I am honored to present an interview and book review with Christy Bower, author of Best Friends with God: Falling in Love with the God who Loves You. I first met Christy by accidentally running across her blog when I was learning what blogs were and searching out blogs to follow. We had many of the same tags. And we have become e-friends! When her book was finished and published, I wanted to help get the word out.
I do have a copy of this book to give away! Your name will be entered as comments are made on this post. You’ll love this read. Through her struggles and questioning, Christy has great insight about the love of God. I am halfway through the book at this writing. It has made me stop and think more deeply about how I perceive God’s love toward me. I have especialy enjoyed the way she re-tells the stories of the Bible characters she writes about.
You say that after salvation, the first step on the journey to becoming best friends with God is to believe that He loves us. Isn’t that what every Christian believes anyway? What are we missing?
We tend to think of God loving “the world” as in John 3:16. We are part of that collective “world” so we know that He loves us. Christ died for us, but He died for everyone else too. God’s love can seem distant and impersonal. We know that somewhere “out there” God loves us, but here and now we struggle to feel God’s love for us as an individual.
Sometimes we need a little help to learn to identify the ways that God demonstrates His love toward us. As we begin to notice His gestures of love toward us, we know that He loves us, not as part of the collective “world” but as an individual. When this happens, we are well on our way to becoming best friends with God.
In your chapter on Job, you talk about a time when you were very sick for six months. Tell us about that and what you learned about God’s love from that experience.
I was mostly bed-ridden for six months. My temperature would flare up to 102-104 degrees for several days at a time. Antibiotics and steroids had no effect. All my blood tests came back normal, except that the level of infection in my blood was too high. My vital organs were fine, so the infection was hiding elsewhere. With no medial answers in sight, it occurred to me that I may have to live like this for the rest of my life. I wondered how I would define my value and purpose if I could no longer work and others had to care for me.
I came to realize that even if I was confined to bed for the rest of my life, I could still fulfill the Greatest Commandment by loving God from my bed. Loving God is the Greatest Commandment because that is all God expects of us. Loving God is also the simplest commandment because if we can do nothing else, we can love the Lord. Even confined to bed, not contributing to society, I have worth to God.
As for my illness, it turned out to be a severe sinus infection caused by rare bacteria that don’t respond to typical antibiotics. During the six months of my illness, I learned to spend my time letting God love me and loving God—from my bed. And it forever changed my understanding of what God really expects of us.
If the Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord, how do we get our emotions to obey a command?
No matter how much we try to make ourselves feel love, we simply can’t generate feelings of love on our own, can we? Love is not a self-attained virtue.
Fortunately, God does not command us to generate feelings of love on our own because love comes from God (1 John 4:7) and “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). So God commands us to do something—love—that we cannot do on our own, but only He can do through us. Sounds surprising, doesn’t it? But God also desires our salvation, which is not something we can do on our own; only God can save us. Our dependence on Him is essential to having a relationship with Him. And through our relationship with Him, we are transformed by love.
Speaking of dependence on God, you talked about how important it is for us to bring our needs to God. Why do you say that we create a “two-way blessing” when we admit our needs to God?
It’s easy for us to become so independent that we live our lives as if we don’t need God, but we can’t feel God’s love for us if we won’t let Him close enough to demonstrate His love for us. When we bring our needs to God in prayer it allows God to demonstrate His love for us by giving us what we need, but God also feels loved by us because we trusted Him and came to Him for help. That’s a two-way blessing.
We try to make God’s love complex, but it’s really quite simple. We experience God’s love for us by letting Him meet our needs, and we demonstrate our love for God by letting Him meet our needs. How simple is that?
Most Christians would say that they demonstrate their love for God through obedience and service. Yet you encourage Christians to take a “spiritual sabbatical” from Christian service. Explain what you mean by that.
It’s easy to get carried away, adding one thing and then another until we are overloaded. But Jesus said, “No longer do I call you slaves . . . but I have called you friends” (John 15:15). God doesn’t want our service; He wants our friendship. God does not pile on one duty after another. There is nothing that you do for God that is more important than your relationship with God.
If your relationship with God ever begins to suffer, I believe it is healthy to take a leave of absence from your Christian service or ministry in order to focus on your relationship with God without other distractions. I refer to this as taking a spiritual sabbatical. If doing Christian things has become more important or more demanding than your relationship with God, then it’s time to take a spiritual sabbatical—for as long as it takes to restore a healthy relationship with God.
Tell us about the character-based format of the book. And then wrap things up by explaining what you would like readers to get out of this book?
Best Friends with God is a follow-up to my previous book, Devotion Explosion, and it follows the same format. Each chapter focuses on a different person in the Bible and begins with a narrative that portrays the biblical character, followed by a discussion of what we can learn from that person about becoming best friends with God. The study questions at the end of each chapter can be used for individual or group study.
I pray that readers would know that God loves them as an individual and not merely as part of “the world.” I would like them to begin to experience an interactive relationship with God by accepting God’s gestures of love toward them and experiencing a heartfelt response of love toward God. I hope that readers will grow to feel like they are best friends with God.
Christy Bower is the author of three books and numerous articles. Her previous book, Devotion Explosion, is now in its third printing. For more information about Christy, visit her website at www.christybower.com or read her blog at http://christybower.wordpress.com.
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I would appreciate your prayers, as I have begun writing the next set of talks for an upcoming women’s retreat.