When I first met my husband, I can still remember my very first thoughts I had about him.
My sister had been seriously dating a young man and we had just gotten word he had been in a horrible car accident. After finding out my sister’s boyfriend had to be life-flighted to a specific hospital, we wasted no time in getting there.
And that’s when I saw my husband for the very first time … in the emergency room.
As I was comforting my sister…I saw him – all 6’3 of him – walk into the ER.
I was instantly mesmerized.
He was the best looking guy I had ever seen, y’all.
And I must’ve looked at him longer than I thought because my sister looked at me and said, “seriously, Kim?”
Nobody had to tell me to be drawn to my hubby in that ER…or to want to get to know him. And as he looked at me, I somehow knew he would become an important part of my life.
Now I must say…I was not looking for love.
…I don’t believe in love at first sight.
…I hadn’t dated anyone in over a year.
…And a relationship was definitely not something I was seeking at the time.
My heart had been deeply hurt the year before, so I had completely sworn off relationships and marriage. My plan was to never get married while continuing my college education with the goal of becoming a pediatric cardiologist. A life of singleness forever. Blissfully helping others. And I was very, very happy, comfortable, and content with that decision.
…But God had other plans.
The very first weekend after the accident, just a few days after I saw my husband for the first time in the ER, my husband and I went on our first date.
My sister’s boyfriend (who I would later find out was my husband’s cousin) ended up being in the hospital for an entire year.
Throughout the year at the hospital, my husband and I would go to the hospital coffee shop together and we’d talk while we were waiting in the ICU waiting room.
We talked about everything…life, God, family, friendship, mutual friendships we shared, sports (he’s an amazing basketball player), movies, music, the Bible, our life experiences while growing up, college, heartaches, past relationships we had been in, current events, what we loved about life, future goals and dreams, where we wanted to travel…everything.
Slowly, my heart began to melt and I began to think about dating and marriage differently.
As we continued dating, talking, and spending time together, my husband eventually opened my heart back up.
He asked me to marry him after three weeks of dating (his spontaneity is one of my favorite things about him). As we headed out on a date, I asked him what was the plan for the evening. He suggested we elope that night.
Although we didn’t elope that night, we did get married a few years later. We had become very close due to spending hours together every day at the hospital – and also due to a hidden key that I believe is the most vital ingredient to any relationship.
The hidden key to the openness and growth we experienced is the exact same key to how we’ve weathered massive grief and storms in our 28 years together.
It’s the same hidden key that allowed me to experience incredible, explosive, extremely meaningful spiritual growth with God.
This special Hidden Key is what sustained us after my sister’s boyfriend died after that hard year in the hospital…and when my sister died three weeks later…when our son was diagnosed with tumors…illnesses…deaths…grief events…a midlife crisis…disagreements…etc. It has sustained us our entire marriage.
More importantly, this hidden key is the very thing that has grown my relationship with God and has sustained me through debilitating grief.
I previously used to think the best way to grow close to God and His heart was to read the Bible…to pray…to memorize scripture…to attend church.
Sure, these are definite ways to grow close to God. They’re absolutely vital and necessary too…but they’re only part of the equation.
Growing up, I did all of the above. My mom worked at the church we attended so we were frequently there – especially every Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. My mom made sure we knew our Bible frontwards, backwards, and in between. My siblings and I took Bible memory classes, participated in Bible drills, and prayed everyday.
I had the head part down…but I lacked the heart part.
After a few grief events crashed into my life, I didn’t have the ability – the important hidden key – to grow through my grief.
To be honest, I turned pretty bitter for a season of about 6 years…so bitter that it transitioned into deep rebellion. I count these years (12-17 years old) to be the most wasted years of my life.
Toward the end of these 6 years, my parents and sister asked if I would attend a seminar with them…and for the first time, everything I heard made sense to me. The heartache. The grief. Everything I had been through.
I found the hidden key to getting through grief and trials…and (what I believe to be) the greatest key to spiritual growth.
Whether it’s spiritual growth with the Lord or growing in any human relationship, it’s vital if you’re going to be close:
Genuinely enjoying God and others.
With God, it’s sincerely and genuinely enjoying His presence.
Talking to God…sharing the deepest waters of your heart, mind, spirit, and soul…diving in deeply…spending precious time with Him…finding out what He loves and enjoys…and looking forward to each and every moment with Him. This has greatly impacted – it has been the greatest impact – for my close relationship with God. Enjoying Him, His love, and His presence.
It’s not hard to enjoy God because He gives us lots of practice with loved ones on earth.
My husband is someone I genuinely enjoy. I love my time with him. I love watching sports with him, singing in the car together (everything from Hillsong/praise music, Broadway musicals, Spice Girls, to Red Hot Chili Peppers), traveling with him, and talking about politics together – even though one of us is a Republican and one is a Democrat. I love that anytime his favorite band comes on the radio, his face instantly lights up and he dances. I love seeing him have fun with the kiddos in our family.
Whatever you do with loved ones, do similar activities with God.
In dating relationships and marriage, you can do all of the “correct” things. You can go through all the right motions. You can have all the intelligence in the world…you can have or create great wealth…you can do all of the chores in your household…you can be the hottest thing since sunburn…but if you and your partner don’t genuinely enjoy each other, the relationship will eventually fold, become massively stale and boring, or evaporate altogether.
The same is true with our relationship with God. We can do all the “right things”: read the Bible…memorize scripture…pray…go to church…etc…but if we don’t genuinely enjoy God and His presence, our relationship with Him has the danger of becoming stale…and worse, merely optional – especially when hard times hit.
There’s just something about enjoying God and creating a fantastic loving friendship with Him that makes the greatest difference in your spiritual walk.
Enjoyment is where you find the heart of God.
I’ve written on my blog about delighting in God, but enjoyment dives much deeper than delighting.
What if like me (how I described not being interested in a relationship when I saw my hubby earlier in this post)…what if something has happened in your life and a relationship with God is a turnoff to you?
You may be mad at God. You may be thinking, “this chick is crazy.”
I encourage you to dive in…headfirst. God loves you and wants you right where you are.
I’m frequently asked how I’ve weathered so much grief…how I’m not bitter.
The hidden key is loving and enjoying God…experiencing a deep intimacy and enjoying a very rich relationship with Him.
It makes all the difference in the world.
Today, consider how you can create and enjoy a deep relationship of enjoyment with God.
It’s very similar to how we develop strong relationships with our loved ones…just like I did when I met my husband. Just like how we thoroughly enjoy and build our relationships with our children, families, and friends.
Nobody has to tell us how to enjoy our loved ones. I’ll tell you this: with God, it’s so much stronger.
…It’s a brilliant, vibrant, most loving friendship that infuses every cell and fiber of your being.
…It molds, challenges, and changes every ounce of your heart. Over and over.
…It’s the best relationship you’ll ever experience in your entire lifetime. Nothing can compare to God.
…It develops a trust and bond like no other.
And it all starts with getting to know God for yourself…and finding – and continually creating – ways to massively enjoy Him.
Francis Chan once said that our ability to know and understand God is the equivalent of God being the entire ocean…and our ability to know and understand God is a mere thimbleful of water in comparison.
I want more of God than just a thimbleful…I want to experience God as much as I can. I want to know, love, enjoy, and understand God as much as possible so that when I finally meet Him face to face…I can know, love, enjoy, and understand Him even more.
You may be wondering, “what does a typical day of enjoying God look like? How can I enjoy God?”
God is in every detail of the entire day. There are so many opportunities and ways to enjoy God!
A few examples:
•God is my very first thought in the morning as I enjoy the start of my day with Him. I make my coffee and prepare my senses to thoroughly enjoy God (coffee drinkers: Wolfgang Puck’s Jamaican Me Crazy is a current favorite…smells sooo great! Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for the ability to smell and enjoy coffee). I start my time of enjoying God through communicating about the upcoming day as I pray. I then ask God how He’s doing, how I can serve Him that day, and simply enjoy His presence.
•Next, I begin a more in-depth prayer time and ask for God’s perfect Will to be done in my life, my family and extended family’s lives, and everywhere in the world. I share everything that’s on my heart and mind and ask for God’s direction. I then pray more specifically for my loved ones, my authority figures, my local, state, and national leaders, my pastors, all pastors and church staff everywhere, all churches, and everyone I minister online to in the Grief Bites family.
During times of occasional conflict, I’ll pray for that situation and also for anyone involved. I have found that when I have conflict with “life” or others, it’s a great opportunity to not just look horizontally at the problem between me and the situation or other person…it’s an incredible opportunity to look at the situation vertically and see if I am doing the same things/offenses to God or others. This has greatly helped me to resolve life’s conflicts, enjoy God during life’s storms, and seek God throughout difficulty…and not become bitter. Every situation we go through in life is to be looked at vertically as we enjoy God’s feedback … There is massive spiritual growth in that! I seek God’s heart through every life situation – all of the good and all of the bad – and find new ways to love, obey, and enjoy God through it all.
•I talk to God quietly in my heart and have an ongoing conversation with Him throughout the entire day. If something good happens, I thank Him. If something bad happens, or something irritates or annoys me, I share that with Him too. I continually try to create an ongoing relationship of enjoyment with God throughout the day and greatly enjoy my friendship with Him.
•I pray at mealtimes and thank God for providing for me. When I spend time with family and friends, I thank Him for the splendid gift each person is to me. If I use an appliance or anytime I use water, drive my car, listen to music, watch TV, or use heat or the AC, I thank Him for it. Anything…everything…we have, it’s evidence of God’s goodness. Every experience of every single day is a great opportunity to talk to God, enjoy His goodness, and extravagantly thank Him. We are so blessed to have and enjoy so many exquisite gifts from Him…my goal is to enjoy God, be grateful, and never take Him, His blessings, anyone, or anything for granted.
•As I cook dinner, I talk to God about anything that’s on my heart. I ask Him to help me see life and situations from His perspective.
•When I exercise, especially running, I carry on a conversation with God about family situations or any character quality I’m working on. Sometimes, I’ll talk about work too.
•I close my night by talking to God about the day and the upcoming day…I also pray for loved ones and anyone or anything else that’s on my heart. If I’m reading or meditating on a particular Bible verse, I’ll talk to God about it and ask Him to help me understand it better. Closing the day with God is an extravagant treat. How incredible is it that God…the Maker and Creator of everything and everyone…wants to spend time with us, love us, enjoy us, and talk to us? What a supreme privilege!
•Do a themed Bible study and genuinely get to know God’s heart. I’ve done studies on specific topics, and it truly makes the Bible come alive. The Bible goes from being something good to read…to truly breathing life into you. It encourages your heart…instructs you…helps you…molds you. And it is so very applicable. The life stories illustrated in the Bible vibrantly come alive. I’ve done specific studies on so many great topics – God’s names in the Bible, the fruits of the Spirit, wisdom, love, friendship, how to treat family, grief, health, how negative emotions can affect health, character studies, marriage, parenting, money, time management, fear, sorrow, trusting God, suffering, how to grow through trials, forgiveness/bitterness, alcohol, the best ways to live life, joy, success, how the Bible applies to current events…so many great topics. The Bible is packed with God’s love, revelation, and instruction. It’s the ultimate interactive Book. Reading 5 chapters of Psalms and 1 chapter of Proverbs every day…and then allowing the Bible to fall open to any given chapter is one of my favorite ways of reading and enjoying God’s Word. It’s applicable each and every day. Not a day goes by that God’s Word doesn’t convict my heart, instruct me, and wrap it’s pages around my heart. You find out what God loves…what God hates…what His plans are…how to develop a rich friendship with Him…all God has done and what is to come. You find the heart of God so you can better enjoy the heart of God. The Bible is an extraordinary, extravagant, priceless gift! If you want to do a really cool themed Bible study, do one over the words ‘enjoy’ and ‘enjoyment.’ You’ll be very surprised what God says. He talks about enjoyment a lot! God created us to enjoy Him and life!
•I go on weekly “dates” with God. He’s my absolute favorite to enjoy life with. Throughout life, we are only guaranteed two lifelong relationships: our relationship with God and our relationship with our own self. Our relationship with God is all of the ways we interact with and enjoy Him. Our relationship with our self is every facet of developing our character, spiritual growth, and any other way God wants to develop us. I enjoy my dates with God so very much! Sometimes, I’ll go to a restaurant and just enjoy a meal with God as I talk to Him silently in my heart. Other times, I’ll go to our local zoo, aquarium, park, nature trail, or drive out by the water, and just talk with God as I enjoy His amazing, beautiful creation. Every year, during the Christmas season, I get some hot chocolate and drive around looking at lights as I talk to God in my heart. Another time, I spent a day at Disney World just with God. As I rode rides and ate at a favorite restaurant in the park, I just thoroughly enjoyed that amazing, fun experience alone with God. Later that evening, I found a quiet spot to enjoy watching the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks and ended the day by praying as I watched the sky beautifully light up. Many times, I’ve just gotten a cup of coffee and watched the sunset as I enjoy God and His presence. I love to play praise music and thoroughly enjoy worshipping Him. Recently, I asked God where He’d like to go on a lunch date. The very next second, I received a text message with a coupon to a local ice cream store. This specific ice cream store only has a drive thru, so I ordered my ice cream and sat in the car and spent time with God. This year has brought a few serious grief situations, and I also recently found out that a good friend was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. March-June were extremely hard months due to several situations. As I sat in my car, eating ice cream, I poured my heart out to God about these situations and worked through some tough emotions… deep sadness… hurt… worry… fear… deep concern for my friend and her precious children and husband. Prayed for all of my family. It was a much needed time with God in prayer and enjoying His love, comfort, encouragement, and presence. Enjoying God isn’t just for the good times…it is also for the hard times in life. That’s when the enjoyment becomes most real. I thoroughly enjoy God, spending time with Him, and finding ways to know and love – and enjoy – Him better through every opportunity and situation in life.
As I was growing up, I was taught (by my parents and our church) to read the Bible, pray, attend church, memorize scripture, do nice things for others, and serve God… These things are great, but they really didn’t help my growth with God to explode. I could do all of these things in action, but it didn’t necessarily mean that I had a solid relationship with God – or a heart change.
It was only when I learned how to thoroughly enjoy God (get to know God for myself…find His true heart by looking at the Bible as a personalized interactive experience…do special themed Bible studies…learn how to thoroughly enjoy His heart and presence)…that is when I had a head-on collision with God’s love and goodness.
The hidden key to exponential spiritual growth is absolutely enjoying God.
What ways can you begin to enjoy God, or further enjoy God, today?
Think of some cool things you can do to build your friendship with God. Breathe Him in deeply. Love Him. Delight in Him. Purposefully seek to see His goodness. Ask and allow Him to change your heart. Never let go during the hard times…when you go through deep grief or after you sin, fail, or make a huge mistake…that’s when you need Him the most. Seek to enjoy God every single day!
Thoroughly enjoy Him! He is waiting for you with open arms.
Enjoy this upcoming time of massive spiritual growth.💕
Here are a few past blog posts of how to delight in God:
Gratitude & many blessings,
©2019 Kim Niles/Grief Bites. All rights reserved.
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❤️FREE YouVersion reading plans:
1. Grief Bites: Finding Treasure In Hardships: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/912-grief-bites-finding-treasure-in-hardships
2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed
3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites
4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays
5. Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: Christmas: http://bible.com/r/3V5
6. Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: Happy New Year!: http://bible.com/r/3Zv
7. Valentine’s Day: Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/14059-valentines-day-experiencing-holidays-with-jesus
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