Something that I think I can say for just about everyone who grew up "religious" yet decided to embark upon their own spiritual journey at some point in their adult life, it's that you start to see your relationship with God in a way that is similar to human beings in the sense that—sometimes things are really great, other times things are super challenging, and then there are moments when all you've got is your commitment and faith to stand on. It's during those "category C" seasons when, no matter how much you love the Lord, you can still find yourself feeling somewhat…disconnected.
2020 tried us in every way, including when it came to the growth and even stability of our spiritual lives. And so, if you love God with all that you are and yet, something seems a little "off" right now, I want to share with you 10 practical things that can help you feel closer and more connected to Him again.
1. Meditate. In the Morning.
If you want to become more self-aware, meditate. If you want to be less stressed out, meditate. If you want to be more creative, learn how to live in the moment and be a more positive individual, meditate. If you want to learn how to become a more patient and tolerant individual, meditate. Y'all, it's wonder why King David once advised us to, "Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still." (Psalm 4:4—NKJV) Taking time out to get quiet, breathe deeply and reflect on your life, yourself and your spirit are all things that can help you to focus on the day ahead with great insight and clarity. That's why, I personally think it's a great idea to devote 10-20 minutes, each and every morning, to do a little meditating. When's the last time you put it on your "take care of me and my spirit" to-do list?
2. Do Some Prayer Journaling
Prayer has different approaches. One approach that I've enjoyed participating in over the years is a practice that I call prayer journaling. I have a few journals where I write what I think or feel in black or blue ink and then, after I complete my thoughts (or feelings), I sit and wait to see if anything comes into my spiritual psyche. Whether it's a Scripture or something that I believe my conscience is advising me to do, I will write that down in red ink. I make sure that all entries include the date and time and every week (or couple of weeks), I will look back on the entries to see what patterns have brought me inner peace or answers that I was looking for. I also check to see how similar or different the black/blue ink is vs. the red (more times than not, they aren't similar at all which is a good sign because that means that "my flesh" isn't trying to manipulate the Spirit).
For me, prayer journaling has been one of the best forms of spiritual communication that I have ever come across. And when you stop and think about the fact that journaling helps us organize our thoughts, plan and achieve goals, improve our moods, process traumatic events and reduce tension and also since prayer is a form of communication with the Most High—doesn't it make complete and total sense that prayer journaling would be a beneficial spiritual practice?
3. Take a Hike
One of my favorite books of all time is The Celestine Prophecy. It's way too layered to break down all of the reasons why here. However, the reason why I'm bringing it up for this particular piece is because there's a part of it that says spending time in nature can help to give you messages that you're looking for. Hmph. That actually makes a lot of sense when you reflect on the fact that our first biblical introduction to the world was the creation of a garden (the Garden of Eden—Genesis 1-2). Anyway, it's one thing to take a stroll around your neighborhood. It's another matter entirely different to go on a hike. When you're surrounded by nothing but the sun, trees and terrain, it can mentally calm you, physically strengthen you and spiritually revive you. And since I'm a firm believer that we're our own trinity—mind, body and spirit—and our trinity thrives when all parts of it are in sync, making the time to get off of the grid and connect with God's other creation (nature) can be a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with Him on levels you didn't even know that you needed, until you put on your sneakers and tried it.
4. Bless Someone. Anonymously.
The Good Book tells us that it's more blessed to give than it is to receive (Acts 20:35). A fun fact here is the Hebrew word for bless is "barak" (yes, similar to Barack Obama); it actually means to bless or to kneel. Yet in the context of Acts 20:35, the more appropriate Hebrew word would probably be "ashar" which means "happy" in Hebrew. Put all of this together and it means that we tend to be happier when we give to others rather than seek for ways to get things from them. I can certainly attest to that because there is something that is very…shoot, exciting about surprising someone with a gift or being a vessel who is able to help someone in need.
There are a lot of miserable people out here in the world. Many of them are selfish and greedy which isn't good because the Bible also says that love isn't selfish (I Corinthians 13:5) and greediness takes away the life of those who live that way (Proverbs 1:19). Not only that but the Good Book tends to be extremely practical too. I John 3:17(NKJV) says, "But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?" If lately, you haven't been feeling as close to God as you would like, try giving to another person. As the Scripture that I shared just said, it's a great way to abide in God's love and since abide means "remain" and "stay"—it makes perfect sense that giving (anonymously, so that you don't make it be about you—Matthew 6:1-2) would help us to feel closer to the Lord.
(By the way, the reason why the Hebrew wording for things is so relevant when it comes to Scripture is because the Bible was originally written in that language.)
5. Take Your Purpose Up a Notch
I was just telling someone not too long ago that it would probably trip a lot of people out if they knew that one definition of entertainment is to "distract". Lawd, a lot of us are straight-up distracted by entertainment (and entertainers) too. So much, in fact, that we spend (or is it waste?) more time, effort and energy on what they are doing/not doing, that we're not nurturing our own gifts, talents and purpose.
As more and more times goes by, "purpose" has really come to be one of my all-time favorite words. It's because it's literally "the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc."; not only that but it's "an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal".
All of us have a limited and designated amount of time on this planet—time to live out why God decided to make us, along with time to set goals and then reach them. Believe you me when I say that one of the best ways to feel closer to God than you ever have is when you put everything aside to make sure that you're living in your individual purpose. Shoot, not just that you are living it but that you are making the kinds of choices to illustrate that you are striving to thrive in your purpose as well. Because how can you not feel intimacy with the Creator when you're honoring him by doing just what you were put on this earth to do in the first place?
6. Go on a Detox
Remember how I said I believe that we're all our own trinity? Remember how I also said that if one part of us is out of wack, it tends to throw the other parts off kilter too? This is one of the reasons why I also think it's a good idea to detox your system, at least a couple of times a year. And just what are some of the signs that you need to detox your body? If you're always feeling tired or drained. If you can never seem to get over a cold. If you have frequent headaches or skin breakouts. If your moods are all over the place or your digestive system is irregular (or if you've been eating a lot of fast food).
Fasting is biblical. Matthew 17:14-21 tells us that some things only come that way. From a biblical standpoint, fasting from food is a way to yes, detox your body while also controlling your appetite for food as you focus more on your spiritual health and well-being. Yet even if you choose to not go such an extreme route, detoxing from sugar, meat, junk or doing some sort of cleanse can help to "reset" your body so that you can think with a clearer perspective.
While we're here, it can also be a good idea to "detox" from something that has nothing to do with your diet. It could be fasting from a relationship, a time waster or a bad habit. When it comes to the nature of God, one of my favorite Scripture is, "The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times." (Psalm 12:6—NKJV) Something that is pure is something that isn't contaminated, something that is very clear and—I really like this—something that is straightforward (God is not the author of confusion; His character and His words and quite straightforward—I Corinthians 14:33). And so, if something in your life seems muddied, super complicated or outright baffling, taking some time away to clear your mind can help to get your spirit back into a place where you feel "purified" again. You can hear more clearly what God wants you to do and not be confused about how to go about doing it.
7. Write Down Something That You Fear. Then Do It.
2020 came with a lot of words that were used in excess. One of them is "doom-scrolling". You know, sitting on social media all day and just looking for negativity to take in for hours on end. Not only can that train your mind to see things from a "life totally sucks" perspective but, if you're not careful, it can make you quite fear-filled as well. That's not good because the Bible also tells us that "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love." (I John 4:18—NKJV) Did you peep that first part? According to this Scripture, the opposite of love isn't hate (one definition of hate is to be unwilling); it is fear.
And how do we overcome fear? More times than not, it's by facing it. So, take out some time to really think about what you're afraid of. Is it to set some boundaries? Is it to end a toxic friendship? Is it to leave a dead-end job? Is it to try something new? I really do wish more sermons were spoken on the fact that if you want to grow in love, removing fear makes that happen. That said, do yourself a really big favor and attempt something that you fear, just as soon as you possibly can. The farther away you move from fear, the closer you will get to love—and only spiritual greatness and abundance can come from that, sis.
8. Read I Corinthians 13. Apply It to Yourself First.
People who know me know that it irks me to absolutely no end, whenever someone says something like "love hurts" or "love sucks". The Bible tells us that "God is Love" (I John 4:8&16) and I choose to not see Him and His intentions for me from a negative space or in a toxic fashion. That said, if you don't feel the most loved at the moment, it can never hurt to (re)visit the Love Chapter in the Bible. I'm going to share the Message Version of it today.
"Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, doesn't have a swelled head, doesn't force itself on others, isn't always 'me first,' doesn't fly off the handle, doesn't keep score of the sins of others, doesn't revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. Love never dies."—I Corinthians 13:4-8(Message)
Any time when I want to see if I'm growing in love—which is essentially growing in God—I look at this list. I kid you not, pretty much every time, I see a line that has me like, "whoa". For instance, right through here, I'm focusing on "love doesn't want what it doesn't have". This doesn't mean that love doesn't have desires (Psalm 37:4) so much as love learns to be in a state of contentment (I Timothy 6:6) in whatever season that it's in. It's similar to the part where it says that "love puts up with anything". That isn't a cosign to tolerate abuse so much as it means that you extend to others the kind of mercy, grace and compassion that you want to receive. If you want people to take a lot of your stuff…well, exactly.
It's hard to not feel closer to someone when you learn more about them. The more I study love and then try and live out what I learn about it, the closer I feel to God, automatically so. Funny how that works, huh?
9. Forgive. Also, Apologize.
I doubt that you will ever see me write on spiritual health and well-being and not reference the importance of forgiveness. From a biblical standpoint, we are clearly told that God doesn't forgive us unless we forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). Yet even beyond that, learning to release people and the painful feelings towards them that we may harbor can provide a level of healing that is truly incomparable.
Know what else is healthy? Freakin' apologizing. I don't mean deflecting. I don't mean justifying or excusing. I don't mean trying to find manipulative ways to place the blame on others. Spiritually and emotionally mature people know how to humble themselves enough to take full accountability and responsibility for their actions, address them and—this is also key—seek out a way to make things right.
Proverbs 22:4(NKJV) says, "By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life." It requires humility to know that others are worthy of forgiveness because we also need it (from God and other people). At the same token, it requires humility to apologize because ego maniacs and narcissists are the kind of folks who feel as if they are never wrong. And you know what? The more you humble yourself, the more God is pleased with you. The more pleased He is, the more He can trust you with things like riches and honor. I'm not making that up. That Bible says so.
Forgiving and apologizing aren't always easy. Humility never is. Yet when you think about all of the freedom and blessings that come from doing it—why not at least give both actions a shot?
10. Make God a Vow. Commit to Keeping It.
It's a trip, and not in a good way, how comfortable human beings are with making a promise or vow and then breaking it—not just to one another but to God too. If you read the New King James Version of Ecclesiastes 5, the title of it is "Fear God, Keep Your Vows". In other words, if you respect God, when you make a commitment to Him, keep it.
Just think what our spiritual lives would be like if God was as fickle and unreliable with His word as we are when it comes to interacting with Him—and with others. I'm telling you, when I was in my 20s, I was quite "meh" about honoring people's time, fully following through with what I said I would do or keeping my commitments. Yet one of the greatest compliments I've received in my 40s is folks telling me that they feel like I am reliable; that my word can be trusted.
Something that has come from that is, the more trustworthy I am, the more self-confidence that builds and the more I feel like I'm becoming like my Creator. And yes—that makes me feel more connected to Him because, when you're similar to someone in any way, closeness tends manifest.
Everything that I mentioned here today? None of these suggestions are necessarily easy. However, if you want to reconnect with God, they are all things that can help that to happen. Maybe not immediately, but definitely sooner than you think.
In the meantime, know that by merely wanting to get closer to God, you're already more intimate with Him than you are giving yourself credit for. Unfortunately, a lot of His children are out here, not even thinking about Him in this way. The longing alone has set you on the right path. Now all you need to do…is walk it. The speed doesn't matter. One step at a time, one day at a time is progress.
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