By Whitney Hopler and Matthew Jacoby, Crosswalk.com
When you want to deepen your relationship with God, you need to move beyond simply knowing about Him and seek personal encounters with Him. The Bible’s Psalms can help you do that. The Psalms are full of honest expressions of what it means to relate to God. They describe faith in action while dealing with the tension between this fallen world’s realities and the hope God offers you.Here’s how you can deepen your relationship with God by reading and responding to the Psalms:
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1. Meet God in Every Emotion
Express all the complexities inherent in a relationship with God. The Psalms show that sharing life with God involves communicating with Him in all types of circumstances, such as lamenting hardship, expressing joy and gratitude, raging against injustice, asking for needs to be met, complaining, celebrating, and more. Regularly and honestly express your thoughts and feelings to God, confident that He is listening and He cares.
2. Make God Your Destination
Reorient your focus toward God. In the Psalms, people are stripped of worldly things that give them a false sense of security and fleeting fulfillment, and then discover that they can gain ultimate security and fulfillment through relationships with God. When worldly things fail to satisfy you, look beyond them toward God. Orient your life around your relationship with God, investing most of your time and energy into growing closer to Him, and then everything else in your life will fall into place in a healthy way.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Mourn
Grieve over what makes God sad. The Psalms describe people whose hearts become broken over what breaks God’s heart, such as these factors that affect our lives today: our propensity to stray from God, our defensiveness against God’s claim on us, our disregard of God’s kindness, and the lack of trust in God’s love that we show in the ways we disobey Him. Let the Psalms help you sense how sin can alienate you from God and make your Creator sad, and let the grief you feel about that fuel penitence in your life.
4. Accept Your Faults
Let yourself be broken so you can begin to discover the joy of freedom. Invite God to break through the shell that shields you from the harsh realities of this fallen world so you can then discover through that brokenness how much you need God – the same process that the Psalms describe. Expect that freedom and joy will flow into your soul through the cracks left by brokenness as you place your trust in God.
5. Take Heart
Be optimistic. While the Psalms honestly acknowledge the problems of our fallen world, they also express an optimistic faith that God can solve the problems through redemption and salvation. Never lose hope when challenges and suffering enter your life; know that God is always willing to help you.
6. Be Patient in Silence
Wait well. The Psalms describe how agonizing it can feel to be facing an urgent need yet not see God acting to meet it right away. But, as the Psalms reveal, the process of waiting is valuable in itself, because it encourages you to stretch your faith by seeking God. When you exercise your faith while you wait, you emerge from the waiting period with stronger faith.
7. Learn to Let Go
Liberate your desires. As the Psalms show, when people make worldly things (such as wealth, power, or sex) the focus of their desires, they set themselves up for eventual disappointment, fueling a cycle of discontent in their lives. But when people make a relationship with God their ultimate desire, they can find real and lasting satisfaction. So liberate yourself from a vicious cycle of longing by focusing on God before anyone or anything else. The more you seek God, the greater your desire for Him will become, which will then motivate you to seek Him more – in a wonderful cycle of fulfillment.
8. Worship through Repose
Find rest through worshipping God. People in the Psalms worship God by seeking His purposes and doing their best to fulfill them. Rather than pursuing their own agendas for their lives, they offered themselves to God to do His will. Entrust yourself and your life to God as your own act of worship. When you let God overpower you, His authority will overshadow you, placing you in the protection of God’s will – which is the safest place for you to be.
9. Be Fulfilled
Enjoy God. The Psalms show that human relationships with God are meant to be much more than just distant and abstract. Incredibly, our Creator wants us to enjoy relating to Him. The more you enjoy God, the more you can become a vessel of His glory in this world.
10. Praise Him in All Things
Praise God. When people in the Psalms express praise to God for who He is and what He does, they do so together, using both words and physical actions (such as dancing, kneeling, bowing, clapping, and lifting hands). Follow their lead by regularly praising God yourself in ways that best convey your love for Him.