When I was in college under the campus ministry, all answers came back to, “God is the answer.” If you felt lonely and depressed, God was the answer. If you were lonely and needed more friends, God was the answer. If you thought a girl was cute and wished you had a girlfriend, God was the answer. The notion was that God was the answer to all of your needs. It sounds like it must be true because it’s really spiritual, right?
The only problem is that before the fall God only saw one thing that was not good, and that was that the man was alone. God Himself recognized that a finite being was going to need like-fellowship so He created the woman. In fact, being made for like-fellowship is an essential aspect of mankind being created “in the image of God.” God through all eternity has existed as three Persons in loving fellowship. And we are patterned after Him. He has created human beings to need not only Him, but one another as well.
Unfortunately, since the fall, some things have been broken. Men and women, separated from God, try to get from each other what only God is able to give. This does not make the converse true, however – that anything you seek from a human being is somehow unspiritual. The fact is that you need healthy human relationships in your life from the day you are born. You cannot be an island. My experience is that even people who think they don’t want relationships, eventually find they are starving themselves from something they deeply need. You can’t be spiritual enough not to need other people. Even Jesus craved human beings to be with him in his times of deepest need.
So all of your answers in that sense are not supposed to come from above. They are supposed to come from above and around. Sure, you may have to rely on only God alone in the hardest moments of your life, or if you get locked away by the Chinese government, but that’s not any different than the solid meals you are also being denied while in prison. You aren’t wired to live without it.
You, were, however wired to live without all of the other relationship substitutes which you may be using, including TV, internet, novels and the like. Those things are not wrong per se, but they can hog the time and attention needed to develop deep and genuine relationships. Strip those things away, and watch your circle of friends dramatically expand. You will crave and seek out relationships because of the emptiness you feel without these false relationship placebos.
In the gospels, Jesus often speaks of those who hear and do the word of God as His true family. And the night He was betrayed, before He went away, Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment: to love one another as He had loved them. The New Testament is full of verses that speak of loving “one another” – “if you do not love your brother whom you have seen, how can you love God whom you have not seen? (1 John 4:20). God knows that we need close human relationships to meet our practical and emotional needs, and He commands us to meet those needs for one another.
There is something very fundamental that you can only get from God, however, and you have to learn how to get it from Him, and it’s not that easy or natural. You must first learn to experience Him as a loving Father, a Person, and you must spend time in His presence to allow that relationship to grow. This isn’t easy, because even after we are born again, most of us do not find it natural to relate to an incorporeal being who is pure Spirit. Not only that, but many of us inherit barriers to genuine relationship with God from the religious system we’ve grown up in. For example, we are used to thinking of God as majestic and grand, which He is, but also distant. We are trained to read the Bible and know more about God than we actually know Him. And we are constantly told that “God is in control,” which leads us to believe that God orchestrated the difficult situations in our lives. These barriers make it difficult for us to approach God as a real Person that we can get to know and love.
I’ve written more about moving from religion to relationship with God in this blog post and in my book No Exit. I’m only beginning to plumb the depths of what a close emotional relationship with God is like, however. Most of the time, when I experience God’s love, it feels like a nice hug. It’s happy, warm, and comforting. But the craving of the human heart is something much deeper. It’s a longing for an impossibly deep oneness and intimacy.
God gave us a mirror of the kind of closeness he wants with us through marriage. In the deepest moments of intimacy with your spouse, you experience oneness, freedom from concern, and peace. Adam and Even were naked in the garden and not ashamed. This was more than a physical reality, but an emotional one as well. They were completely connected and comfortable with who they were. This is the same kind of depth of intimacy that is available in God. However, like deep connection with your spouse, it doesn’t just fall out of the sky. You have to actively pursue this kind of depth that touches and rewires these deep places.
If you allow yourself to be touched this deeply, trust me, you will be changed. And once you are there, you’re going to want to come back. This is what God is seeking with us. Total vulnerability and connection at a level that changes everything. Anything less is simply not deep enough to satisfy your human longings. If you’re living with less, you are living on a starvation diet. How long can your marriage be healthy without intimacy? Honestly, in normal circumstances, not more than a week. How long can you stay soft and fulfilled without a deep connection with God? I doubt much longer.
If you are feeling wondering, why you have never experienced that kind of emotional intimacy don’t despair. It took me a long time to come from a place of religion to a real relationship with God, and my walk with God is getting deeper all the time. Take comfort in knowing that God created you to know and need Him intimately; He longs to fulfill that desire even more than you do! God describes Himself over and over in the Bible as the divine Bridegroom of His people. He created you to have a relationship with Him that is even more intimate than the closest, most intimate relationship you could possibly have your spouse.
To learn more about moving from dead religion to developing a live relationship with God, you may want to read my book No Exit. And to learn practical tools for how to coach people into deep, fulfilling relationships with God and other people, check out my book Unlocking the Heart.