). However, He also knows the difference between those who draw near with mere lip service and those who earnestly desire intimacy from the heart (Isaiah 29:13).

The invitation for sincere nearness and intimacy with God goes out to everyone. “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith …” (Hebrews 10:22). To accept that call is to enjoy a closer connection and communion with God. To ignore or postpone it is to miss out on the most precious, most divine sense of love, wisdom, acceptance, interaction, and satisfaction.

What Nearness Is

Based on individual differences in spiritual maturity, desire, and priority, the journey of intimacy with God will be different for each person. To start, we must first consider who God is and what His Word says about this topic. As the only true and living, eternal, self-existing, sovereign God, He deserves our awe and reverence. There is nothing frivolous about entering God’s presence.

Nearness to God doesn’t require good deeds or qualifications. As Mary from Bethany, we can simply sit at His feet, lingering in His presence, listening to His words, absorbing His presence (Luke 10:39). It takes a willing heart, prioritized time, surrendered spirit, and open mind. The desire to hear from Him, learn about Him, and become more like Him involves an intense longing to spend time in His presence with His Word. We find the same in personal relationships—nearness is developed by spending time together, listening, sharing, learning, simply enjoying each other’s company, closeness, and deepening intimacy.

Many times, our doing prevents our being. If a wife spends her time working around the house or “hanging out with the girls,” what time is there for simply being with her husband? If a husband spends his time working, playing golf with his buddies, or attending sporting events, what unstructured, spontaneous, prioritized time does he have for being with his wife? Martha was doing; Mary was being. Jesus said only one thing was needed and Mary had chosen “that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).

What Nearness is Not

This approach may differ from what some consider as intimacy with God or being in His presence. True nearness isn’t simply sitting in church a couple hours each week. Nor is it reading through the Bible at a mandated pace of a reading program. Also, doing a variety of obligated good deeds or serving in ministry may still miss true intimacy with God.

The same doing-being concept applies to God. If all we have is a few rushed minutes each morning or evening, the intimacy of fellowship won’t exist or grow deeper. Should we only offer Him church attendance once a week, intimacy will grow no deeper than the intimacy of spouses who only spend one hour each week together.

The Hebrew word for sexual intimacy means “to know and be known deeply.” Far deeper than merely knowing many facts and figures or even sharing sexual pleasure, such intimacy plunges deeper—to a person’s very essence. Every person has an inner core that waits to be discovered and explored. This is the level of intimacy God wants with each of us. He is omniscient and already knows us deeply. And He wants us to discover and explore Him deeply. That is the journey of intimacy with Him.

Intimacy Involves Personal Sacrifice

For those who truly want an abiding, deepening, precious level of intimacy with God, it requires sacrifice. King David said he would not offer God that which cost him nothing (2 Samuel 24:24). Drawing near to God will cost you—which usually means a change in priorities. It may mean getting up an hour earlier each day or giving up golf weekends. Or it could mean replacing Thursday girl’s night with time spent in prayer. Even exchanging “me time” for service to others as unto God Himself. Successful relationships involve yielding personal preferences and likes in deference of the other person.

As our supreme example of loving sacrifice, Jesus sacrificed everything to have a relationship with us. He emptied Himself of all His heavenly glory, humbled Himself to walk among us as a human, and became obedient to the excruciating experience of the cross (Philippians 2:8). Why? Because He loves us. He wants an intimate relationship and ongoing nearness with us. And because, only through Him can we have eternal life and experience the abundant, fulfilling life He offers. He sacrificed everything and offers us everything. How could we not sacrifice undistracted, quality time to draw nearer to Him each day?

Why Should we Want to Draw Near to Him?

Of course, there is no mandate to get closer to God. He gives us the free will to choose for Him or against Him—to grow closer to Him each day or not. We can continue doing things as we are. But nearness will suffer. In the same way that our personal relationships stagnate without quality time and priority, our relationship with God stagnates when we don’t invest in it.

Yes, the relationship may exist. Once a person is saved, with the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, a personal relationship with God exists. However, deeper fellowship only happens through a deliberate journey of deepening intimacy. Even the most romantic, passionate couples experience distance, disconnectedness, temptation, and possibly even irreconcilable differences if they don’t value, prioritize, protect, and deepen their relationship.

As Jesus told the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Though your head and heart may want something, the everyday routine and responsibilities often crowd out what is truly important.

So, God calls us to draw near, to prioritize, to set aside specific time to nurture the relationship and deepen the intimacy with the One who loves us, offers us everything we need, promises to meet with us, and wants to prepare us for an eternity with Him.

Excerpts from Nate’s book, God’s Secret Place.

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