Just like maintaining a long-distance friendship requires effort, building a close friendship with God takes intentional time and attention.
Does God feel far away? Does your relationship with Him feel like a long-distance friendship?
The summer before I started eighth grade, my family moved. I said goodbye to all my friends, including my best friend, Lizzy. We promised to keep in touch, but I wasn’t sure how our friendship could stay the same when we lived hundreds of miles apart. Back then, FaceTime and Zoom didn’t exist. How could we remain friends without seeing each other?
Just as it’s difficult to keep in touch with friends who are far away, it can feel that way with God because we can’t see Him. For years I thought my relationship with God was long distance—until I discovered it didn’t have to be that way. Here’s how we can stay close to God, even when He feels far away, like Lizzy did.
After Lizzy and I stopped sharing the same school and hometown, the changes in our lives were adding to the sense of separation. I pored over every email from her, responding to each new adventure or challenge she described. To keep our friendship, I had to know everything I could about her new life. We both had to keep learning about one another so we could change with each other.
Unlike our human friends, God doesn’t change or have new life updates, but the depth of His character is endless. God gave us the Bible so we could learn who He is, hear how He speaks and acts, and trace His faithfulness across history. In the Gospels, we can read about how Jesus responded to people who were brokenhearted or suffering. He hasn’t changed, so He responds to us in those same ways when we are hurting (Hebrews 13:8). To have a friendship with God, we have to know Him—which we can do by learning more about Him in His Word.
We were in college when Lizzy first began dreaming about building a tiny house. After graduation, she started construction. She did all the design work and most of the plumbing and electrical. I saw Lizzy’s character in every corner of it.
In the same way, I see God’s character whenever I’m in nature—hiking in the mountains, running past a field, snorkeling in the ocean, stargazing on a wintery night. Everything I see makes me think about Jesus. I can’t help but talk to Him, ask how He made something and thank Him for its beauty. In Romans 1:20, Paul writes that since the creation of the world, God’s power and holiness have been displayed in everything He made.
In my second year of college, I wrestled with deep questions about God. For some time, I asked Him how I could know for sure that He was real. Eventually, He led me to study the testimonies of other believers. I read books about missionaries who sacrificed their lives to share the Gospel, watched documentaries about lives radically changed by encountering Jesus and listened to worship music written by artists with great personal tragedy, who still believed God was present and good.
Most of all, I needed close friends, like Lizzy, and people in my local church to share with me what Jesus was teaching them and how He was evident in their lives. The apostle Paul is abundantly clear: We are not meant to follow Jesus alone (Galatians 6:2).
Lizzy and I have now been friends for 16 years and have only lived in the same city for two of those. By visiting as often as possible, Lizzy and I have remained close. Most recently, she was a bridesmaid in my wedding. But even with all these years of friendship, there have been moments when she couldn’t be there with me.
While God is invisible, He is everywhere at once. Jesus is with me, even when I forget about Him and don’t acknowledge His presence. He knows me better than anyone else in my life, even better than I know myself.
I’ve learned that talking to Jesus is nothing like a phone call. There are no interruptions—no spotty cell service. There is no distance between us when I talk to Him; He is with me here as I write, and He is with you as you read these words. If you really want a friendship with Jesus, talk to Him. Get alone, turn off your phone and make time for Him without any distractions. He’s ready for you.
Believing, even when we can’t see
After Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to all His disciples except one, who we’ve come to nickname “Doubting Thomas.” Because Thomas didn’t see Jesus, he refused to believe Jesus was alive. About a week later, they were all together and Jesus visited again. Knowing Thomas’ doubt, Jesus graciously walked over to him and let Thomas touch His wounds. Needless to say, Thomas believed. Then Jesus said, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).
He was talking about us. We have never seen Jesus, but we believe He is alive. We can know Him by His Word, His power displayed in creation, the testimonies of other believers, and best of all, His constant presence with us.
© 2023 Claire Bechert. Used by permission. All rights reserved. This article first appeared in the April/May 2023 issue of Brio magazine as “Believing…”