Relationship With God
Our relationship with God ought to be our highest pursuit throughout our lives; we began with God the author of our lives; likewise, we will end with being accountable to him for how we lived our lives. How does our relationship with God develop? Let us begin with defining the term, relationship. According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, a relationship is; “ a continuing attachment or association between persons.”  God in His infinite wisdom, created us from birth with the capacity to attach in our relationships; initially for our survival, subsequently for connectedness and sense of belonging. We each have a relational attachment style with God based on our past influencing our present relationship with Him; for the most part, outside our awareness.
Research shows an infant’s brain is hardwired from birth biologically to connect in relationships through implicit memories stored in the limbic system.  Implicit memories are those memories we do not consciously recall or have awareness of, but which store patterns of relational experiences; primarily those with our primary caretakers. These implicit memories form the bases for how all other relationships are understood, called internal working models; including our relationship with God. Our implicit memories strongly influence how we think, feel and relate to God, without any awareness of our implicit memories of our past, impacting our present relationship with God. If our implicit memories include nurturance when we experience need of comfort, trust is developed. The opposite is also true, if our need for comfort was not met, we developed mistrust. This is the basis of our understanding of whether another is capable of loving us. These early deposited implicit memories are also foundational to our core beliefs about ourselves. Is another capable of loving me? Am I worthy of being loved? Are two questions unconsciously influencing our relational attachment style with God and foundational to the development of our relationship with God. 
In a recent Gallop pole, researches found that those with a secure attachment style viewed God as loving, relational, connecting, protective, available, and benevolent; whereas those with an attachment style other than secure viewed God as; judgmental-31%, benevolent-25%, distant-23% and critical- 16%.  We can see our relational attachment style affects our views of God toward us and if we have an attachment style other than secure, then the lenses through which we view God is clouded and not clear. In order to get a clearer picture of God and begin relating to Him differently, based on truth and not error, then we need to put on another pair of lenses. The best place to start to get an accurate picture of our relationship with God can be found in the Bible.
The Bible is full of accounts of God being an intentional, relational being; choosing to reach out to relate to man in an interactive manner, even when man fails terribly on his part. All the while, the God of love is still in pursuit to connect with man and draw man back into relationship with Himself. In Genesis, we find God the Creator of man; He initiated having relationship with man. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. So God create man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them…Then God saw everything that He had made and indeed it was very good…” (Genesis 1:26,-28,31, NKJ). From these passages, we understand from God’s perspective, all men (the whole human race; male and female alike) have intrinsic value to Him, being made in His likeness and image. Being a relational God; He made man a relational being; He made us to have relationship with Himself and with others. We are also moral beings, given free—will to make choices. We have the capacity to reason and we have a personality. We use all these qualities in our relationship with God. God’s evaluation, after seeing that He made man a relational being, in His image; was to bless His creation and deemed man as being very good. While God set the stage for Himself to have an intimate relationship with man, something went terribly wrong; something interrupted this perfect union.
In Genesis chapter two, we see God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and told them they could eat from any tree of the garden except from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil…Being deceived by the Serpent, they chose to believe a lie instead of God, and disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. When God confronts them, they try to hide from Him and shirk their responsibility in sinning by pointing the blame toward someone else. As a result, God banishes them from the Garden and sends them out with an alternative assignment from the one given them in the Garden. This act of disobedience (sin) disrupted man’s perfect relationship with God which had major ramifications, not only for them but for the entire human race.
But because of God’s great love for mankind and being relational in nature; He had an ingenious back up plan, to redeem man back to Himself, through the redemptive work of His Son, Jesus. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” ( 1 John 4:10, NIV). “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ…” (2 Corinthians 5:18, NIV, emphasis added). But even our very own sin cannot keep God’s love from pursuing us. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8, NLT). God’s love is the stabilizing force which never changes and always the motivation behind God pursuing us; therefore, there is nothing we can do to cause God to stop loving or pursuing us. His love remains steadfast and true. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV). If there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God, then what interferes with us having an intimate relationship with this loving, relational, benevolent Being?
Factors Interfering With Our Relationship With God
We have established that disruption in our relationship with God does not come from His end but from ours. What are some of the factors interfering with us having an intimate relationship with God? We may not have been exposed to accurate teaching about God being our loving Father; we may have father wounds making it difficult for us to connect properly with God; we may be holding onto unforgiveness; we may harbor hurt, resentment, and bitterness toward God keeping us turned away from God; or we may have unrepentant personal sin in our hearts and resultant guilt, preventing us from moving toward Him in relationship.
God as our Father
We get an accurate picture of God being our loving father throughout the scriptures. While God is neither male nor female; He does refer to Himself as Father God and not Mother God; though He does have motherly attributes of tenderness as well. “I will comfort you there in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child” ( Isaiah 66:13, NLT). “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18, NIV).God is also referred to Father in the Trinity; “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirt; and these three are one” (1 John 5:7, NKJ). “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19, NIV). In the Gospels, Jesus refers to God as Father hundreds of times and in the New Testament, the Apostles refer to God as Father multiple of times. Jesus reveals His intimate relationship with Father God; who is warm, loving, and available, by referring to Him as Abba; Abbā is a transliteration of the Aramaic word into the Greek, used by children, but later by adults, referring to God as dear Father. “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You…” (Mark 14:36, NKJ). 
A father is one of the most important relationships in our lives; he plays a crucial role in our cognitive, social, and emotional development. To experience feeling loved, accepted and protected by our father is essential in order for us to have a healthy relationship with Father God and with others. According to researchers: “Lamb, Pleck, Chernoy, and Levine outlined three fundamental aspects of father involvement. These traits form the basis for a positive, nurturing father—child relationship: 1-Engagement: father’s direct contact and shared interactions with their children. 2-Availability: father’s presence or accessibility to the child. And 3-Responsibility: father’s arrangement for resources to be available to the child.  “Researchers Sarah Allen, PhD, and Kerry Daly, PhD, define an involved father as one who is sensitive, warm, close, friendly, supportive, intimate, nurturing, affectionate, encouraging, comforting, and accepting. They classify fathers as involved if their child has developed a strong attachment to them.” 
Our fathers did not have to parent us perfectly, only consistently, in order for us to reap the benefits of his presence in our lives. But many of us were not fortunate enough to have a consistent, healthy bonding relationship with our father. While our father may have provided for our basic physical needs, the lack of an intimate, emotionally connecting relationship with him, left us with a father wound in our hearts. A father wound occurs when we experienced our father being distant, uninvolved, unemotional, angry, critical, harsh, passive, abusive or absent. A father wound is not caused by an occasional neglectful act from our father, but a consistent manner of relating to us which causes deep wounding in our hearts. This wounding leaves us with a father-hunger in our hearts; we hunger for the reassurance, validation, and protection lacking in our lives. This father—hunger leaves us desperately searching to get this longing met. We will do almost anything to fill the deep void left in our soul from feeling rejected and abandoned. When we do not find it from our earthly father, we will seek to meet this legitimate need through illegitimate means. We may go looking for love in all the wrong places through becoming sexually promiscuous and/or develop an addiction to pornography; abuse of drugs and/or alcohol, over eat, gambling; driven, overachieving, workaholism; becoming performance oriented or any number of self-defeating behaviors. The father—hunger and father wound is no respecter of persons; it affects both men and women equally. The father’s role is to reinforce his daughter’s femininity and his son’s masculinity; without this affirmation the daughter is left feeling rejected and unsure of herself; likewise, the son is left feeling insecure in his manhood. 
Our father wound directly affects our ability or willingness to have relationship with God. While our father wound heavily influences our relationship with God, it is not fatalistic; we are not forever exempt from having a healthy relationship with our Father God; there is hope for change. What does this change entail? We first need to recognize the father wound in our heart. We need to grieve and let go of what was meant to be, accepting it will never be; our unmet emotional need for intimate connection with our father. We need to be willing to renounce the lies about God that we have believed and entertained in our minds based on our earthly father and choose instead to believe the truth about who God is and who God wants to be for us. We need to be willing to forgive our father for the way he disappointed and wounded us by his lack of emotional availability and lack of validation. We need to acknowledge and accept our heavenly Father’s unconditional love; recognizing, He alone has the capacity to heal our father wound and fulfill our father—hungry hearts.  “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close” (Psalm 27:10, NLT).
It can be helpful for us to go to a trusted male elder in the church or someone on the prayer ministry team and ask him to pray a father’s blessing over us. It can be a powerful healing encounter. It can also be very helpful to do these steps in the presence of another, supportive, trusted person in our life. This can be a spiritually mature friend, family member, pastor, or counselor. If we do not have anyone we know who can give us a father’s blessings, we can receive one by looking up the utube: A Father’s Blessing by John Paul Jackson.
Harboring unforgiveness can interfere with our relationship with God. Forgiveness is taught throughout the scriptures and is the central point of the Gospel. Jesus taught in the Gospels; “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15, NLT). “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22, NIV). As we can see from Jesus’ teaching, forgiveness is not something to be taken lightly.
It is important to distinguish between what forgiveness is and what forgiveness is not. Some of us have been unwilling to release and forgive someone due to a wrong understanding of forgiveness. “The word forgive means to wipe the slate clean, to pardon, to cancel a debt; it is giving up my right to hurt you, for hurting me.”  Forgiving someone is being willing to say; “The person owes me nothing.” It is releasing—letting go, with no bitterness attached. What forgiveness is not; forgetting what has happened and acting like everything is fine; makes the offense O.K; means I am done processing, no longer affected by the offense; not setting boundaries, making me vulnerable to getting hurt again; a one time deal, never having to forgive that person again; means the offender is off the hook and does not have to face the consequences of their wrong doing; means I have to reconcile with the person. 
Forgiveness begins with acknowledging an offense has occurred against us. If we dismiss or minimize the wrong done or are unwilling to admit we have been offended, then we will not be able to release the person; harboring our pain and unforgiveness toward them. The consequences for harboring unforgiveness are dire indeed; instead of resolution, we remain in a perpetual state of emotional suffering; we remain forever shackled to the offending person (sounds like Hell); God will not forgive our sins; our intimacy with God is hindered; we open ourselves up to the demonic realm and may be inflicted with physical problems. As we can see, harboring unforgiveness can be a greater offense toward ourselves than the original offense we encountered.
After we acknowledge that we have been offended, it will be helpful for us to have a godly, biblical understanding on what forgiveness looks like: Forgiveness names the sin; is a process of working through our emotions; does not minimize or justify the person’s sin; lets us off the hook from bitterness; puts justice into God’s hands; may involve confrontation but not always; we are free to set healthy boundaries to protect ourselves; does not mean we have to reconcile with the offender; we forgive even if the offense happened long ago or the person has already passed away; and does not require the offender to repent or apologize in order for us to forgive.  Forgiving is a process; it takes time. To have realistic expectations that it is a process and not done overnight, will help us work through forgiveness and not become discouraged that we are still having to work through it. The process of forgiving is also fluid; there is a back and forth, revisiting steps, in order to fully work through forgiving.
The best person to do forgiveness work with is God. I have a suggested prayer model of forgiveness; steps we can take when we go before God to forgive. We can adjust these steps as the Lord leads. The first step in forgiving is we bring the offending person before God and lay the person at the feet of Jesus. We can tell Jesus what the person did that offended us and we can express our grief, anger, disappointment, hurt, betrayal and any other feelings we experienced because of what the person did to us. We acknowledge that God alone has the authority to sit in judgment between us and the offending person and we relinquish them over to God. As we do this, we relinquish our right to hold them in judgment for how the person sinned against us. We tell Jesus that it is by our own free-will, we chose to forgive the offender. It may be helpful for us to envision seeing Jesus take into Himself the person’s sin, along with the resultant hurt we experienced. As we see Jesus doing this, we also see that He is not affected by this sin in any way. Taking the burden off of us and onto Himself; He absorbs it into Himself and is not moved. In this way, we are released from the burden we have been carrying. We can also use this time with the Lord to confess any way that we have sinned as a result of the person’s sin against us. We can also envision seeing Jesus taking our sin into Himself and removing it from us; as we do this, we are free from its burden. Jesus carries our burdens for us; we are lighter and freer as a result. We thank Jesus for His work on the Cross and for His forgiving us of our sin and the person’s sin against us. We can now ask Jesus to restore and heal anything that was taken as a result of the sin against us. And the final step in forgiving is for us to ask God to bless the person with His light, His love and His presence. Practicing these steps of forgiveness can help keep our relationship with God open and unhindered so that we can maintain our intimacy with Him.
Resentment and Bitterness Towards God
Other factors contributing to the disruption in our level of intimacy with God is being offended and blaming God; harboring hurt, resentment, and bitterness toward God. Harboring and entertaining any one of these issues can cause us to put up an emotional wall between us and God; keeping us feeling distant from Him. I would like to point out, the distance is self-made on our end and not on God’s end. Since we are the one who built the wall, then we have the power to tear it down. I purposely did not include unforgiveness toward God because forgiveness in the Bible is in the context of sin, and since God cannot sin and has never sinned against us, He has no need for us to forgive Him. What we need to deal with is our resentment, bitterness, disappointment and hurt we have harbored against God. When we feel negative emotions toward God, they are real and need to be dealt with. We need to go to God and tell Him what we are feeling and why. We can ask Him to help us process our emotions, seek His perspective and receive His loving, supportive care for us; helping us move through our emotions, and move towards growing in a deeper trust in Him. 
We may feel offended toward God for perceived injustices we have experienced; we may be upset with God for allowing bad things to happen to us, our children or someone else we love. We may be offended at God for allowing the evil and consequential suffering we experience personally and for the suffering in the world. When we do not understand why God allowed a tragedy to occur in our lives, we may be tempted to blame Him, as if it were His fault for letting it happened and for not intervening in some way to prevent it. If we are not careful, we can harbor feelings of resentment and bitterness toward God. But just as God cannot sin, neither does God do nothing wrong. What is wrong is our perception; our attitude. Resentment and bitterness are two sides of the same coin. Resentment is the attitude we have toward someone. Bitterness is the accompanying inner feeling. Resentment is a negative reaction to events that we see as unfair. Left unchecked, continued resentment can change our feelings into bitterness.  It is important for us to recognize that holding onto this mindset is neither helpful nor healthy; directly hindering us from pursuing relationship with God. The Bible warns about not giving ourselves over the resentment or bitterness. “Let all bitterness…be put away from you…” (Ephesians 4:31, NKJ); “Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many” (Hebrews 12:15, NLT).
Let us be careful not to allow our difficult and painful feelings we experienced, having gone through our tragedy, to get the best of us. What can be helpful is for us to acknowledge our painful feelings that accompanies having gone through tragedy. We can take our painful feelings to God, who is compassionate and understanding of what we we have been through. Instead of pointing the finger at God in blame stance, saying “Why God?” We can take that energy and channel it toward having a healthy reaction telling ourselves; “Now that I have been through this tragedy, let me move in a positive direction by seeking God for the help, encouragement, hope and healing that I am so desperately in need of right now.” Choosing to press in toward God for the healing we need instead of seeking Him for answers, can be the most helpful, healing and healthy decision we can make for ourselves; enabling us to move through our tragedy and toward God, instead of remaining stuck in our resentment and bitterness.
Most often, God does not reveal to us the why about a tragedy; why He allowed it to occur or why He did not intervene and prevent it from happening. What we do know, is that evil exists in the world because of the Devil, not because of God; evil is not from God but from the Devil. It will be wise for us to place the proper blame for all tragedy, where it belongs, on the Devil and not on God. It will also be helpful for us to accept that we may not receive all answers to the difficult questions this side of heaven. Just because we do not receive the understanding we are seeking, is by no means, a reason to pull away from the beauty of God’s loving nature. It will behoove us to humble ourselves before our loving Father, acknowledge our painful feelings and our lack of understanding, and choose to trust in His goodness and benevolence toward us and toward the world, in spite the difficulties we go through in life. As Job said; “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15, NKJ).
Pain and Suffering
Another area that can cause an interruption in our intimacy with God, is the difficulties in life. Life can be challenging at times; no one is exempt from experiencing difficulty, trial or suffering in this life. Jesus Himself said; “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NLT). When we go through difficulties and trials, if we are not careful, can be the cause of us pulling away from God. We become hurt, disappointed and plain lose our trust in His goodness toward us.
There are many ways in which we can and do suffer; physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and financially. No matter what type of suffering we find ourselves experiencing; suffering is not meaningless and without purpose. “There is empirical support for the view that people need adversity, setbacks, and perhaps even trauma to reach the highest levels of strength, fulfillment, and personal development.”  How many people can say, “I grew the closest to God when everything in my life was easy.” Or how often have we heard the opposite being true? “I grew stronger in my relationship because of the difficulty I went through.” We grow in our relationship with God when we experience difficulties which cause us to draw closer to Him; we begin to pray unlike before, searching for the comfort, support, strength and hope we need from Him. Through this, we learn to depend upon Him in a new way; our spiritual eyes are opened to a new side of God we had not known before; we are changed. “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10, NASB).
God has a purpose, even if we do not understand His reasons, for the suffering in our lives. After we have experienced going through trials with God’s help, we are prepared to encourage those who are suffering. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3-7, NIV). We are spiritually matured through suffering. “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5, NASB). God uses suffering in our lives to test us and purify us. “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10, NASB). Then in the next verse, God goes on to say that He uses our suffering to bring Him glory. “For My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give my glory to another” (Isaiah 48:11, NKJ).
Walking With God Through Suffering
What are some practical ways we can walk with God when we find ourselves suffering when we go through trials and difficulties? First is to acknowledge and recognize that God is with us and will never leave us when we are going through fiery trials. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you; When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you For I am the Lord your God…Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, and I have loved you;…fear not, for I am with you…” (Isaiah 43:2-5, NKJ). “Be strong and of good courage; do to be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, NKJ). “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with MY righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NKJ). God promises to be with us, no matter where we are, and no matter what we are going through. “”Be strong and courageous,…for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6, NASB).
The second practical thing we can do is we can place our confidence in God, choosing to trust in His sovereignty, benevolence and good will toward us. We may remember a popular saying; “Everything God allows in our lives is Father filtered.” This means because of His great love for us, He only has our best interest in mind when it comes to the trials He allows to come in our lives. We can trust in His process He takes us through, and to remember that no matter what hardship we experience, that He will use it for our good. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” Romans 8:28, NASB).
The third practical thing we can do is to cultivate a deeper prayer life with God. This means we talk with Him throughout our day, just as if He were standing next to us in person (of course He is doing this but in the spirit, so we do not tangibly see Him with our natural eyes; but we chose to see Him with our spirit man, using our spiritual eyes). Prayer does not have to be a structured time set apart, though there is benefit in doing this, especially before we begin our day each morning. Prayer can be as simple as conversing with God, sharing with Him what we are thinking, what we are feeling and what we appreciate in the moment; we can thank Him for who He is and acknowledge His presence with us. A good booklet to read on this subject is; “The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.
The fourth practical thing we can do is continue pursuing what God has placed in front of us to do. “So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for He will never fail you” (1 Peter 4:19, NLT). We can either suffer well and reap the benefits for which the suffering was meant; or we can resist it, prolonging our suffering and not reap the benefits for which is was purposed, With the former, for God’s glory and our growth; with the latter, we get to go around the mountain, again and again, as many times as it takes, until we finally get it and resolve to cooperate by surrendering to the purposes for which God intended.
Another area interfering with our intimacy with God is that of unrepentant, personal sin in our lives, causing us to feel guilty. The guilt we experience, as a result of our sin, causes us to feel unworthy to approach God for relationship. Or, instead of guilt, we may harbor feelings of rebellion and become resistant to relationship with God due to the hardness of our hearts. “Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him” (Ephesians 4:18, NLT). The answer to both of these situations is repentance.
With respect to feeling guilty, know that there is no sin we can do which the Blood of the Cross cannot forgive. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” Ephesians 1:7, NIV). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NASB). Once we confess our sins to God, He no longer sees the wrong we have done; because the Blood of Jesus cleanses us, God sees us white as snow. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18, NLT). Once we repent, the reason for our guilt is removed and we have no need to remain distant from God.
With respect to rebellion and hardness of heart, we need to realize that we are all sinners, and harboring an angry, rebellious attitude regarding our sin, does not let us off the hook. We will still be held accountable to God for our sin and need to repent. “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth….If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that His word has no place in our hearts” (1 John 1:8,10, NLT). “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23, NLT). We will benefit from living a lifestyle of repentance and forgiveness, as a means of restored fellowship with God; enabling us to receive the abundance He has for us being in relationship with Him.
Developing Intimacy With God
Developing intimacy with God means knowing and being known. We can feel close to people with miles between us; likewise, we can feel distant with people in the same room as us. So it is with God, our sense of nearness or distance with God is not spacial but relational. The Bible says; “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8, NASB). Intimacy with God is not intellectually knowing about God, but relationally experiencing God, by trusting Him through faith. 
Attachment With God
“Blaise Pascal, a famous French mathematician and philosopher, put it like this: ‘There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.’ If we try to stuff anything but God into that God-shaped hole in our lives, we’ll end up dissatisfied, restless, discontent. But fill that God-shaped hole with God and what do we find? In a word: contentment.”  God our Father, intentionally, placed this God-Shaped vacuum within our hearts when He created us; so that our hearts would long for, thirst for, and seek to have intimate fellowship with Him. A psalm of David when he was in the Desert of Judah. “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you…” (Psalm 63:1, NIV). And the Psalmist cries out to God; “…As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God’ (Psalm 42:1-2, NIV).
The new research literature, in the areas of neurobiology and psychology, indicates our Seeking System; our longing to know God and to find meaning in our life, is experienced as a restlessness need state (thirsting for God) that is rooted in our early childhood development, driving us to connect with an object-seeking relationship, such as with God. This Seeking System is propelled by dopamine neurotransmission in our brain; responsible for our passion, drive, focused attention, joy, exhilaration (in relationships); energy, reward seeking, adventure seeking and seeking higher meaning in our lives; especially our experience with God.  God hard-wired our brains, to connect with Him relationally. There is research being done, with intriguing results. Christians recited the 23rd Psalm; “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want…”, using brain functional imagery. The brains activity was found to be in the part of the brain responsible for social interacting and human connectivity; versus Buddhist Monks meditating using the same functional imagery, which showed the brain activating the area responsible for the orientation of the body/self in space/time. The relational connectivity parts of the brain were not activated during the Buddhist meditation. These findings suggest the attachment system (with God) relationally, is central in Christian Spirituality. 
Since we have a God shaped vacuum in our heart for God and our brains are hardwired for God; then it makes sense for us to seek God in order to connect intimately with Him relationally. It is especially helpful for us to seek God when we need comfort, encouragement, a sense of safety and security, or when we are stressed and overwhelmed. We can engage in similar behavior toward God, as a child does with an attachment figure. Just as a child needs to be securely attached with his or her primary caretaker in order to be emotionally and relationally healthy; we too need to be attached to God, not only to be emotionally and relational healthy but also in order to be spiritually healthy as well. Our sense of God’s accessibility and responsiveness to us, can determine our level of distress, anxiety or security. 
“In order for God to function as an attachment figure He must serve each function that characterizes an attachment relationship. Our ability to seek proximity to God, turn to Him as a safe haven, experience Him as a secure base so we are free to explore, and grieve over perceived loss or brokenness in our relationship with God can be the difference between cognitively believing in God, as many of us do, and emotionally connecting, trusting, and walking with Him every day.”  God serves as a proximity seeking figure when we turn to Him when distressed and need to be comforted by Him; knowing He can impart soothing, peace and contentment to our soul. God serves as a safe haven when trust He is available and willing to come along side us to protect and help us. The imagery of Jesus holding our hand and walking beside us, knowing His presence is with us, helps us to feel safe. God functions as a secure base when we feel secure in His love for us, enabling us to venture out to explore new endeavors, opportunities and relationships; but when things go wrong and we are either criticized, experience loss, or failure, then we seek God for the reconnection and reassurance so we can feel secure once more. 
In reference to the three attachments styles other than secure that were previously mentioned; we can see how our attachment style can interfere with us having a secure attachment relationship with God. If we have an anxious attachment style with God; then we will always be trying to please God, be performance oriented with Him, trying to measure up in order to gain His approval and acceptance of us. If we have an avoidant attachment style with God; then we will keep God emotionally at arms-length and when others talk about how close they feel to God, we will turn away in discomfort. We will acknowledge our salvation but our focus will be on our works for God, serving Him, but not on our intimacy with Him. If we have a fearful attachment style with God; then we fear His wrath and anger while at the same time, long to be loved by Him. This conflict causes us not to trust God, feel uncertain, and remain emotionally pulled away from God. 
What is the answer, for those of us who have an attachment style with God other than a secure one, to help facilitate us having a secure attachment with God? First, is reviewing what it means to be securely attached to God. When we are securely attached to God, we will be free from the fear of God abandoning us; we will be confident in His love for us. We will be free from performance orientation; we will be free from trying to measure up; we will feel like we are good enough. We will seek to be emotionally intimate with God and comfortable to talk about our closeness to Him with others. We will be free from the fear of God’s wrath and anger and instead, able to experience God’s love and acceptance of us. The result of feeling securely anchored in His love for us; we will be free to venture out and explore the world, opportunities, and relationships. And when things go wrong, we will run back to Him to receive the comfort and soothing we need in order to feel secure again and enable us to venture out and explore once again.
Once we understand what it is to have a secure relationship with God, the next step toward developing a secure attachment with Him is we need to be willing to engage in proximity seeking behavior, turn to Him as a safe haven, and experience Him as a secure base. Before we can do these, we need to be willing to renounce the lies we have believed about God in these areas and exchange them for the truth about God. Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32, NKJ). Every time we have a thought come into our mind based on a lie, we can acknowledge the lie and tell ourselves the truth. Repeating the truth to ourselves in our mind, then choosing to engage in a different behavior, based on the truth; will help us create new neuropathways in our brain, which can help create a new belief system, allowing us to respond differently than before.
Proximity Seeking Behavior, Safe Haven and Secure Base
What does engaging God in proximity seeking behavior, seeking Him as a safe haven, and having a secure base with God look like? One of the main ways we can engage God in proximity seeking behavior is through prayer. “Prayer in its essence is a living communion of man with God, bringing man in direct touch with God and into a personal relationship with Him.”  Deeply relating to God through contemplative and meditative style of praying can be effective methods of proximity seeking behavior. Also, going to church can be seen as an approaching behavior, drawing us closer to God. Seeking God as a safe haven can be accomplished by us when we come into times of distress, sickness, adverse situations, death of loved ones and when we feel overwhelmed; we seek God to receive soothing and comfort in such circumstances. This can be accomplished through prayer, meditation, worship, reading encouraging messages of hope, found in the Bible. Having a secure base in God is the antidote to fear and anxiety in our lives. This can be accomplished simply by being mindful that God is with us wherever we go; we are not alone; and He is here to help us when we need to call upon Him; knowing He will respond; even though, His response may look different from what we expect. We still trust He is available for us to go to Him when we feel the need to, which is psychologically comforting and anxiety reducing. 
Learning to have a secure attachment with God can be seen as an unfolding process of grace which takes time; not a one time deal. Having a realistic perspective on this process, which is unique for every individual, not a one size fits all process, can help us to be patient so that we do not become discouraged. We may also need to have another person come along side us to help us with this process if we feel stuck, and find ourselves not moving forward in our steps toward developing a secure attachment with our Loving Heavenly Father.
Hearing God’s Voice
In support of our secure attachment with God, it is essential for us to be able to hear God for ourselves and not look to another to hear God for us. According to Pastor, Mark Virkler; “What kind of relationship do you have if you can’t hear the person you have relationship with, you can’t see them and can’t feel them? What kind of a relationship is that?”  There are a multitude of ways God speaks to us; through the Bible, through others, circumstances, dreams/visions, dark speech-through words we see on bulletin boards or license plates for example; through the still small voice, God’s audible voice and by thoughts that come into our mind. Jesus said; ”My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27, NASB). Not many of us have experienced, nor will we ever experience, hearing the audible voice of God. But not experiencing God speaking to us in this manner does not preclude us from hearing from Him in the other ways He may choose to speak to us. We may have experienced times where we felt discouraged because when we asked God a question, there was only silence. If we are not careful, this can leave us believing several lies; either that God does not speak to me, or that He is not there for me. Feeling discouraged and perhaps rejected by God, we give up trying to hear from Him, which further increases the distance we feel with God.
It is important, for us not to place any demands on God, for how He should speak to us; otherwise, this could preclude us from hearing from Him. Managing our expectations of how we expect God to speak to us will help us to remain open to the many possible ways God may choose to speak to us. Before we can hear from God, we must first believe that God desires to speak to us; His children. “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3, NIV). Just as any good and loving Father speaks to his son or daughter, so too, our loving Father is intentional about communicating with us. Our relationship with God will suffer if we do not learn to have two-way dialogue; He communicates, we listen; we communicate, He listens. “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 29:12, NIV). “Call to me and I will answer you…” (Jeremiah 33:3, NIV).
One of our issues may be that God has been speaking to us, but because we are not accustomed to how He speaks, we miss out on what He is saying to us. “For God does speak–now one way, now another—though no one perceives it” (Job 33:14, NIV). If we find ourselves not being able to hear clearly from God, but are hungry and receptive, be encouraged, we can grow in our ability to hear from Him. We need to be willing to take time out of our daily lives to position ourselves to hear Him and this comes by quieting ourselves before Him. One of the ways He speaks to us is through His Word. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16, NLT). “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, NASB). If we want to hear God speak to us, it is essential for us to read God’s Word daily; study it, memorize it and meditate upon it throughout our day. Another way God speaks to us is through the still small voice. “…the Lord passed by, and great and strong wind tore into the mountains…but the Lord was not in the wind….(but in ) a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-12, NKJ). The NIV says, “a gentle whisper”. His still small voice can be thoughts that come into our mind.
Pastor Mark Virkler developed a four-step method for hearing the voice of God. The first step is to quiet ourselves down to hear God. Second, we need to focus on Jesus and watch to see what He will speak to us. Third, we need to wait quietly to see what words spontaneously come to our mind. And the fourth step is for us to write down the words that come into our minds; by journaling. One of the ways we learn to hear what God is saying when we ask Him a question is for us to write it down. Pastor Mark teaches to hear God through the process of journaling. We simply ask God a question, then wait quietly to see what words spontaneously come to our minds; as we do, we write or type them down. We need to always check what we get with scripture. Most of what we receive will fall into the category of encouragement, exhortation and comfort. 
Some may ask, “How do I recognize whether the thoughts that comes into my mind are from myself, God or the devil? I do not want to fall into deception.” That is a good question to ask. One of the keys to determining what God’s voice sounds like is found in His nature. Knowing His nature, how He really is, is central to knowing how He wants to speak to us. God never changes, so what He speaks to us will be in accordance with His nature; He cannot speak to us something that is outside of His nature. Because He never changes, we always know where we stand with Him. His approach toward us remains the same and is not dependent on our approach with Him. Everything God speaks to us is about His goodness, kindness, gentleness, compassion, generosity, patience, joy, and unconditional love toward us. The words therefore that we hear will cause us to feel accepted, loved, good, cherished, encouraged, hopeful, forgiven, stronger, edified, and secure; that is the voice of God. Even when God corrects us, He does not do it in a condemning way where we are left feeling guilty or shameful; no, His correction will leave us feeling good about ourselves and encouraged to make a better decision next time. Any voice that is accusatory, condemning, critical, punitive, hateful, angry, bitter, resentful, belittling, judgmental, discouraged, punishing, shamming, guilt ridden, ugly, demoralizing, rejecting; causing us to feel weak, a failure, insecure, threatened, or feel bad about ourselves, is not the voice of God. These negative words are from the enemy. 
It is important that when we listen to God, we hear from our hearts and not from our heads. While there may be times when God wants to teach us something requiring our intellect; more often than not, since He is a relational God, He is more interested in connecting with us emotionally, which is on a heart level; His very heartbeat connecting with ours.
Power of Hope
If we find ourselves struggling in the areas affecting either our emotional, mental, physical or spiritual health; it is easy for us to fall into negative thinking patterns causing us to become discouraged, confused, and lose our faith; doubting that God is with us. It is essential for us to not lose sight of the God of all hope. We may say to ourselves that we know what hope is but are we living according to the power of hope? Let us take a look at what the Bible says about hope. The Greek word for hope is ellipse (el-peece); a strong confident expectation, it is not an optimistic outlook or wishful thinking without any foundation. Our hope is an extension of our faith based on the God of all hope. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13, NIV). God has the power to give us hope; He alone is the source of our hope. Hope refers to the activity of hoping; or to the object hoped for. Both refers to something we cannot see or have not received yet. “…but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Romans 8:24-25, NASB). Hope is not a one time, slam dunk deal. It is an ongoing process where we walk by faith in God, waiting for the realization of what we are hoping for. Hope is not bound by space or time. The power of hope is dynamic and active, not passive; it is life sustaining and encouraging. Having hope lifts our spirit. Hope is not denying reality or our struggle. 
Having hope, we can endure any situation; knowing we are not alone, God is with us, helping us to overcome our struggle. When we hope, we gain a new perspective on our struggle; we are strengthened and have courage. “So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the LORD!” (Psalm 31:24, NLT). No matter what area we we find ourselves struggling in, whether it be emotional, mental, relational, physical or spiritual; holding onto the power of hope in God will sustain us. He will give us the necessary fortitude to persevere in our current circumstances as we seek Him for guidance for what our next step should be. As we patiently wait in hope, we remain in a better, more vibrant place with God, ourselves and others. When we positions ourselves in faith, with hopeful expectation in God helping us, it releases God to move on our behalf.
1. Webster’s New World College Dictionary Retrieved from websters.yourdictionary.com/.
2. Clinton, T. & Straub, J (2010) God Attachment: Why You Believe, Act and Feel the Way You Do About God New York, NY: Howard Books, pgs. 54-56.
3. Ibid, pgs. 53-60.
4. Article; “Your Views of God Say a Lot About You, Study Shows,” (2006, October 2) Jet Retrieved from http:..findarticles.com/p/articles//mi_1355/is_13_110/ai_n168072777/.
5. Wilson, R. Ph.D. Names and Titles of God: Abba Father, Jesus Walk Bible Studies Retrieved from www.jesuswalk.com/names-god/9_father.htm.
6. Bell, D. Article; “The Importance of Dads” Boba Retrieved from www.boba.com/the-importance-of-dads.
8. Article; “Father Hunger, Father Wound” (2015, June 21) A Voice in the Desert Retrieved from https://pastorrick23.wordpress.com/2015/06/21/father-hunger-father-wound/.
9. Article; “4 Steps To Healing the Father Wound (2015, March 6) Reflections of Grace Blog Retrieved from https://reflectionsofgracehome.wordpress.com/…/4-steps-to-healing-the-father-wound/.
10. Article; “Definition for Forgiveness-All About God, Retrieved from www.allaboutgod.com/definition-for-forgiveness-faq.htm.
11. Morrill, C. (2000) SOULutions: Relational Healing for the Next Generation, Anaheim CA. Desert Stream Press.
13. Muhonen, K. The Feast.
14. Article; “What Does the Bible Say About Resentment and Bitterness?” Compelling Truth, Retrieved from https://www.compellingtruth.org/Bible-bitterness-resentment.htm.
15. Keller, T. (2013) Walking With God Through Pain And Suffering New York, NY Penguin Group, p. 164.
16. Article; “How to Have Intimacy with God” (2016, January 29) Desiring God Retrieved from www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-to-have-intimacy-with-god.
17. Article; “The Secret That Will Change Your Life” Ignite Your Faith Retrieved from www.christianitytoday.com › Home › Hot Topics › Faith & Values
18. Clinton, T. & Straub, J (2010 ) God Attachment: Why You Believe, Act and Feel the Way You Do About God New York, NY: Howard Books, p. 85.
19. ‘Love the Lord with all your mind’: explorations on a possible neurobiology of the experience of God and some implications for the practice of psychotherapy.. (2014) The Free Library. Retrieved from https://www.thefreelibrary.com/%27Love+the+Lord+with+all+your+mind%27%3a+explorations+on+a+possible…-a0342321834.
20. Clinton, T. & Straub, J (2010) God Attachment, p. 89.
22. Ibid. p. 92.
23. Ibid, pgs. 98-99.
24. Heiler, F. (1932) Prayer. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 362.
25. Kirkpatrick, L. Ph.D. (2005) Attachment, Evolution, and the Psychology of Religion. New York, NY The Guilford Press, p. 66.
26. Virkler, M. (2010) Mark Virkler: Our Message in 8 Minutes! Utube Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8czdKN4U0hc.
27. Virkler, M. 92012, July 18) 4 Keys to Hearing God’s Voice, Part I Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqvi8-86Rak.
28. Cooke, G, 92014, August 15) How To Recognize God’s Voice Speaking To You. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnNpcNTPmG.