I can't even begin to tell you the number of times someone has explained to me:
I am a Christian (I believe in God/Jesus), but . . .
- God seems so far away, like He doesn't care
- God doesn't really answer my prayers; I'm not sure He listens
- I'm not super-religious (i.e. I don't go to church regularly or read my Bible)
Well, if He's the one being distant, shouldn't He be the One to change?!
I hear where you're coming from, so let me explain. We need to do some very basic background here before we proceed. It's important to remember that our view of things is often limited to our own experiences, knowledge & lifetime. God's view is eternal, so let's zoom-out for a moment to check the bigger picture.
1. God created men and women in His image to bring himself glory.
2. All people have sinned and separated themselves from God- because He is both holy & just, He cannot tolerate sin. His options are to 1) punish sin as it deserves or 2) offer forgiveness through the sacrifice Christ made on the cross.
3. Assuming you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and acknowledged His death, burial, resurrection and supreme Lordship:
You should have repented (turned from, changed) your former sinful ways (this doesn't mean you're perfect, but it does mean the trajectory of your life & your goals changed when you decided to follow Christ) & entered into the personal relationship with Jesus which allows you to accept His offer of forgiveness when you repent. This means you have direct access to the Lord through Jesus Christ & you will be blessed to spend eternity in His presence in Heaven after your life here on earth is over.
4. If you haven't accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, that needs to be your priority. Things of this life will pass away, but your soul (because you are created in God's image) is eternal. Where you spend that eternity is something worth considering and planning for now, because once you die, there's no longer time to change the trajectory of your soul- you will be judged according to God's standards for holiness and punished accordingly, whereas those people who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ will be judged according to Christ's righteousness because His death on the cross paid the penalty (took the punishment) for anyone who chooses to believe on & put their faith in Him.
So, the remainder of this article is written for people who have already placed their faith in Jesus Christ & accepted His free gifts of forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation (saved from punishment).
You may be thinking, "Why rehash all this stuff, I know this and I did that- I accepted Jesus, He's my Savior, He's just not really making a difference in my daily life at all. I did the right things, what went wrong? Why don't I have the kind of relationship with Jesus that I see other people can have, where they get answers to their prayers and have peace & joy in difficult circumstances?" I guess Christianity doesn't work for me. I'm not good enough at it.
Let's say there is someone you'd like to get to know better. A real person. Whether it is a coworker that seems fun, a teacher you respect, or any other person that is an acquaintance to you, whom you desire to have a friendship with. How do you do that? How could you do that?
You'd probably need to take the initiative to spend some time with the person, right? Ask them to catch coffee with you sometime, walk with them out to their vehicle as you leave work together, get their email address and start up a casual conversation about something you may have a common interest in. Something. You'd have to do something and you'd have to start somewhere. Same is true for Jesus Christ. He is a REAL person. He is alive. He isn't dead and He isn't far away. He is God, though, which makes things a bit different. Good thing He left an entire book for us to read so that we could learn more about His relationship with Creation.
The first step toward an intimate relationship with God may sound like a religious "to-do" list, but it's not, it's a plan to gain knowledge about the Lord. People who love music by a particular band may read every word in the CD insert. They may check out the band's website, facebook page, and/or personal blogs. They read more about someone they are interested in knowing better. Do the same for God. Read about Him to know Him better. Then you'll have more to talk about with Him. ;) Yep, read the Bible. Pick it up and read it. One book, ONE book, written by God, why would you NOT want to read it? Many people suggest beginning by reading one of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, or the book of Romans. Their theory is that these will get the gospel message to you clearly. If you already know the Gospel message, dig into the nitty-gritty- read somewhere else!
The Bible actually explains why we may feel God is distant & what we can do about it.
The next step isn't fun, but it's vital. Not every Christian knows this, but there is a reason that God may seem silent in our lives- He may actually be choosing to remain "silent' despite our attempts to reach Him. The reason for that is unrepentant sin. Sin= Distance from God. (Isaiah 59:2) Plenty of churches will tell you to just "stay strong" in your faith through those difficult times, and they can give you lots of fluffy feel-good verses about Jesus never abandoning nor forsaking us. And that's true, He won't. As believers, He is always with us, but He can't always WORK with us if we are refusing to remain faithful to Him by allowing a lifestyle of sin to mar the new heart He's created in us and distract us from listening for His still small voice.
If you've truly repented of your sins (meaning you've acknowledged they were wrong, confessed your sin to the Lord, asked His forgiveness and turned away from those sins- changed your lifestyle/choices so they reflect your decision to follow the Lord), He will cast your sins as far from you as the east is from the west. Having done that, if you are reading in God's Word, you are on the right track to intimacy with Christ. Relationships require time and energy, and there is no relationship more worthy of either than the relationship you have with your Savior, your Father in Heaven, your Creator, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.