The Depths of God: Developing Intimacy
Deep things are intriguing. Deep jungles. Deep water. Deep caves and canyons. Deep thoughts and conversations.
There is nothing like depth to make us dissatisfied with superficial, shallow things. Once we’ve delved below the surface and tasted of the marvels and mysteries of the deep, we realize the value of plumbing those depths.
This is especially true in the spiritual realm. The God who holds the world in His hands invites us to go deeper rather than find contentment in surface matters. We read in the Scriptures that the Spirit of God "searches all things, even the deep things of God" (1 Cor. 2:10). In Romans 11:33 Paul said that the depth of His wisdom and ways is "unsearchable" and “beyond tracing out.”
Toward the end of his struggle, Job referred to the Lord’s deep, mysterious, and inexplicable purposes as “things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3). The prophet Daniel stated that God "reveals deep and hidden things" and that He “knows what lies in the darkness” (Dan. 2:22). We read elsewhere, “He reveals the deep things of darkness” (Job 12:22). And the psalmist testified that "God’s justice [is] like the great deep” (Ps. 36:6).
As important and intriguing as divine depths might be, they defy discovery by the natural means of our minds. He reserves these things for those whose hearts are completely His, for those who take the time to wait before Him. Only in that way can we have intimacy with the Almighty.
Tragically, precious little in this hurried and hassled age promotes such intimacy. We have become a body of people who look more like a herd of cattle in a stampede than a flock of God beside green pastures and still waters.
More than likely, you’ve grown weary of superficial things. You’re tired of skating talk and shallow thinking. I commend you. No one is ready to take on the depths unless he or she is fed up with the superficial. And to grow deeper we must develop the discipline of silence in our complicated world of restlessness, noise, words, and relentless activity. I have found this to be an almost insurmountable challenge. Yet I am more convinced than ever that there is no way you and I can move toward a deeper relationship with God without protracted times of stillness which includes one of the rarest of all experiences: absolute silence.
In his book The Way of the Heart Henri Nouwen does a splendid job of analyzing the downside of what he calls “our wordy world”:
"There was a time not too long ago without radios and televisions, stop signs, yield signs, merge signs, bumper stickers, and the ever-present announcements indicating price increases or special sales. There was a time without the advertisements which now cover whole cities with words. Recently I was driving through Los Angeles, and suddenly I had the strange sensation of driving through a huge dictionary. Wherever I looked there were words trying to take my eyes from the road. They said, ‘Use me, take me, buy me, drink me, smell me, touch me, kiss me, sleep with me.’ In such a world who can maintain respect for words?"
My response? Been there—done that! For almost twenty-five years my family and I lived in the Los Angeles area. On the one hand they were years of freedom, growth, and blessing. But on the other hand I found myself becoming weary of the noise, the pace, the never-ending rush of traffic. While we enjoyed the people, the opportunities for ministry, and the weather, there were times we ached for relief.
At times we would escape to the mountains. Sitting up there, often leaning against a giant Ponderosa pine or age-old oak, we would invariably comment on the therapy of stillness. Such extended visits with silence invariably made us more sensitive to spiritual things, more appreciative of God’s presence and grace. In a word, they made us deeper.
So much for me. What about you? Do you find yourself victimized by the noisy, busy, overcrowded world in which you must spend many hours of your life? Is it leaving you spiritually insensitive, sort of a business-as-usual attitude toward the church you attend or the Bible study you used to enjoy? How about prayer? Noise and crowds have a way of siphoning our energy and distracting our attention, making prayer an added chore rather than a comforting relief. You may even feel a low-grade depression sweep over you as the absence of stillness and silence takes its toll.
Dolores Curran in her book Traits of a Healthy Family writes about this fast-paced lifestyle.
“In an incisive article call ‘Fast Folk,’ which appeared in . . . Harper’s, Louis T. Grant dissects an article published earlier in Woman’s Day, in which the lifestyle of one working mother is praised and presented as a model of sorts. Listen to this woman’s life. She rushes from home to work in the morning, eating yogurt in the car for breakfast; has lunch at the spa where she works out; leaves child care to her husband, who also has a managerial position forty miles the other side of home; pilots a small plane in her leisure time for pleasure; teaches on the side a class at a local women’s college; leaves the kids with Grandma, leaves the kids with sitters, leaves the kids.... Grant likens this lifestyle, which he calls ‘fast folk,’ to keeping up with the gerbils. In his immensely perceptive piece, he illustrates the shallowness of relationships in a “fast folk” family. There’s no time in such a family for one another, for intimacy, for communication, for listening. That’s for slowpokes. And, the author points out, ‘children are slowpokes.’”
Make no mistake here. If that comes anywhere near your lifestyle these days, it’s your move! If the pace and the push, the noise and the crowds are getting to you, its time to stop the nonsense and find a place of solace to refresh your spirit. Deliberately say “no” more often. This will leave room for you to slow down, get alone, pour out your overburdened heart, and admit your desperate need for inner refreshment. The good news is He will hear and He will help. The bad news is this: If you wait for someone else to bring about a change, your spiritual fervor will wane and you will be vulnerable to an adversarial assault, which will surely come. Strengthening yourself before the Lord is your only hope.
Consider a vivid scene from the life of David before he became king. He and his men had engaged in a nonstop series of events in Philistine territory. On top of all that was the ever-increasing assault of Saul, whose jealousy of David had resulted in more than a dozen years of cat-and-mouse pursuit. Just imagine the pressure.
Following a three-day trip home to their families in Ziklag, David and his fellow warriors came on a horrible sight. Before the soldiers returned, the Amalekites had raided their village, burned it to the ground, and kidnapped all their wives and children. Read the tragic account and picture the sad scene in your mind:
“David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it; and had taken captive the women and all who were in it, both young and old. They killed none of them, but carried them off as they went on their way. When David and his men came to Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep” (1 Sam. 30:1–4).
As if that were not enough, in the hysteria and depression of their chaos “the men were talking of stoning [David]; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters” (v. 6).
No one came to David’s defense or rescue. Few have ever felt more alone, but no one ever rose to the occasion more responsibly or more maturely. We read his secret in a few words: “But David found strength in the LORD his God” (v. 6).
Don’t miss the point. David faced the situation with realism; but he refused to panic, to fight back, to run, or to dissolve in self-pity. Realizing his dire need for time alone with God, he moved away from his embittered companions, away from that chaotic scene, and sought a place of quietness and stillness to strengthen his soul.
Clearly our Lord operates in realms far beyond our ability to comprehend, but He longs for us to explore what is beyond the obvious. Some of His best truths, like priceless treasures, are hidden in depths most folks never take the time to search out. Our loss! Patiently He waits to reveal insights and dimensions of truth to those who care enough to probe, to examine, to ponder. It takes time alone with Him and His Word before we can expect our spiritual strength to recover. It takes time to grow deep.