Have you ever been chosen for something?

A sports team, a role in a play, a leadership position, or a dating relationship? 

Being chosen makes us feel pretty special. It fills our hearts with joy and confidence, if even for just a moment, as we realize we matter. 

This is something God wants us to feel all the time:

God chose us to be in a relationship with Him even before He laid out plans for this world; He wanted us to live holy lives characterized by love, free from sin, and blameless before Him.

Ephesians 1:4 Voice

God chose us to be in a relationship with him, which means we matter a lot to him. He really enjoys hearing our real thoughts, feelings, and desires.

He likes being intimately involved in the ups and downs of our lives, giving us strength, carrying our burdens, and leading us to a glorious destiny. He also likes sharing his heart with us, and he feels loved when we trust him enough to listen to what he has to say. 

Relationship with God

The opportunity to walk closely like this with an all-powerful, loving God is incredible… but sometimes I have a hard time actually doing it. Building a close relationship with God requires heart work: slowing down, admitting my real thoughts and feelings, and trusting God instead of myself.

These things can feel vulnerable and scary, and I often find myself going through the motions instead of genuinely trying to be close to God. I do this by making a list of religious tasks I can feel good about completing—like regular Bible reading, church attendance, and even serving other people. 

Building a close relationship with God requires heart work.

These things aren’t inherently bad, of course, but they deceive me. Looking only at my schedule and my outward Christian behavior, I can convince myself and others around me that I have a solid relationship with God, but I lack the power, love, and strength that come from a genuine connection with him.

They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!

2 Timothy 3:5 NLT

Appearances can be deceiving. As the Bible tells us, it’s possible to act religious but reject the power that makes us godly. That’s why it’s important to reflect honestly on how our relationship with God is really going, whether we are new to building one or have been at it for decades.

So how do we build a close relationship with God, one where our hearts are close to him and our worship is genuine (Matthew 15:8-9)? And once we build it, how do we keep that relationship close and avoid drifting into empty habits and tasks?

In this devotional, we’ll look at a few of the many passages in the Bible that teach us what it really means to have a close relationship with God. We’ll also learn how he will change us from the inside out as we stay in a close relationship with him—bringing joy, power, and an incredible purpose into our lives.

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Value the relationship, not the ritual

After Methuselah was born, Enoch lived in a close relationship with God for 300 more years; he also had other sons and daughters.

Genesis 5:22 (Voice)

Enoch lived in a close relationship with God. That means his relationship with God wasn’t confined to a slot in his schedule; God was intimately involved in every aspect of his life. 

Sometimes, instead of “living in a close relationship with God” like Enoch, we replace our relationship with God with a religious routine. These are some examples of religious routines I’ve created in my life:


The “Morning checklist” relationship with God

  • We regularly set aside time for a morning devotional, but we do whatever we want the rest of the day.
  • We don’t remember the verses of the Bible we read.
  • We might feel calm, happy, and faithful while we are reading the Bible, but our emotions and temptations overpower us as we go about our day.
  • We measure how our relationship with God is going by how many days out of the week we complete this routine, or how many chapters of the Bible we read each day, not by our love, faith or intimacy with God.

The “Espresso shot” relationship with God

  • Our relationship with God is like a quick jolt of caffeine when we need it, but we rarely slow down long enough to give him our hearts.
  • We make excuses like, “I pray all day long,” or “God knows my heart,” or “I want to spend time with God but I’m just too busy,” to justify not spending time with him.
  • We read the Bible and pray when it is convenient for us or when we feel like we need it, but ignore God when there is something else that seems more pressing or more pleasurable to us. 

The “What’s yours is mine” relationship with God

  • We base our relationship with God on other people’s faith. Whether it’s through church sermons or conversations with friends, our faith is fully dependent on the faith of others.
  • If our friends or family have a lot of faith, we do too! But if they are distant from God, so are we.
  • We tend to do really well in our faith at the beginning of the week after a Sunday lesson, but our faith dwindles by Monday or Tuesday.
  • We get easily bitter. We expect other people to have all the answers, always be available, and help us solve our problems. When they inevitably falter or don’t meet our standards because they’re human, we get angry and upset, because our faith was dependent on them.

Enoch, on the other hand, kept his relationship with God (not a religious routine) a top priority for 300 years. For the relationship to be considered “close,” he would have had to take time to share his true thoughts, feelings, and desires with God, and to listen to and respect God’s voice as well. 

I can’t say that I have valued relationships very much over the course of my life. I generally value achieving and accomplishing things much more than I enjoy just being close to people. I think that achieving things will make me feel secure and worthy of love. Of course, this is not true, but it has seeped into my relationship with God, where I value performing well, filling my schedule with activities, and trying to behave as a perfect Christian more than just connecting with God. 

God enjoys relationships, though, not a perfect performance. Take a look at what happened to Enoch later on:

… but Enoch had such a close and intimate relationship with God that one day he just vanished-God took him.

Genesis 5:24 (Voice) 

Enoch was a regular person, just like you and me, but he chose to build such a close and intimate relationship with God that God decided to take him directly to heaven without experiencing death (see Hebrews 11:5). Enoch was special to God because of his faith and their close relationship, not because of anything he did or didn’t do.

Achievements and accomplishments are fickle; we will go through times of success in life and times of failure. It helps me to know that whether I feel like a success or a failure, what pleases God most is our close relationship.

In the next section, we’ll talk about how we can learn to truly value our relationship with God as Enoch did.

Pause and reflect

  • Are relationships what makes life fulfilling to you? If not, what does fulfill you?
  • What are some ways you can turn your relationship with God into a ritual or routine?

Maintain your heart for God each day

Like any relationship, a friendship with God has to be nurtured and maintained. It’s very easy to drift from God (see Hebrews 2:1); keeping our hearts close to him takes spiritual effort each day. 

Before we get overwhelmed at the thought of adding more work to our lives, understand this: maintaining our heart for God isn’t about adding a bunch of burdensome stuff to our to-do list. It’s about opening our hearts and searching for God’s presence in our lives. Spiritual effort leaves us refreshed, not more tired (see Matthew 11:28-30). 

To you, my son Solomon, maintain a relationship with the God of your father and serve Him with a complete heart in all your thoughts and actions. The Eternal searches all hearts for their desires and understands the intentions of every thought. If you search for Him as He searches you, then He will let you find Him. But if you abandon Him, then He will reject you forever.

1 Chronicles 28:9 Voice

This powerful verse in 1 Chronicles 28 gives us a few things that go hand-in-hand with maintaining our relationship with God:

Serve God with a complete heart 

To have a close relationship with God, we need to not only serve him with our actions, but also with all our thoughts and with a complete heart. 

When I think of serving God with a complete heart, I think of giving my all to God and not holding anything back. This can come out in many different ways at different times:

  • Deciding not to shrink away in fear or selfishness from things God puts on my heart to do (Hebrews 10:38).
  • Being honest with God, myself, and others when I am motivated by people’s approval more than God’s approval (Galatians 1:10).
  • Being willing to step out in faith when God entrusts me with a responsibility (Matthew 25:14-30).
  • Believing that my talents and gifts are given to me by God for a good purpose, and using them for that purpose (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).
  • Prioritizing closeness with God and building his kingdom, while trusting him to take care of my needs (Matthew 6:33). 

Reflecting on what it looks like personally to serve God with a complete heart is a great way to deepen our relationship with him. 

Be honest about your desires and intentions

When it comes to building a close relationship with God (or with anyone, really) our motives matter; if we do all the right things for the wrong reasons, our relationship with God won’t be close. Or, if we blame our circumstances for why we can’t connect with God but don’t admit that we truly desire something else, God sees that too. 

Being honest about our real desires and intentions—even if they don’t sound “good” or “spiritual”—will help us get closer to God. And God can even give us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), one that is tender and responsive to him.  

Acknowledge God in your life 

One thing that helps our relationship with God is looking for ways he is moving in our lives. Instead of looking for things that are going wrong or anticipating things that could go wrong, we can look for ways God is moving for our good and the good of those around us. We can also reflect on and acknowledge the ways he has taken care of us in the past (Psalm 22:10 TPT).

God took care of each of us before we were even old enough to realize it. Taking time to look for and acknowledge the ways God has searched for us (perhaps before we even knew it) will endear our hearts to him. 

When we search for God in our lives, the Bible promises that we will find him. 

Pause and reflect

  • Which of these three aspects of maintaining a close relationship with God do you do the most? Which do you do the least? 
  • What’s something practical you could do this week to put this verse into practice? 

Learn from Jesus and his relationship with God

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

John 1:18 (NIV)

No one can see God, and that’s one of the things that makes walking with him challenging for us as humans. But God provided a solution: Jesus. We can see Jesus clearly through the Scriptures, and that’s how we can see God. 

Jesus makes God known to us. He is himself God, so he shows us who God is by the way he treats people, the things he values, and the truths he teaches. He also knows what it’s like to live in a human body, with all its temptations and weaknesses, and still have a close relationship with the Father. 

That means we have to read about Jesus regularly to both learn about God and follow his example of walking closely with God. Jesus’ relationship with God was vulnerable, honest, and trusting (Hebrews 5:7-8); it was his top priority (Mark 1:35-39), and it was the place he turned in his times of deep anguish and sorrow (Matthew 26:36-46). 

Pause and reflect

Let God’s Word teach you how to live your life 

Teach me to live according to your truth, for you are my God, who saves me. I always trust in you.

Psalm 25:5 (GNT)

One of the amazing things about having a close relationship with God is that he can teach us to “live according to his truth,” which means his Word is not just something inspiring to meditate on, but a powerful agent of change in our lives.  

Zacchaeus, for example, was a corrupt tax collector whose life and work ethic radically changed because of his encounter with Jesus:

Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. [2] There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. [3] He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. [4] So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.

[5] When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” [6] Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. [7] But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.

[8] Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

Luke 19:1-8 NLT

Zacchaeus’ relationship with God was evident in his life. He must have been very confident in Jesus’ love, forgiveness, and good plan for him because he openly admitted his faults and courageously decided to change his ways. 

If our relationship with God doesn’t show up in the way we live or treat people, our heart may actually be drifting away from him:

If someone believes they have a relationship with God but fails to guard his words then his heart is drifting away and his religion is shallow and empty.

James 1:26 (TPT)

Remember, it’s very easy to be deceived about how our relationship with God is going if our outward behavior seems “okay” (by whatever standard we have come up with). That’s why it’s good that the Bible gives us clear indicators that our religion is becoming shallow and empty. 

I have gone out of the house many times to walk and pray, and come back still full of anxiety, only to snap at my husband about something minor. In these times, what usually has happened is instead of faithfully leaving my worries and problems with God during my “prayer” time, I was talking to myself about everything I was stressed about.

Read more: Why We Should Pray Instead of Trying to Be Strong

My prayer was shallow and empty because there was no faith, no trust, and no submission to the Bible. I might have been walking and talking, but it was only the outward appearance of prayer, and that’s why I find myself unable to guard my words when I come home.

It’s a difficult truth, but the proof is in the pudding when it comes to having a close relationship with God. I have spent much time in my life defending my relationship with God because of how diligently I studied the Scriptures and how long I spent “praying” (though, as we’ve established, some of these “prayers” aren’t really prayers but self-talk). 

While reading the Bible and praying in the morning are good things to do, my relationship with God won’t be close unless I let God teach me how to live my life the rest of the day.

Pause and reflect

  • What are some areas in your life that you need God’s help to change?

Put your trust in God, not in yourself

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

Ephesians 3:17 NLT

Trust is an important part of any close relationship, and our relationship with God is no exception. Ephesians 3 tells us that trust helps us make room for God in our hearts. I think this is because trusting God quiets the fears and anxious thoughts that can take up a lot of space in our hearts. 

Before you do anything, put your trust totally in God and not in yourself. Then every plan you make will succeed.

Proverbs 16:3 (TPT)

Trusting in ourselves prevents us from trusting God and making space for him in our hearts. These are some ways I see I can “put trust in myself” and find myself without room for God:

  • Relying on my own ideas, opinions, or abilities instead of praying or reading Scriptures.
  • Trusting my emotions over what God says in the Bible.
  • Cutting back my time with God when I’m stressed instead of relying more on God for help.
  • Overthinking things and trying to figure everything out on my own instead of praying for and trusting God’s guidance.
  • Taking control of my time, circumstances, or schedule instead of humbly asking God and others for their advice or help. 

These are just a few examples from my life, and you probably can come up with your own. The Bible promises that when we put our trust in God instead of ourselves, our plans will succeed. I don’t think that means things will always go exactly as we think they should, but we can trust that God will work anything that happens into something good. 

Here are some ways we can put our trust totally in God:

  • Be honest with him about the fears and anxious thoughts that fill up our minds, and then find passages of the Bible to believe instead.
  • Ask God and friends for help in areas we feel stuck, overwhelmed, or unsure.
  • Seek feedback and guidance from God, his Word, and spiritual friends even when we think we know what to do. This helps us practice trusting God to guide us instead of relying on our own opinions, emotions, or ideas.
  • Set aside extra time throughout the day, whether during lunch, after work, or at night, to pour out your heart to God. Pray specific prayers for what you need and trust him to take care of you.
  • Take a leap of faith to love a friend, initiate with a coworker, apologize to a family member, or do something else God has put on our hearts to do that might feel out of our comfort zone.

Pause and reflect

  • What are some ways you put your trust in yourself?
  • What are some ways you can put your trust totally in God?

Admit what you really think about prioritizing God

But as for me, it is good for me to draw near to God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge and placed my trust in Him, That I may tell of all Your works.

Psalm 73:28 (AMP)

The psalmist expresses here that he feels like “it is good” for him to draw near to God. He confidently states that he has made God his refuge. I don’t get the sense that someone had to prod him or nag him to spend time with God. He himself believed that drawing near to God was “good.”

Sometimes, we get to places in our relationship with God where we don’t feel like it is good to draw near to him. We might feel guilty, or have a wrong view of God and think he is disappointed with us. We might lose our faith and think it doesn’t matter if we pray. We might feel angry and bitter in our relationship with him, wondering why he seems far away in our times of suffering. 

Sometimes, we get to places in our relationship with God where we don’t feel like it is good to draw near to him.

When we feel these things, we won’t really want to draw near to God. Even if we go through the motions of reading the Bible and praying, our relationship with God will feel distant unless we admit what we really think. 

Our feelings about spending time with God can change. In fact, at the beginning of this same psalm, the psalmist describes his doubts and tells us that he had nearly lost his faith in the goodness of God (Psalm 73:1-2). 

As hard as it is, it’s important to be honest with ourselves about what we really think and feel about drawing near to God. If we don’t really think “it’s good to draw near to God,” we probably won’t make much time to do it. 

Pause and reflect

  • Do you truly feel “it is good to draw near to God”? Why or why not?

Don’t ever let go 

“If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says GOD, “I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party. I’ll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!”

Psalm 91:14 (MSG)

Have you ever held on to something for dear life, like the safety bar on a roller coaster as you fly upside down on one of its giant loops?

Holding on to something for dear life is not passive. It involves effort, passion, vulnerability, determination, and a strong grip. It means nothing can make you let go. God wants us to put this kind of energy into our relationship with him. 

I can easily get lazy in my relationship with God, settling for a rote prayer time and reading some verses of the Bible, and letting any day-to-day anxiety distract me from God. This is usually exposed when I go through times of trouble and I don’t have the faith that God will strengthen me, help me handle any difficult times, and work for the good in every situation.

For me, holding on to God for dear life means searching the Bible for God’s answers to my difficult questions and doubts, keeping verses of the Bible handy so I can listen to God throughout the day, and talking to spiritual friends to get their help and advice in my relationship with God.

For me, holding on to God for dear life means searching the Bible for God’s answers to my difficult questions and doubts.

It means calling on God vulnerably instead of pridefully acting like I don’t need help. It means trusting him instead of trying to figure things out alone. 

At certain points in my life, holding on to God for dear life meant simply making a decision to open the Bible every day, no matter what. The Bible is powerful, and even when my heart has been at its most faithless, guilty, and dark, reading the Bible has been a way God has held on to me and not let me go. 

As we cling to him, we can trust God to rescue us and bring us the best of care. This is an incredibly encouraging promise, one that we can cling to in any trouble we might be going through. 

Pause and reflect

  • Would you say you have been holding on to God for dear life? Why or why not?
  • What do you think it would look like for you to hold onto God for dear life? 

Wrapping up

We each matter to God. He wants to know us and go through life with us. Walking with God means taking our connection with God beyond a morning quiet time and into the rest of our day. 

As we walk closely with God each day, we will experience his care, and the way we live our lives will change.

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This article was developed by the Deep Spirituality Editorial Staff.

Deep Spirituality logo

This article was developed by the Deep Spirituality Editorial Staff.

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How to Build (and Keep) a Close Relationship with God  6