Sam Hardman, March 7, 2019
Why Do I Struggle to Experience Intimacy with God?
How many of us hear others talk or write about their experiences of sweet communion with God and wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I have experiences like that?” Do you ever feel that way? A.W. Tozer once said, “True Christian joy is the heart's harmonious response to the Lord's song of love.” Is that your common experience? Unfortunately, for most Christians it’s not. In fact, it’s likely true that the vast majority would say they don’t have such a sense of intimacy with God. Why?
There may be many good ways to tackle that question, but listening to what David says in Psalm 131 is an important one. This psalm is one of the shortest in the entire Psalter – just three verses – but it overflows with insight on this question of intimacy with God.
The superscription says that it is a “song of ascents” – in other words, used for going up to Jerusalem, up to the Temple Mount, to meet with God. How does it begin? With the renunciation of all pride, all self-exaltation, all self-sufficiency and independence. It begins with humility: “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.” If we are to experience intimacy with God, David is showing us, we must cut off all pride, inwardly and outwardly.
And notice what comes next, v. 2 – “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” This is the language of self-discipline: “I have calmed and quieted my soul….” The imagery of this verse is that of a child that has been trained to see that it is not the center, that it does not need to be screaming about its needs, but rather can find contentment just climbing up and sitting in its mother’s lap. There the child can feel the mother’s heartbeat, know her warmth, hear her singing softly.
Why do we fail to achieve intimacy with God? Perhaps it’s because we are too preoccupied with ourselves. Too focused on having our “needs” and desires met. Too unhappy when they’re not. Perhaps it’s because we haven’t trained our souls to be still and to listen.
But that can change. And psalm 131 is a call to change: “O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore” (v. 3). Next time you come to meet with the Lord – in your quiet time or in public worship – prepare yourself the way David prepared himself. Persevere in doing so. And see if the Lord doesn’t grant you … Himself!