In Old Testament times, there were a number of people who enjoyed a personal relationship with God, and the Bible indicates that this included God audibly speaking to most of these people. Examples include Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and various prophets ordained by God. Later, in New Testament times, the twelve Apostles and at least several other people enjoyed a face-to-face personal relationship with Jesus Christ, God incarnate. In recent times, however, even many Christians who strive to live a sanctified life and sincerely desire a personal relationship with God may sometimes feel as if they don’t have such a relationship with Him, because not only does God not audibly speak to them, but also He often seems remote.
Generally speaking, we feel the closest to God in our relationship with Him when we are earnestly trying to live according to His will; i.e., when we are demonstrating by our attitude and our actions that we truly love Him. However, even when we are doing our best to live according to God’s will, we won’t always have a feeling of closeness to Him.
It may be somewhat consoling to know that even the men mentioned in the Bible who had a personal relationship with God went through periods when there were not clear manifestations of such a relationship. In his book entitled Reaching for the Invisible God, Philip Yancey states,
The Bible models both simple faith and hang-on-against-all-odds fidelity. Job, Abraham, Habakkuk and his fellow prophets, as well as many of the heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11, endured long droughts when miracles did not happen, when urgent prayers dropped back to earth unanswered, when God seemed not just invisible but wholly absent. We who follow in their path today may sometimes experience times of unusual closeness when God seems responsive to our every need; we may also experience times when God stays silent and all the Bible’s promises seem glaringly false. (Page 53)
We need look no further than the Bible for examples of God’s absence. “You have hidden your face from us,” said Isaiah. “Why are you like a stranger in the land, like a traveler who stays only a night?” demanded Jeremiah. Any relationship involves times of closeness and times of distance, and in a relationship with God, no matter how intimate, the pendulum will swing from one side to the other. (Page 242)
So, there is precedent in the Bible for the lack of a sense of God’s closeness that even the most committed Christians periodically experience today, despite their desire to maintain a personal relationship with God. This raises the question as to whether or not Christians can do anything to improve their sense of God’s closeness to them.
In this regard, Yancey says on page 89 of his book, “[I]n pursuing a relationship with God, we must come on God’s terms, not our own.” And, on pages 74-75 Yancey states,
According to Stanley Hauerwas, the life of faith consists of patience and hope. When something comes along to test our relationship with God, we rely on those two virtues: patience formed by a long memory, and hope that our faithfulness will prove worth the risk. . . . [W]e believe that a God who is both good and faithful controls the universe; patience and hope keep faith alive during times that cast doubt on that belief. [Note: Stanley Hauerwas has been considered by many to be one of the world’s most influential contemporary theologians.]
Therefore, during times when we feel as if we don’t have as close a personal relationship with God as we would like, we need to trust that He is always with us.
However, since the first century A.D., God apparently has not spoken audibly to people, except maybe in dreams or visions. The question is: Why would God not continue to speak audibly to people who are seeking a personal relationship with Him?
Perhaps, one of the primary reasons why God no longer speaks audibly to people is that mankind now has access to the inspired writings that we refer to as the Bible. In earlier times, written revelations of the will (or expectations) of God for mankind had not been completed. Subsequent to the first century A.D., written revelations of the will of God have become increasingly available to mankind through the New Testament, as well as through the Old Testament. Therefore, God now “speaks” to people individually and collectively through the Bible.
Among the scripture passages that should give every Christian assurance that God desires an ongoing personal relationship with them are the following:
[Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible.]
Matthew 28:20b: [As Jesus Christ was about to ascend into heaven after His resurrection from the dead, He said to His disciples] “‘I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” Every person who has trusted in Jesus as their Savior and Lord is likewise His disciple and, therefore, God will always be with every genuine Christian.
Romans 8:16: “The [Holy] Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. . . .” Likewise, 1 John 3:2a says, “Beloved, now we are children of God. . . .” As children of God, Christians can be confident that He loves them and will continue to care about them.
Philippians 4:7: [In a letter to Christians, this passage states,] “[T]he peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Because the peace of God will guard the hearts and minds of every Christian, each believer can be sure that God will be with them in all circumstances.
Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5; and Hebrews 13:5 all indicate that God will never leave or forsake those who seek to follow Him. In other words, God is with His faithful followers all the time, regardless of whether or not they are aware of His presence. The following poem entitled “Footprints in the Sand,” by Carolyn Joyce Carty, helps to illustrate this concept:
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed
he was walking along the beach with the LORD.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene he noticed two sets of
footprints in the sand: one belonging
to him, and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of
his life there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very
lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he
questioned the LORD about it:
“LORD, you said that once I decided to follow
you, you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when
I needed you most you would leave me.”
The LORD replied:
“My son, my precious child,
I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”
Furthermore, God communicates through not only the inaudible but profound passages of the Bible, but also through the spoken and written words of people whom He has given special insight regarding biblical teachings. And, God also communicates through what has been referred to as “the still small voice” of the Holy Spirit, Who resides within every genuine Christian and enables them to better comprehend God’s will for their life. [Click on “What Must a Person Do to Be Assured of Eternal Salvation?” for an explanation of the term “genuine (or “true”) Christian.”]
God will always care about each of us as individuals and desire to have a personal relationship with each of us, but it is important for us to understand that our relationship with Him will be different than the relationships we have with our family and friends. In our relationship with God, we cannot realistically expect to have two-way conversations with Him as we can with our family and friends. On the other hand, God will be with us throughout every day, whereas it would be virtually impossible for our family or friends to do so, except for relatively short periods of time.
Although we probably will not always feel that we have a personal relationship with God, we can be confident that the greater our commitment to following His will, the stronger will be our relationship with Him, regardless of how we feel.