When you don’t feel close to God, how can you cultivate a deep, meaningful relationship that helps you know God deeply?
He had me hold my nose before he plunged me into the frigid waters of the Popo Agie (pronounced “poposhia”) River in Lander, Wyoming –a memorable baptism that left me gasping in almost hypothermic shock when I resurfaced. Afterward, I felt only two things: shivers of cold and profound disappointment. At the age of eight, on my way back to the car to get warm, I began to experience what more seasoned followers of Christ might call “a dark night of the soul.”
Was God real? If so, why did I feel only wet? Where was the big thrilling something I had expected would come with my baptism?
As I Grew
For the next seven or eight years, I questioned my faith. Questioned God. Feared that maybe I hadn’t believed quite right or said the right words when I had prayed with my mother, legs swinging from my bed, to receive Jesus as Lord. Where was God now?
Years later, in high school biology class one day, I was confounded by the details of cell division and my mind wandered and reached out for God in a hungry, desperate prayer. Dear God, if you’re real, I just want to know it, really know it.
That summer I went to church camp. In an afternoon session of my choice, I sat in a beautiful garden with my feet tucked under me on the grass. The teacher explained to us how to have a quiet time with God every day. He gave simple instructions about prayer and reading the Bible and memorizing verses.
This. This was what I needed.
I went home and did it all. I began to practice those quiet time skills every day. It was awkward for a long time, but then those times with God started doing something inside of me, until one day I could say, “I know God. I really know him.” That quiet time knowledge changed my relationship with God forever.
But then in my early 30s, when I wasn’t even looking for it (because I felt like my relationship with God was already wonderful), I signed up for a Bible study class at church and got something unexpected. For the very first time, a woman taught me how to study the Bible for myself.
Have you ever read Helen Keller’s story? Do you remember when she makes the connection, for the first time, that the strange hand motions her teacher are making represent words? Sign language opens up the world for Helen.
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Study the Bible for Yourself
That is how I felt when I learned how to study the Bible for myself. Me. Not a pastor or a famous Bible teacher. Not even a Sunday school teacher. ME opening up God’s word and gaining, for the first time, the skills to read and understand what I was reading. I was opening up the pages of the Bible and discovering God’s wonders by myself. This work ushered in all the feelings I hoped for when I came up out of the Popo Agie. God is real. God is wonderful, I thought. I started to see God’s truth in a new way, and immediately my love for him and my experience of his love for me plunged to a deep, new place.
So I have written a book for you. It’s my minimalist version of that class I had at camp. It’s about how to spend time with God, combined with the class I took that taught me the skills to understand the Bible. A simple quiet time book and skills book in one. The chapters are short, as I wrote with a tender heart toward the busy woman who is trying to do all the things but still wants to know God.
Do you see why I’m handing you this book? Because I want you to know God. You can know him. If this little Wyoming girl can go from disappointment to enjoying a treasure of closeness with God, then you can, too. This book is meant for you to take a first pass through, to see my examples, and then to re-use until it’s all coffee stained and dog eared, as you practice taking the skills to other passages in the Bible.
You can do this. When you make the effort to move in close to God you’ll be rewarded by God moving in close to you.
With love from Montana,
Christy Fitzwater is a writer and pastor’s wife living in Kalispell, Montana. She has a daughter who is married and a son in college. Christy writes to help people know God, and you can find her new book about becoming blameless on Amazon. Or follow her devotional blog at ChristyFitzwater. You can follow Christy on Instagram here!