Last week, Marissa shared her thoughts with us about Bible study – and gave us information to help us all distinguish between the different types and styles of digging into God’s Word. What you may have noticed, if you read that post, was that Bible study is – as I like to call it – “head oriented.” It is an essential part of walking with Jesus…but it is far from being the only part.
Whereas Bible studies aim at informing the head of who God is and what He says, there is far more to a relationship with God than what our heads can comprehend. Literally. There is so much more to God than what we can ever begin to understand, and while it’s important for us to try, it’s also important that we keep our relationship with Him from becoming simply one of head knowledge…rather than also being one of heart experience.
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
“But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29)
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)
God has given us His Word and sound minds for a reason. He clearly wants us to know and strive to understand Him. However, just as there is more to a human relationship than learning about someone, there is more to a relationship with God than simply knowing the Bible. There are plenty of people who have known His Word backwards and forwards but who have not known God Himself. In fact, Scripture shows us that even Satan knows Scripture and can quote it word-for-word.
God wants all of us – heart, soul, mind, and strength. Neglecting the heart component is, perhaps, neglecting the aspect that is most important to Him of all.
The distance from our heads to our hearts is a long one, though, and it can be hard to take what we know and turn it into an experience. There are many ways to approach this – as many, in fact, as there are people in relationships with God. No two people will relate to God in the same ways…and that is completely okay. He is a personal God, who relates to and communicates with each of us in personalized ways.
The heart component of our relationship with God is the one that has always come most naturally to me, so here are some of the different ways that I have personally engaged my heart (as opposed to simply my head) in quiet time and relationship with God:
- Prayer journaling. This is a discipline in which we write our prayers out to God (or – at the very least – write our prayer concerns) and record the answers we receive. At times, this can look a lot like writing intimate love letters to God. Other times, the prayers are short and unemotional. Either way, it enables us to stay focused as we pray (which is always a struggle) and to look back and see how God has answered our prayers.
- Bible journaling. This has recently become very popular, and if you search Instagram or Pinterest for this topic, you’ll quickly be inundated with ideas…and possibly become more confused than when you began. Some people Bible journal as they would a regular journal – reading Scripture and responding with personal thoughts and struggles in the margins. Others take a more artistic approach, illustrating verses and ideas with pencils, colored pens, and even paints. Some do both! The idea behind this practice is that when we slow down and spend time meditating on a verse, passage, or idea – and use our hands to become more engaged in the process – we absorb more meaning from the verses, hear God speaking to us more personally, and are better able to make the verses our own. Along the same lines, many people paint, draw, dance, or sing as they spend time with God. We are creative beings, created in the image of a creative God, and He rejoices when He sees us exercise that part of who we were created to be. The important thing is to remember that the art – whatever form it takes – is not for exhibition. It is between God and us, so it doesn’t matter if the world thinks it is “good.”
- Worship through music. Playing worship music – instrumental or with words – can be a powerful way to experience God in a personal way. God designed our hearts to be sensitive to music, and for many people this is one of the most powerful ways He reaches us. Many times we like to keep worship music for Sunday mornings, but when we use the choruses we sing at church for our personal worship times, both our daily times with God and our weekly time in corporate worship are enriched.
- Time in nature. Taking a walk, gardening, and even bird watching are ways for us to connect with God through His creation. Many of us have experienced God’s presence more closely while at the beach or in the mountains; without the noise of our phones, the TV, computers, and radios, we can simply see and hear God more clearly. Taking time and making the effort to silence the world can reap major benefits in our experiences of God.
Again, just as we learned about Bible study, there is no one-size-fits-all method for engaging our hearts with God. No two human relationships are the same, and no two people will have identical relationships with God. The key, for me, has been to remain open to changes and shifts in our relationship, and to be willing to try new things.
God wants to be found. He isn’t hiding and doesn’t want to make this hard for us, so when we as Him to open the eyes of our hearts, He has promised to make Himself known. However we do it and whatever it looks like, the ends always justify the means. He is always worth it.