Growing up as a pastor’s daughter, I always knew the right answers.
I’ve heard more sermons than I can count. I was the star Bible-verse memorizer of Good News Club. If you ask me about a certain Bible story, chances are I’ll be able to give you a ten-second summary.
But one truth I’ve learned is that knowing all the right answers in your head won’t solve all your problems.
I often hear people talking about head-knowledge vs. heart-knowledge. I guess where I’m at now is trying to find a way to make the transfer there. Sure, I know all this stuff about God and the Bible in my head. But when it comes to actually putting it all into practical action? It’s an ongoing struggle for me to make my actions reflect my beliefs when it comes down to the wire.
Something that I’ve really been wrestling with for a few years now is trying to turn all of the things that I know in my head to be true about God into living, breathing truths that have practical meaning in my life. And I think being able to do that has to stem from having a real relationship with Jesus Christ.
I know that I don’t have all the answers. I know you’ve probably heard all of this before. But sometimes we need to be reminded of things we already know. This is something that I am working on myself, and I invite you to join me in this process. You can know all of the “right answers,” but until the knowledge is real to you, it doesn’t mean much of anything.
So how do we go about actually putting this transfer into motion? Well, I can’t give you a definitive answer to that. But I can tell you what I’ve been doing (or what I know I should be doing but haven’t necessarily actually done — been there?).
REKINDLING THE ROMANCE
- COMMUNICATE HONESTLY. Cliché but true: The first step to fixing a problem is acknowledging that there is one to fix. Come to the Lord in prayer, and be honest. He knows your heart anyway, so what’s the point in trying to hide anything from him? Tell him that you know that your relationship isn’t where it should be. Get it all off your chest. Confess what needs to be confessed. If you know where things started to go wrong, acknowledge that. If you don’t, ask God to show you where that point was. Open yourself up for his correction. Swallow your pride. Be open and real. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be fun, but it will be worth it. Truthfully, until you do this, you simply can’t do anything in your relationship with God except be stagnant and unfulfilled.
- GET IN THE WORD… AND APPLY WHAT YOU LEARN FROM IT. I can’t stress that enough. Gaining intellectual knowledge is great. It’s something that should be encouraged. But the problem is that a lot of people (including myself!) have a tendency to stop there. Learn all you can about God. Read what the Bible has to say about who he is and all that he’s done. But don’t leave it at that! If there’s no application, the knowledge won’t help you when the going gets tough. One conscious step I would suggest taking with this is to dig into the word and find something that shows God’s character. Then go to him in prayer and ask him to show you personally the truth of what you’ve read. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that God “is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (KJV). If you come to him with a desire to know him and learn about his true character, he will not disappoint you. Expect that he’ll follow through and teach you who he is. He is faithful, and he won’t let you down. (Ooh, maybe try that one first! “God, please show me your faithfulness today. Help me not to miss it.”)
- PRAY. It sounds so simple. But when you think about it, how often do you really do it beyond spouting off grace before a meal or saying the same old bedtime prayer that you always do? (I know this is something that I personally struggle with, so I am speaking to myself with this one, too!) Remember that the Lord desires your companionship. I know you’ve heard that before. But think about it for a second. Really let it sink in! God — the Creator of the universe! — longs to know you! He wants to spend time with you! C.S. Lewis, as he so often did, put it eloquently: “[God] has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created. When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you have been the only man in the world.” You are his desire. He loves you! You have his full attention at all times. That is amazing! Don’t take it for granted. Speak to him throughout the day. He cares about every little thing. The more you pray, and the more time you spend in communion with him, the easier you’ll find it to transfer your head-knowledge into heart-knowledge. Just as you grow to know and trust a person by spending time with them, you grow to know and trust God by spending time with him. Don’t underestimate the importance of prayer.
- DON’T JUST TALK. LISTEN. This one is probably the hardest for me! In your times of prayer, take time to listen to God too. Prayer is meant to be a dialogue. You probably won’t hear audible words from the Lord (but if you do, PLEASE tell me about it! Haha). But God speaks in a lot of different ways. His methods are often unexpected. Think about Elijah in the cave — God tells him that he’s about to speak. There’s an earthquake, a mighty wind, and a fire, but God doesn’t speak through any of those things. He chooses to speak through the still, small voice. He whispers to Elijah. (You can read this story in 1 Kings 19 if you’re not familiar with it. It’s a good one!) Don’t miss what God has to say because he says it in a way you’re not expecting. The point is, take some time to “be still” before the Lord (Psalm 46:10) and expect to hear from him. His methods will probably surprise you, but regardless, if you are waiting expectantly, he won’t leave you hanging. Another important note, though: Don’t get frustrated if you don’t hear anything right away. God’s timing is way different than ours is. He answers every prayer, but he doesn’t always do it on our timeline. You might not hear from him during your specific “listening time,” but you WILL hear from him at some point. Don’t worry! Just be expecting it. Again, don’t miss it!
- GET INTO TRUE CHRIST-CENTERED COMMUNITY. Being around people who are like-minded in their pursuit of the Lord affects your personal walk probably much more deeply than you realize. I’ve heard it said that you are who you hang out with. From what I’ve seen, that’s really true. So find a group of people who are running full-force toward God! Spur each other on. Tell each other about the awesome things that God is doing in your lives. Pray for each other! Every time you see a prayer answered in a friend’s life, and every time you hear about something amazing that the Lord has done for someone, your faith is strengthened. Seeing God’s work in action makes it hard to stay stagnant. When you’re encouraged by other people, your relationship with God will improve, as well. Of course, you have to take the steps yourself, but seeing evidence of your head-knowledge in other people’s lives really helps you to transform it into heart-knowledge!
I hope these few steps can help you start to turn things around in your relationship with God. They are things that I’m trying to put into action myself. If you have anything to add, any thoughts, or whatever, please leave a comment!
Let’s go on this faith journey together. I’m in this for the long haul. Are you?