The Bible talks about loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). The four words used in this passage also relate to the secular psychology concept of our being divided into the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical parts.
If you compare this list in the various places it’s found in scripture, it’s in a different order in several places, but the heart or spiritual aspect is always listed first. That’s because our spiritual being is our most important part. If our spirit is closely connected to God, healthy emotions, thoughts, and even physical well-being follows. So to keep the main thing the main thing, let’s talk about our hearts or spiritual nature.
God designed us as relational beings so that we would desire to have a relationship with Him, first and foremost. This is often described as all of us having a God-shaped void within us. Taking care of our hearts begins with our personal relationship with God or feeding/growing our spiritual connection with God.
Let’s say you had a friend that you saw at least once or twice a week and spoke to or texted even more frequently. You would get to know what they liked to do, what was going on in their marriage, their work, their lives. You would know what type of movies they liked. You would know which type of food they liked or what their favorite restaurants were. You could plan to have lunch without even specifying where you would meet. You would know them intimately.
Next, imagine that your friend moved to Dallas for a year. You only talked occasionally and maybe saw them once or twice during the year. Then your friend moved back. Would you know them as intimately as you did before they moved?
It’s the same in our relationship with God. If we throw up an occasional desparate prayer when we need something, and we only go and hang out with Him on Christmas or Easter, or maybe just on Sundays for a couple of hours, will this grow our relationship with Him? Will we know what He likes or what pleases Him? Will we feel His leading and His protection? Will we know Him intimately, and ultimately are we taking care of our own hearts?
The number one thing we can do to take care of our own hearts is to get to know God intimately. He makes it very simple; just like we do with any relationship that is important to us, we need to spend time with God. One of the best ways to hang out with God is to get alone with Him. In my experience, it needn’t be a long period of time. When I started having a regular time or quiet time, often it would only be 15 or 20 minutes. He even gives us some reading material to help us hear from Him.
We have been blessed with incredible teaching on radio and television, in pulpits, from countless extra-Biblical commentaries, and even daily scripture “bites” in email form to teach us God’s Word. Many of these are sound teaching, but these are all about gaining knowledge about scripture or about God. This is a good step toward knowing God, but building relationship takes something else; it takes time spent with God and His word.
Listening to someone else’s teaching on scripture is good. Listening to God speak to your heart while you read scripture and spend time silently waiting upon Him is even better. This somehow actually builds our relationship with God. The former is like something yummy that’s not particularly fresh, maybe a little overcooked; the latter is like a meal of organic, fresh food.
What does this time alone with God and scripture look like? I will be the first to admit that it takes time, but if we diligently seek God in scripture on a daily basis, we will grow in intimacy with Him. He will bless our diligence. Like I said earlier, consistency is more important than spending a lengthy amount of time; although once it becomes a habit, you may find that it becomes harder to stop. When that happens, just take God with you into your day!
It is best to have a plan. Starting in Genesis and reading straight through is often doomed to failure. A previous pastor of mine, Skip Heitzig at Calvary Chapel Albuquerque first turned me on to a different plan. I have used variations of it through the years, but it amounts to reading in a different section each day of the week, six days a week, or on a three-day rotation.
Mon. The Law Genesis – Deuteronomy
Tues. The History Joshua – Job
Weds. The Poetic Psalms – Song of Solomon
Thurs. The Prophetic Isaiah – Malachi
Fri. The Gospels Matthew – John
Sat. The Epistles Acts – Revelation
Mon. & Thurs. Genesis – Job
Tues. & Fri. Psalms – Malachi
Weds. & Sat. Matthew – Revelation
The important thing is to stick with it, and just like time spent with a friend, intimacy with God will increase. At first you may only connect occasionally, but as time goes on, you will feel a stronger and stronger connection of intimate relationship with God. Making this effort in 2015 to take care of your spiritual self is the main thing you can do to help yourself in every way, emotionally, mentally, and physically!