How Close Is God to You?
THREE-YEAR-OLD Raphael began his prayer in this simple way: “How are you, Jehovah?” While we could not favor such an approach by adults, we may smile at this young one’s childish sincerity. The fact is that Raphael obviously feels close to God. To him, God is more than some abstract force. He is a real person. Is God that real, that close, to you?
How strange it is that many people who claim to believe in God never try to learn more about him or to get close to him! For some, a haughty attitude prevents their drawing close to God. God’s “eyes are against the haughty ones,” said King David. (2 Samuel 22:28) Others are too modest and unassuming to think that it would be possible to have a relationship with God. What the haughty need to do is cultivate childlike receptiveness. Said Jesus: “Truly I say to you, Unless you turn around and become as young children, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matthew 18:2-4) And the overly modest would, perhaps, benefit from a little more of the childlike attitude that allows Raphael to approach God so unhesitatingly.
But while having the right attitude is a good start, to feel truly close to God, more is needed. First of all, there must be an awareness of him. When you look at the wondrous creative works of God, are you moved to think of him, to praise and thank him as did the psalmist David? He asked: “When I see your heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have prepared, what is mortal man that you keep him in mind, and the son of earthling man that you take care of him?” (Psalm 8:3, 4) Taking the time to meditate on God’s creation appreciatively is sure to strengthen the bond of love between you and God.
“Draw Close to God”
Two magnets, when they are properly aligned, have an attraction for each other. Indeed, the closer together they are moved, the stronger that attraction is. Something similar can happen in our relationship with God, for the disciple James says, “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.”—James 4:8.
Learning about God is one way to “draw close” to him. (John 17:3) Only by studying God’s Word, the Bible, can one learn his name, Jehovah, and the truth about his purposes for the earth and his attributes, such as love, wisdom, justice and power. (Psalm 83:18) ‘But,’ you might say, ‘I already know that God is almighty, wholly righteous and full of wisdom and love.’ Yet, is that in itself an indication of true and adequate knowledge of God? Not necessarily.
In themselves, mere statements about God and his qualities can seem rather meaningless, especially if you cannot relate them to your personal experience. For example, how could a person deaf from birth comprehend what “loud” and “soft” mean? How can he know the difference between the chirp of a sparrow and the coo of a dove if he has no means of making a comparison between them? Similarly, by itself the statement that “God is love” may seem like nothing more than a cold fact. (1 John 4:8) But to grasp God’s love fully, both mentally and emotionally, a person must consider how that love has been expressed toward mankind. (John 3:16) He must also be able to relate God’s love to his own personal experience. “Taste and see that Jehovah is good,” said the psalmist. (Psalm 34:8) As an individual does this, he cannot help but feel drawn to God.
Gazing at his father, little Larry once asked: “I know that I should love Jehovah more than anything else, but how can I love him more than you? I can see you and I love you, but I cannot see Jehovah.” The father put the child at ease by explaining that such a feeling is quite normal at the outset. And the youngster was assured that after learning what the Bible says about Jehovah’s wondrous qualities and acts, and by his personally experiencing God’s loving care, he could develop a stronger attachment to Jehovah than to all others! (Matthew 22:37, 38) So can any of us who take the time to learn about Jehovah God.
What “Knowing” God Means
Often we use the word “know” to refer to a brief acquaintance or mere recognition of a person. ‘If I am not mistaken, I know him,’ we may find ourselves saying. We may even say this if we had only caught a glimpse of the person somewhere or had briefly been introduced to him.
The apostle John helps us to appreciate that “knowing” God means more than having a passing acquaintance with Him. Consider some of the points made in John’s first divinely inspired letter. Epitomized, it says in part: To know God is to love God. To know and to love God is to keep his commandments. It means to cease walking in darkness and to put the truth into practice. It is to follow the lead of God’s Word and spirit and to stick to the truth. Knowing God, we feel free to approach him in prayer, with the conviction that he hears us and, in reply, will give us all things needed to perform his will.—1 John 1:5-7; 2:3, 4, 13, 14; 3:19-24; 4:6-8, 13; 5:3, 14, 15.
Obviously, then, knowing God is not something passive. Much effort is required to get to know Jehovah God and enjoy a close relationship with him. Surely, more is needed than going through the motions of certain religious rites. Nor is knowing God some sudden emotional sensation, such as many “born again Christians” claim to have enjoyed. The psalmist said: “Make me know your own ways, O Jehovah; teach me your own paths. Make me walk in your truth and teach me, for you are my God of salvation. In you I have hoped all day long.” (Psalm 25:4, 5) “Knowing” God is, therefore, an entire way of life!
Furthermore, after exhorting us to “taste and see that Jehovah is good,” the psalmist says: “Turn away from what is bad, and do what is good; seek to find peace, and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:8, 14) In some cases, drastic action is needed to “turn away from what is bad.”
For example, Mari, a hippie during the 1960’s, was heavily involved in taking drugs. This, in turn, led to thievery, immorality, abortion—even prostitution. In time, though, she came in contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses and began to see the need to make changes if she was to be close to God. “I gave up a two-to-three-pack-a-day smoking habit and all drugs, and I resolved in my heart to follow Jehovah’s command regarding fornication. I threw out all my books on dreams, astrology and spiritism, and I got rid of all my idolatrous statues, candles and pictures.” Eventually, she made a dedication to God and serves him to this day.
But will you make the effort needed to come to know God? Though your life-style may not be as flagrant as that of Mari, you may have to make real changes. You may be assured, however, that God does not disappoint those who sincerely and humbly search for him with childlike eagerness to learn and do his will.
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A desire to get to know God is causing many to make drastic changes in their lives