Sometimes I wish my life looked different than it does. I convince myself that if only I had more time, if only I got more sleep, if only I __[insert excuse]__, I’d be closer to God than I am. But looking back on the seasons of my life, I realize that it’s not those external factors that determine the closeness of my relationship with Him; it’s my heart’s disposition toward Him.
I think back to my days as a high schooler, when I would spend hours each day studying a passage of Scripture or journaling my prayers. Those days on the mission field of Romania, enveloped by the luxury of homeschool hours and ministry as a way of life, I dedicated every moment of every day to growing deeper in my relationship with Jesus. And truly, I experienced intimacy with Him in a way that I never had before. It was deep. It was rich. It was life-changing. In the season of experiencing God’s presence, delight deeply in Him.
But then I returned to the US as a senior in highschool, and my days were filled with college applications, scholarship essays, and community service hours. I tried to cram more activities into an already-jammed calendar, and my moments with God slipped into the background, an after-thought, something I’d get to if I still had time at the end of the day. That season was dark and lonely, but God never left my side. He was always there. I wish I could go back and tell my 18-year-old self that the essays can wait and the to-do list can take a break, but each day with the Lord is fleeting, and worth investing in. In the season of busyness, find times of quiet to nourish your soul first before you feed the frenzy.
I had high hopes when I stepped foot on the Christian college campus that would be my home for the next four years. With daily chapel and over 2,000 Christian students, this school was going to cause a growth spurt in my relationship with God. And while I did grow in my knowledge and understanding of Scripture, my heart grew strangely cold. I longed for those days of sweet fellowship in my cabin room, nestled with my Bible, pen, and notebook, but every time I sat down to read Scripture it became an academic exercise instead of a relational interaction. I cried out for personal renewal, and but I couldn’t recapture that spiritual high I experienced as a teenager. But looking back, I know the Spirit was there with me even then. In the season of expectation, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, not on a feeling of spiritual euphoria. Cherish Him, not the side-effect of His presence.
Jumping in with both feet, I started my career and my marriage within a few months, and I was determined to return to that intimacy with God that I remembered with such fondness. There was routine once more, and I “did all the right things,” but somehow, I couldn’t quite reach God.* He still seemed far from me. In the midst of that season, tragedy struck our family, and I went through all the feelings: anger, rage, bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, and utter exhaustion. I discovered that God was big enough to handle both my boring days and my life-threatening days. I returned to the discipline of reading Scripture and praying, often using the Puritan’s prayers in the Valley of Vision to guide me because I had no words to say. And He was there beside me. In the season of both tragedy and uneventful living, practice quiet obedience, because God WILL reward those who diligently seek Him.
The season of motherhood arrived with its own set of challenges and rewards. Late nights and early mornings meant little semblance of normal, and my “daily quiet time” that I so cherished from my pre-motherhood days was long gone. But I listened to the entire Bible during those midnight nursings, and I sneaked in times of prayer when I could. And I began praying. Earnestly. Eagerly. God, awaken me again. There He was, right next to me. In the season of utter exhaustion, invite Him into the nooks and crannies of your life, and His presence will come, first as a trickle, then as a river, then as an overflowing ocean.
It’s been almost a year ago that I fell on my face at a conference, realizing just how desperately I had been searching for deep, authentic intimacy with my Lord and Savior for all those seasons between high school and that day. I wanted, like the speaker said, to sit at the feet of Jesus and bask in the beauty of His presence. But I didn’t know how. So I prayed one simple prayer, and it became my heart cry that next season: “Deeper, Lord. Take me deeper into Your presence. Whatever it takes.” And He did. In an amazing way, He swooped in and over the course of a few months, restored to me the joy of fellowship with Him, deeper, richer, and fuller than even during those high school years. In the season of personal renewal, celebrate His goodness and drink deeply of His presence.
This is the season I’m in right now, but I’m headed into another season now, a season that will include a two-year-old and a baby, a growing ministry and business deadlines. And I don’t know what my relationship with God will look like in this season. There’s fear and aprehension, “what-if’s” and lurking suspicions.
I don’t want to go back to the time of being too busy for God or of chasing a spiritual high instead of God Himself. But this is what God promises:
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.
If there’s one thing I learned in the seasons of life, it’s this: God is ever faithful to draw near to those who draw near to Him, whether that’s in 60-second or 2-hour chunks. Different seasons of life will look different. A mom of little ones can’t afford the luxury of lounging in her pjs reading her Bible and praying like a homeschooled teenager can. But both can make seeking the Lord a priority in their lives, even if it doesn’t look the same.
If you want to be close to God, know that there is no formula, no 3-step process, no blanket statement to cover it all. But in every season, He is with you. Seek Him. He’s there, ready to be found by you, if you seek Him with all your heart.