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  • Writer's pictureAdelee Russell

Things that Keep us from Living a Fervent Life Part 3: Lack of Intimacy with God.

Updated: May 7, 2022

Things that Keep us from Living a Fervent Life Part 3: Lack of Intimacy with God

As I was praying about what I should focus on for this post I went back and forth: Should I cover the usual things that get in the way of our intimacy with God like disordered desires, distractions, etc? But I decided not to because I feel like it’s very easy to read articles like that and go on autopilot. We know the do’s and don’t’s. They’re familiar. It’s easy to read a list of things you shouldn’t do and repeat knowledge without reaching the heart.

No, God cautioned me against doing that. And He reminded me that one thing is the key to all the rest. There is one spiritual action that affects every other area of our intimacy with God. I ran across a quote the other day on social media by one of my favorite authors, Lina Abujamra. She said, “Our intimacy with God is best reflected in the way we pray.” I think that is absolutely true.

The other day at church our pastor had us read through Romans chapter eight. We meditated on verses like:

Romans 8:1, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT).

Romans 8:15-16, “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children” (NLT).

Romans 8:33-34, “Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us” (NLT).

Romans 8:38-39, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (NLT).

After we read these verses our pastor asked us, “Do you think soaking in the truth of these verses might change the way you pray?”

That struck a chord for me because in my healing journey God has used truths like these to radically change my heart, mind, and soul. He’s brought freedom, and healing, and transformation from claiming the truths in these verses and many more like them.

Without passionate, raw, messy communion with God I would not be alive today. I could not have survived my story without the intimate companionship of my Heavenly Father at my darkest moments. And I would have no true, enduring joy apart from my beautiful, love-fueled friendship with Him.

Many Christians feel like they can’t come to God this way. They feel like God is too big, too righteous, and too holy to ever approach in any other manner than on their best behavior. A lot of Christians believe that because of God’s infinite holiness and sovereignty they can’t possibly bring to Him their small, pitiful problems.

But does this perspective come from God and His Word? Or from our own feelings of guilt and shame, and our lack of embracing the entirety of the Gospel? If it’s true that we cannot dare to approach God in all our weakness and smallness, then shouldn’t the Bible affirm that? But does it?

Psalm 51:6 says, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart” (ESV).

John 8:32 also says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (NLT). In my personal experience, nothing good comes from hiding the truth of what’s going on in my mind from God. In fact, the only time I can find true freedom from doubt, and fear, and anger is when I make those parts of me vulnerable before God.

Some believe that being raw and honest with God is sacrilegious. Some people think we’re supposed to come to God only on our best behavior. Some believe that to admit or express doubt, fear, anger, etc, is to be a bad Christian. But the Bible paints a different picture.

Most of the prayers I’ve found in the Bible aren’t neat and tidy. They’re messy. They’re embarrassingly raw and sometimes downright ugly.

David cried out with hurt and anger and asked God to destroy his enemies (Psalm 69:19-28). Elijah wept with despair and begged God to kill him because he was so depressed (1 Kings 19:4). Hannah wailed so hard with longing that passersby thought she was a drunken mess (1 Samuel 1:10-14). Job cursed the day he was born (Job 3:1-10), Jesus Himself sobbed to God “with a loud cry and tears” (Hebrews 5:7 NLT). And perhaps, most startling of all, as Jesus bled His last on the cross He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 ESV).

I’m a recovering perfectionist. To seek God’s approval is second nature to me. So often there’s a sense that I want to just push aside the turmoil that’s going on inside of me without opening up to God about it because I’m afraid of not having it all together; I’m afraid that God will think less of me or that I will somehow lose His forgiveness that Jesus Christ purchased for me on the cross. But when Jesus cried out His last and gave His life for us, He changed everything. By cutting Himself off from intimacy with God at the cross He made a way for us to enter that intimate place ourselves. The curtain was torn, and we were made able to step our dirty scuffed up feet into the Holy of Holies; the presence of God.

For me, prayer has become an instrument of God to break me. By that I mean, venting out all of my feelings and questions and doubts is not a selfish way to blow off steam; it’s an honest plea of desperation that reveals my gaping need for God.

Instead of coming to God saying, “I know this, and I know this,” it’s me saying, “God, I don’t know. I’m lost. I NEED you. I need you to calm my fears and give me peace. I need you to take my anger and give me a forgiving heart. I need you to take my hurt and give me healing. I need you to take my doubts and give me confidence. I need you to take my confusion and give me direction.”

Prayer is the portal of a divine exchange. In it we offer up our human perspective; we pour out our human weaknesses and after we have emptied us of ourselves, God’s love, and grace, and perspective comes flooding in.

I’d like to look at one of the Psalms today and paint a picture of what I believe God intended our prayer life to look like. Keep in mind God did not condemn the writers of the psalms. On the contrary, His people sang them on pilgrimages and at festivals. They were celebrated. They were sacred. They were holy. And Jesus Himself quotes them many times in the New Testament. In fact when Jesus cries out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He’s not only expressing His own agony, He’s also quoting Psalm 22:1. Jesus Himself embraced and even prayed the Psalms, and in doing so, He gave us His approval to pray in the same manner.

I’d like to look at Psalm 77 which was written by a man named Asaph. I'm reading from the New Living Translation.


Vs. 1: “I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me!

The first thing that stands out is that the psalmist is crying out to God. He’s not venting to his friends or family members. Yes, telling each other our struggles is good. Yes, seeking advice from godly leadership is important, but at some point if we want to experience a genuine breakthrough we must eventually bring our struggles directly to God.

The second thing that stands out is the psalmist says he’s not only crying out, he’s shouting. He is not holding back the force of his emotions from God. He is pouring out his whole heart in all its messy intensity before the Almighty.

Vs. 2-3: “When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord.

All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted. I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help.”

There aren’t any perky clichés or quaint alliterations in this passage. The writer is not blind to the realities that are happening around him. He’s searching for God and he’s coming up empty… and he’s admitting it.

I think Christians can sometimes be in denial when it comes to struggles. I myself have had moments where I’m scared but I’d rather hold onto a cliché about faith than admit what I’m really thinking and feeling.

But God is not blind to reality. And He is not shocked by our perception of reality. He knows how things will play out in the end. We do not. And He knows that. But if we choose to glaze over the things that are eating away at our faith instead of confronting them, we won’t go very far. God’s not afraid of the truth. In fact He longs for us to admit to Him our “truth”, the truth of the thoughts raging within us, so that He can replace our truth with HIS truth.

In verses 4 through 10, the psalmist gets even more gritty:

“You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray! I think of the good old days, long since ended, when my nights were filled with joyful songs. I search my soul and ponder the difference now. Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be kind to me? Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he slammed the door on his compassion? And I said, ‘This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.’”

In this section the psalmist reveals his scariest doubts: Doubts about God Himself. He essentially accuses God of making his life a mess. He openly wonders whether God has “permanently failed” him.

Satan takes advantage of us when we’re in distress. He fills our minds with lies and our weak flesh tends to go along with it. And then there’s this thing called emotional baggage. Most of us have it to some extent. Prayer is one of our greatest assets in the search for healing. God’s Word is our basis for discovering the attributes of God. However, I’ve found that sometimes I can’t wholeheartedly accept certain attributes of God because of the emotional baggage I’m carrying.

For instance, the most prominent attribute of God is that of a loving Father. For those who don’t know, my biological father was a very broken man. He struggled with abusive anger, addiction, and eventually committed suicide. What I saw as a child was a dad who was not safe. A dad who could explode at any minute and start throwing things across the room. I was terrified of him most of the time. So while my friends in fifth grade could be filled with peace knowing that God is their Father, I felt detached from the whole concept.

And in my teen years when people would tell me that “it was all okay” and that the stuff my dad did shouldn’t affect me because “God is my Heavenly Father” seeds of doubt and distrust festered. What I heard did not line up with what I had seen.

I knew Jesus as my Savior, and I wanted to believe God was who He said He was, but there was a disconnect between what I wanted to believe and what I felt and acted on because I had unresolved questions and unhealed wounds.

Through many long, honest, raw conversations with God through which I both screamed and sobbed, yelled and whispered, I had to confront old wounds that were poisoning my perception of God.

I didn’t trust Fathers as a whole. They were compulsive and untrustworthy. They could love you one moment and hate you the next. Father’s weren’t to be trusted. So how could I ever trust God as my Father?

Throughout this process I had to wrestle with so many things, including the source of pain and suffering, and where God was in my painful past. There were times I had to admit to God that I saw Him as an abusive father… then times I saw Him as a passive father, and with each confession He brought me deeper into the knowledge of His love. Each time I brought my skewed perceptions to Him, He drew me into His loving arms and as I allowed Him access to my wounds He began to heal me.

Vs. 11-12: “But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.”

Here we have the next step in honest prayer. After coming to God in vulnerability and honesty; after pouring out the truth of his inner feelings and doubts; after expressing his skewed perspective of who God was due to the things he saw happening around him, the psalmist pauses to remember

He calls to mind all the glorious deeds God has done in times past. He remembers the times God has come through, and he clings to those moments as reasons to keep on believing.

Now I think it’s important to mention that not all prayers in the Bible end this way. Psalm 88 is a great example of that. In verse 18 it ends with “You have taken away my companions and loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend” (NLT). The writer of this psalm just wasn’t there yet. He was still buried beneath the weight of his misery and doubt. Yet this psalm was given to the choir director and lauded and sung among God’s people.

Sometimes we’re just not there yet and that’s okay. Sometimes we can’t bring ourselves to take the next step and God understands. This may mean there’s more emotional baggage to sift through. I’ve found that when I hit a wall in prayer, when I can’t bring myself to take the next step it’s because God is trying to take me deeper. Deeper into my emotional baggage so that I might be healed. Deeper into the roots of my desires so that He may comfort and satisfy me with Himself. Deeper into my fears so He can comfort me with His love. Deeper into the lies I’m believing so He can restore me with His truth.

But after God has brought us deeper to the heart of the issue He gives us a choice. At that point we must choose to either remain a victim in our minds, or to believe and trust that because of Christ we already have the victory and can overcome (1 Corinthians 15:57, John 16:33).

This is also an extremely important part of the process. We could just vent and leave it at that, but it wouldn’t be very beneficial. At some point, after we’ve poured out the truth of what’s going on in our hearts, we need to remember. We need to soothe our wounds by remembering the goodness of God. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to remind us. We need to think back to all the times God has come through; about bad situations He has used for good.

This part of prayer requires a determination of the will. We have to choose to reach for faith; to remind ourselves of who God is and what He’s done. Even if we still don’t quite understand what’s going on; we need to, for our own good, remember all the times God has revealed His goodness and love to us. It will give us the strength we need to keep going.

God is such an incredible and loving God. Earthly tyrants often require praise and adoration, and in doing so, suck the life out of those beneath them. God, however, uses our own worship to Him to benefit us. When we take time to praise and thank God for who He is and what He’s done, it not only brings Him glory, but it heals our hearts as well. It brings us peace, and joy, and a deep sense of love.

In my own life, I’ve found worship to be perhaps the number one way to deflect the attacks of the enemy and the weariness of my own flesh.

Vs. 13-20: “O God, your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as you? You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations. By your strong arm, you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. When the Red Sea saw you, O God, its waters looked and trembled! The sea quaked to its very depths. The clouds poured down rain; the thunder rumbled in the sky. Your arrows of lightning flashed. Your thunder roared from the whirlwind; the lightning lit up the world! The earth trembled and shook. Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters—a pathway no one knew was there! You led your people along that road like a flock of sheep, with Moses and Aaron as their shepherds.”

The man we see in verses 1 – 10 is not the same man we see in verses 11-20. And that, I believe, is due to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

This whole process of honesty with God; of digging deep and being real; of making our twisted perspectives vulnerable before Him—it’s all a part of the process God created. Our job is simply to seek, and there in the seeking He meets us.

To God it’s all about the relationship. The entire process of prayer and honesty and healing was put in place to cultivate our relationship with Him.

There’s one last passage I’d like to look at together about the prodigal son. Luke 15:20 says, “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him” (NLT).

The fact that the father saw him from a long way off tells us he was looking for him. In all the years his son had been running away and wrecking his life, his father never ceased to be his father. On the contrary, his father kept watch for him. Every day he looked with anticipation for his beloved son to come home.

And when his son did come home he didn’t react with bitterness or anger. Instead, he was filled compassion and love. He ran to his son (one can assume with tears of joy in his eyes) and he embraced the prodigal. And he wrapped his arms around him and kissed him with fatherly affection.

Jesus Himself is the narrator of this story. Through the parable of the prodigal son God is painting a picture for us of the kind of Father He is.

When you get alone to pray do you imagine yourself talking to that kind of father? And when you mess up and sin badly, and crawl your way back into His presence, do you imagine that kind of response? Or do you expect a stern stare and a cold shoulder?

I pray this post has encouraged you in some way. If you’ve grown distant in your relationship with God I pray it reminds you of your loving Father and encourages you to step back into His loving presence. And if you’ve never been in that place; if you’ve never experienced that kind of relationship with God I pray this post might comfort your heart and give you a foundation on which to stand. I pray it may give you the peace and courage to talk to your Heavenly Father in an honest, raw, intimate way. I pray He draws you ever closer to His heart.

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