The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Pursuing Intimacy with God: Will our need for other humans hold us back?

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In the determined pursuit of a close relationship with God, we can often develop a very negative view of other humans.  We begin to see our desire for human relationships as an unwanted distraction which is preventing us from finding total satisfaction in God alone.  We start asking God to free us up from our need for anyone other than Him.  And yet in most lives, it is not God’s will to grant this kind of request.

In this world, we are saddled with many needs and limitations which seem to hamper our relationship with God. We need to eat and sleep.  We need to work to earn money so that we can buy food and shelter.  We have limited attention spans.  We have intense needs for psychological stimulation, emotional connection, and physical touch.  Before we label all of these things as bad, we need to remember that these things are in our lives by God’s choice.

Your desire to want to move closer to God is right on.  But now here comes the challenging question: who knows the best way to develop that relationship–you or Him?  To you, it seems logical that if God and you are going to go far, all other distractions need to be cleared away.  But God obviously disagrees because here you sit feeling very needy in the human relationship department.  The truth is that all of the needs and desires that God stirs up in us on earth play a very important role in developing our relationship with Him.

You can’t escape your need for other people on your own, and it’s probably not God’s will to release you from it.  But is God going to keep you stuck with a need that is guaranteed to tank your relationship with Him?  Of course not. God is far more invested in your relationship with Him succeeding than you are, so you can trust Him not to sabotage it.

The more precious our relationship with God becomes to us, the more anxious we become about anything messing it up.  But here is where we need to realize that we are incapable of protecting this relationship on our own.  If God doesn’t guard it for us, it will certainly fail.  All we can do is throw ourselves into His arms and ask Him to make us all that He wants us to be.  After that, it’s up to Him.

Everything comes back to those four essential soul attitudes of reverence, submission, dependency and trust.  Being worried about your need for humans somehow sabotaging your spiritual progress is a great opportunity to work on those last three principles.  You need to practice submitting to God’s will in this situation by focusing on the fact that He knows the best way to develop His relationship with you.  Next, you need to practice embracing your total dependency on Him by realizing how deep the need for human relationships goes within you and acknowledging that you can’t change that need in your own strength.  If this is a need that God wants you to have (which it obviously is right now), then we’re back to practicing submission to His will for your life.  Then we get to trust.  Practicing trust means focusing on the fact that God loves you far more than you can grasp and that there’s no way He’s going to let your relationship fall apart and do nothing while you get all sidetracked with human beings.

We all start off thinking God is far more limited than He is.  We also want to get out of as much discomfort as we can in this life.  Human relationships are messy.  To open your heart to love is to open your heart to pain as well.  Humans aren’t perfect, and they are guaranteed to disappoint.  Yet just because other humans can’t be our all-in-all doesn’t mean there is no value in relating with them.  Human relationships are fraught with blessings.  In both our struggles and joys with other humans, there is enormous potential for growth.  God doesn’t see your relationships with other humans as threats to your relationship with Him, but rather as valuable tools for enhancing your relationship with Him.  God often uses other humans as His instruments in our lives.  He uses them to bless, encourage, convict and instruct us.  He uses them to help us better understand ourselves and to increase our motivation to pursue Him.  You want to be guarded against trying to use your relationship with God as a way to escape the threat of being hurt by other humans.  This is a mindset we can easily slip into without realizing it, because in many ways God feels a lot safer than humans.

Your intense need for other humans is not a flaw, it is something God put in you.  He is not insulted by your desire for human relationships.  So instead of feeling bad about this, ask God to lead you into relationships that He wants you to have and to help you learn everything that He wants to teach you through them.  Then be very open to pursuing any potential friendships that He brings across your path.  God designed us to be communal creatures and even the loners among us have a strong desire for some degree of human connection.

FURTHER READING:
The Mechanics of Spiritual Growth: Four Essential Attitudes

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