(NOTE: If you do not identify yourself as a Christian, I strongly encourage you to skip down to the “Interacting with Other Faiths” section before you read anything else on this page. It will help put things in perspective.)
There are many answers to this question. These answers range from using nothing but the Bible to integrating the Bible with psychology to using nothing but psychology. All of these positions have well developed explanations and arguments, and Adam does not intend here to endorse any particular viewpoint. If you are interested in learning more, check out the book Psychology & Christianity: Five Views (Edited by Eric Johnson).
Adam’s view (read more here) is that God’s relationship with humanity is such that, much like an automobile, we are designed to operate on a certain type of fuel. Pour canola oil into a gasoline engine and it will run, just not very well. Similarly, a human heart being fueled by achievement, health, wealth, affirmation, or anything other than connection with God will run, but it will do so poorly. Chronic unhappiness, lack of fulfillment, a feeling of emptiness, or feelings of internal conflict are all signs that the heart is operating on some form of substitute fuel, and that this fuel is wreaking havoc just as canola oil might damage an engine not designed for it. This is exponentially true when the heart has been operating in such a way over a prolonged time period.
Connection With God
So then what is connection with God? Connection with God is not so different from connection with any other person. When we are connected, we are aware of what our friends like and dislike. We know what they are about and what they are not about. We mutually enjoy one another, and we often sacrifice for one another.
But this is where the similarities end. Connecting with God is not like connecting with your neighbor when you are looking for guidance, comfort, truth, or beauty. Sometimes you find these things in your neighbor, but your neighbor didn’t invent truth or beauty! What I am referring to is also known as the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it goes something like this.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ
God created and loved us and we loved Him back. It was perfect. One day that changed and now there is a great rift between us and God. We missed each other, us and God, so we both went about trying to repair the damage. We tried many times and in many ways, and always failed. God tried once, and succeeded. Jesus Christ fully repaired the damage to the relationship, and it became possible to be with God again as we once were. However, as you know, relationships are made of at least two people. God, having completed the repairs, is now waiting for us to come back to Him.
For a number of important reasons not explained here, God sacrificed part of Himself to repair the damage from long ago – that’s how badly He wanted to be back together with us. Through His sacrifice, He has made it possible for us to be together again, but He has not made it happen. Ask yourself this: who marries whom, the bride or the groom? Or this: can the groom marry the bride if she does not marry him? As you know, these are ridiculous questions that totally miss the point of relationships! They just don’t work that way! If we want back in, God is overjoyed to have us. If not, then He is heartbroken.
So why choose to get back in with God? That has everything to do with who God is. Is God someone you desire? If not, then He will not force the issue. Love cannot be forced. Depending on what you believe about God, connecting with Him might mean many things. Perhaps God is the great judge dishing out discipline and condemnation on those whom He chooses. That doesn’t sound too attractive. Perhaps God sits on a cloud and plays a harp all day while little babies with wings feed Him grapes? No thank you. But, if God is the most perfect, all powerful, inventor of love and truth and beauty. If a god like that has committed himself to you…well, that decision seems easy.
God knows what is best for us, and He wants to give it to us. The problem is the human equation. God’s provision often seems counterintuitive to us. This is why Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, and all of these things will be added to you.” (Matt 6:33) In other words, let God focus on you, and you focus on Him. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel here, you’ll just end up going in circles.
So, you want it? Go get it. God has for you a kind of happiness that reaches deep into your soul and never dies. Do it His way, and you’ll see.
Interacting With Other Faiths
There is no way to convince or “sell” heart-change. No one can argue her or his way into another person’s heart. This is why we find ourselves resistant to pushy salesmen, commercials on television, or door-to-door evangelists who are looking to “save” us. They are trying to change something only God can change, and they tend to do more harm than good. The only way for heart change to occur is for that heart’s owner to pursue it.
Adam’s worldview is that of orthodox Christianity. That this position may trouble some and comfort others is a given. However, the Christian faith will not be “pushed” onto anyone. Aside from the fact that “pushing” is not a counselor’s job, Adam is confident enough in Christian spirituality to, without pronouncing judgment, interact with other faith perspectives.
If you are devoted to a faith system other than Christianity, if you are experiencing spiritual crisis, if you adhere to no particular faith system, whatever your present spiritual state or perspective, you are welcome. Adam is not in the business of changing people – that’s his God’s job. Like a gardener watering seeds, Adam’s job is to support. Adam cannot make change happen any more than the gardener can make her seeds grow. The most she can do is prepare the soil, provide water, and hope the sun shines.
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow..” (1 Cor 3:6-7)