Experiencing God is rarely how we think it will be.
We hope for a booming voice, maybe an eye-popping miracle, or even an instant solution to all our life problems. What actually happens is something quite different.
This all-wise, all-powerful Ruler of the Universe does indeed touch the lives of his followers, but in this day and age, he typically does it in a way that is very private and very personal.
The Example We Tend to Forget
When it comes to people experiencing God in the Bible, we think of Jesus' miracles, the parting of the Red Sea, or Daniel surviving the lions' den. We tend to forget a very odd occasion when the prophet Elijah was waiting for God:
"Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave." (1 Kings 19:11-13, NIV)
Elijah hid his face because he knew the Lord was in the gentle whisper. If we are wise, we also will listen for the gentle whispers in our lives, because that is when we are most likely to experience God.
Experiencing God in the Quiet
What fills your head? God will not break in on your cell phone conversations or whatever is playing on your iPod. If you constantly fill your head with noise, God will not compete with it.
The Bible tells us to approach God with reverential awe:
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10, NIV)
Fear, in this sense, is not fright but respect.
To hear from God, you must give him the respect he deserves. God is not a genie, a butler, or the customer service department. Treating him like those things insults him.
We don't need to take a vow of silence to hear from God. We do, however, owe him a quiet, receptive mind. If you are serious about experiencing God, give him opportunities to speak to you.
Taking a walk, meditating on Scripture, or coming to him in prayer are proven ways to invite God into your heart. Just as we would not expect an intimate conversation with someone we just met, we should not expect God to speak with us until we have established a meaningful relationship with him through his son, Jesus Christ.
So What is Experiencing God Like?
God sees you as an individual, unique in his creation; therefore, he will relate to you in a way best suited to you. If you are a believer in Christ, you are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who will help you discern a true word or experience from God.
We don't have to wonder whether a prompting or internal word is from God, Satan, or our imagination. The Lord's voice is unmistakable. He speaks with power and authority. The true test, however, is that words from God to individuals always, without exception, agree with the Bible. God never contradicts himself.
But there are other ways of experiencing God—through people and through circumstances. God uses people as his instruments, which is a common theme in the Bible. Throughout your life, God will move others to help you, encourage you, and draw you closer to him.
Millions of people imagine God is working in every good circumstance that happens to them. While it's true that God is concerned about the minor details of our lives, it's probably overreaching to believe getting the biggest ice cream cone is a sure sign of God's favor.
Still, events happen that have no logical explanation. We manage to avoid a traffic accident at the last second. We get a job we desperately needed against incredible odds. We get healed of an illness after our family and friends prayed for us.
On the other hand, often we don't get what we pray for. Only after years of maturity are we able to look back and see that our desire may have destroyed us. God was working in our life by denying our request but we were too narrow-minded to see it at the time.
How Long Does Experiencing God Take?
When you love God, you are eager for him to give himself to you.
Remember that Jesus Christ already did that on the cross. He proved his love for you two thousand years ago. Someone once remarked that if you were the only person on earth, Jesus still would have died to save you from your sins.
Experiencing God in an intimate, personal way takes patience. The more you read the Bible, pray, and surrender yourself to him, the more Jesus will move in your life. But we cannot force this to occur. God works in his own time and in his own way.
When it happens, and it will happen, you will know it. You will know, without a doubt, that it was not your imagination or some odd coincidence. You will be stunned at the depth of God’s love for you, and your life will never, ever be the same.
Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.