Regrettably, this scene has been repeated many times in pastoral counseling. The husband and wife come in to talk about their marriage. As they sit down the wife positions herself with her back slightly turned away from her husband. The husband responds by inching away from her to increase the standard buffer zone between seats. I am writing a couple of things down in my notebook while looking up to observe. They are both looking away from each other, avoiding any interaction.
“What is going on guys?” I ask. “We are having issues.” The wife says, as the husband lets out a sigh like air from a slashed tire. The room gets increasingly tense as they both get louder and more defensive. In time I ask some simple questions and find out that this couple hasn’t spoken in weeks, they don’t sleep in the same room (let alone the same bed), and neither seem willing to make a move in humility. As they talk neither listens to what the other is saying.
You don’t have to be a professional counselor to conclude that this is not a healthy relationship. In fact, you would quite easily conclude that this is a dysfunctional relationship.
What is so troubling to me is how many professing Christians have a similar relationship with God, let’s call it a dysfunctional relationship. In every counseling situation and in an alarmingly high rate of regular conversation with Christians, I have observed that many people do not pray regularly, read their Bibles devotionally, or prioritize the Lord’s Day gathering of the church.
Why is this important? Healthy relationships are characterized by communication and the experience of each other’s loving, assuring, faithful presence. How do we talk to God? We pray to him. We unload the burdens of our hearts before God, trusting in his love, care, power, and even his desire to hear from us (Heb. 4:16; 1 Pet. 5:6-8). How do we hear from God? We read the Bible, this is God’s word to us. In the Scriptures we hear God speak about who he is, what he has done, and what he will do (Mt. 4:4; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). As some have said, “Do you want to hear God speak to you? Read the Bible. Do you want him to speak audibly? Read it aloud.”
How do we experience his faithful presence? In particular (though not limited to this) we gather together as a local church to worship. In this assembly we meet with the Triune God through prayer, the ministry of the Word, the Lord’s Table, Baptism, and the fellowship of the saints. God is said to be with us in the assembly and warns us against forsaking or otherwise taking it for granted (Heb. 10:25, 12:22-29; Rev. 1:13).
Like a regular relationship, we have to see the warning signs here in our spiritual relationship. If we find ourselves intentionally avoiding or carelessly neglecting communion with God then we are on a troubling trajectory. Regardless of its apparent prevalence, a dysfunctional relationship with God is neither ideal nor healthy. It is also unbiblical. God’s people love God, love God’s word, and love God’s people. It is a symptom of a very serious problem when these things are not present and regular in a Christian’s life.
And unlike the common excuse in marriage, you cannot say, “It’s his fault.” God is there with ears open to hear your prayers, the ink of his word is wet and ready for you to read, and he is always attending your Sunday gathering. So, adjust your posture, stop turning your back to him, and come to him in the humility of repentance and faith to get to work on this most precious of all relationships.