Find out how to grow spiritually and strengthen your relationship with God when you’re going through a spiritual dry spell. This is an exact method for getting closer to God when life is hard.
You may wonder, “How I can I get closer to Jesus?” and it feels overwhelming. You desire spiritual growth, but when struggles arise, it’s hard to know how to connect with God. Understanding how to study the bible and pray effectively will assist you on your journey toward spiritual maturity.
How to Get Closer to God When Life Feels Hard
We’ve all been there – a season of life where you just don’t feel as close to God as you used to. I’ve been dealing with this recently. Stress, busyness, and the difficulties of life can sometimes cloud our vision and make us feel spiritually weak.
Throughout my life, I’ve often heard people say, “It’s easy to reach out to God when life is tough. The difficulty is staying close to Him when everything is going great.” Maybe I’m an oddity, but the opposite has been true for me.
When things in my life are rosy and going well, I actually feel closer to God. I find praise and worship easier and more heart-felt. Quiet prayer and study times feel more meaningful. It’s almost like I can feel God holding my hand, and spiritual growth comes naturally. (If you need encouragement reaching your spiritual growth goals, see the video below from my boys about never giving up!)
In contrast, when I’m facing a personal stress or trial, God feels further away (even though He’s not). I have to consciously work at being grateful and focusing on Him in the midst of life’s storms. Study and prayer is a must, but harder for me to accomplish.
How do you develop spiritual growth?
For a long time, I thought feeling far from God was just how it had to be during hard times. Most days, I felt like I didn’t know how to grow spiritually. I often found myself praying, “God, please help me! I want to be close to You, but I’m just not feeling the way I should!”
Maybe it’s the opposite for you. Maybe you find it easy to cling tightly to God when you’re facing difficulties, but more challenging to focus on Him when things are easy.
Spiritual growth is different for everyone. Regardless of your experience, there is a way to get closer to God and achieve spiritual growth – even if you don’t feel like it.
Getting closer to God doesn’t have to be hard, but it does take effort and desire on your part.
Recently, in a phone conversation with my sister, I was discussing this phenomenon and some spiritual questions I’m currently facing about how to connect with God. After mentioning the lack of closeness to God in my life, she wisely replied, “The more you can get Him in your head, the more you will feel Him in your heart.”
This response sparked a new resolve and desire in me to work at my relationship with God again and take the next step toward spiritual maturity. It’s true – when we don’t feel close to God, guess who moved? (Hint: It’s not Him!)
Yes, getting closer to God might feel more challenging during particular life circumstances and seasons. But it’s never out of our reach. After implementing the steps below, I am feeling that sense of closeness and oneness with God again that I used to feel in years gone by. Allow me to share with you how to grow spiritually when you’re struggling.
how to grow spiritually bible verses
How to Grow Spiritually (4 Keys to Spiritual Growth)
If you’re wondering “What are the keys to spiritual growth?” you’re in the right place. Below you’ll find the best tips for how to grow spiritually in an intentional way, along with examples of spiritual growth even when you’re not feeling particularly spiritual. Grab a cup of tea and let’s dive in.
1. Prayer journal for spiritual growth.
Maybe you don’t have this particular problem, but I get distracted during prayer time. My mind just wanders. I start talking to God about something, then think of how it relates to another issue, and before you know it I’m off in la-la land thinking about the fact that the laundry needs doing, or wondering what the weekend holds.
Ever since I was a pre-teen, the answer for this challenge for me is prayer journaling. This practice has helped me immensely.
Writing down prayers helps keep you focused on what you are doing and helps you stay on course. For me, it is the key for getting closer to God through prayer.
Writing also helps you discover new things about yourself and to organize your thoughts. Additionally, it reveals deep spiritual insights and settles/calms the heart.
Plus, reading over these journals in years to come is a huge encouragement. Your prayer journals transform into valuable mementos displaying God’s faithfulness and answered prayers in your life.
The past few years I’ve transitioned from writing prayers on paper to writing them in my iPhone notes. However, I found that typing on my phone was more cumbersome and made me less likely to follow through. So I prefer to use a physical journal or notebook. But do whatever works for you.
Get the full run-down on prayer journaling in my post The Ultimate Guide to Prayer Journaling.
If you want some prayer prompts to help you get started with prayer journaling, make sure to grab the “Nourish Your Spirit” prayer and study guide below.
Basically, when it comes to prayer, nothing is off-limits. Tell Him everything. Just make sure you also include thanksgiving and praise in your prayers. Sometimes it’s easy to hyper-focus on your problems in prayer and forget to thank Him as well.
2. Brainstorm questions for spiritual growth.
Sometimes, we don’t feel close to God because we have unanswered questions about Him. We may be struggling with our faith or struggling to believe a certain aspect of God’s nature, and this causes us to keep God at arm’s length, preventing us from learning about His true nature.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with having doubts and questions. Many men and women in the Bible questioned God, such as Job – “But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God” (Job 13:3).
The problem arises when you allow those questions to go unanswered and those doubts to fester. That’s when Satan has an opportunity to lie to you and makes you doubt God.
The key is to face your giants and identify your spiritual questions and struggles. Spend a few minutes in a brainstorming session:
- Write down anything in your life that is discouraging you spiritually.
- What questions do you have about God that have not been answered?
- Are you currently experiencing any doubts in your faith?
Now, you are going to use the answers to these questions to dive into the next point.
Related post: The Proverbs 31 Woman – Don’t Be Intimidated. Be Inspired.
3. In-depth bible study for spiritual growth.
Next, using your answers from the brainstorming session, let’s create a specific Bible study plan tailored to your needs. Getting closer to God through Bible study is an important goal if you want to grow spiritually.
You may have been told many times to “study your Bible,” but got overwhelmed because no one has ever taught you how. So, I am going to teach you a simple structure that has helped me.
For each topic/doubt/question you wrote down, do a Bible search related to it. You can use websites such as Bible Gateway to search for a specific word(s) or bible study topics. Another idea is to look up specific words in the back of your Bible (the concordance) and read each passage that mentions your topic, word, or a similar word.
You can even type questions into Google and see what Bible passages pop up. Try the query, “What does the Bible say about — (insert your topic here)?”
The next step is the KEY to gaining an understanding of your questions. Rather than just quickly reading a specific verse that addresses your issue, (or just accepting whatever answer Google gives you – even worse) read the entire chapter.
Ideally, read the chapter before it and and the chapter after it as well, to get the context and full meaning of what you are reading. This exercise will help you more than anything else in your quest of knowing God and growing spiritually.
Here’s an example of what I am doing right now. I wanted to do an in-depth study of the topic of suffering. So, my aim is to research every verse that has the word suffering in it, write it down, and read the entire chapter it is contained in (sometimes more).
The other day, I found a verse in Philippians about suffering, and ended up studying the entire book that week. At the end of the week, I realized that suffering is the theme of the entire book of Philippians, something I had not realized before! It enriched my Bible knowledge profoundly.
Before I started studying this way, I was working through one of those “read the Bible in a year” programs (which have their place). But I did not feel like I was growing spiritually because I was just reading chapters to check off a list – not truly absorbing and applying the Scriptures.
While you are reading your designated chapter, every few verses, jot down something you learned. Sometimes I will try to summarize what I have read to stay on track. Other times I will jot down an idea that really jumps out at me. Writing notes as I read really helps me to gain a deeper understanding of the text and is a great asset.
After reading, write down the overall concepts you learned about your particular topic. You might be surprised at what you find!
For example, after reading Romans 8 the other day, I discovered 4 promises about suffering and the Christian:
- Suffering will be more than worth it (v. 18)
- The Spirit talks to God about how we are feeling (v. 26)
- Even the bad will work together for good – there is a purpose for suffering (v. 28)
- Nothing (no suffering) can separate us from God’s love (v. 38-39)
This study encouraged me so much and helped me see things from God’s perspective!
Using this method has really helped me fall in love with the Scriptures and gain confidence in His Word. I bet you can come up with tons of study ideas from your brainstorm session that will make you a stronger Christian and help you learn how to grow spiritually.
4. Additional reading for spiritual growth.
After my prayer and study session, I also like to read a devotional or theological book related to the topic I am studying. Reading a complementary book helps me think of ideas or concepts I may not have thought of before, or look at them from a different perspective.
Since the author has obviously studied that specific topic extensively, it helps me grasp the concepts on a deeper level.
A word of caution: since these authors are obviously not God, mistakes and false teachings happen. Fact-check as you read to make sure what you are learning agrees with God’s Word.
Right now I’m reading Timothy Keller’s “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.” It has been thought-provoking and enlightening, and I highly recommend it.
One of the key things I’ve learned so far is that the American culture is one of the worst in human history to equip its people to deal with suffering. We are so focused on material goods and pleasure/avoiding pain that we forget that suffering actually has benefits. Also, because many in our culture lack a basic belief in God, it is difficult to find meaning in suffering.
Whatever topic you’re studying, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a plethora of books to help you learn how to grow spiritually. Ask your local minister for recommendations, check Amazon reviews, or even ask friends on Facebook for resources.
For even more ideas on spiritual growth during difficult life seasons, check out the post “How to Make Time for God” by Equipping Godly Women. She has some wonderful practical ideas!
Now, let’s sum up what we’ve learned.
Keys to Spiritual Growth:
- Journal your prayers
- Identify your questions
- Launch specific bible studies related to your questions
- Read a complementary book for your bible study topic (optional)
After implementing these 4 tips, you will be well on your way to a closer relationship with God, and you won’t have to wonder how to get closer to God anymore.
However, getting closer to God is not a one-time thing. It’s a day-in, day-out journey of spiritual growth that requires consistency. I find the times when I don’t feel like doing my study and quiet times are the times when I actually need them most.
Do you want to grow a deeper, more genuine faith?
If so, I know you’ll benefit from the “Woman After God” printable pack. It is the perfect resource for any woman who is chasing God.
With 20+ pages of resources, you’ll learn to study the Bible effectively, answer deep burning spiritual questions, dive deep into the realm of prayer, and be encouraged with inspirational Scripture art.
This printable pack includes the “What Should I Study?” guide, which holds your hand teaches you exactly how to create a study plan based on your questions. Also included is a real-life study example, so you can watch the process unfold step-by-step.
It also includes prayer resources that will spark your communication with God and keep your dialogue going throughout the day.
If you ever think, “I want to grow closer to God, but I have no idea where to start,” this printable pack will absolutely help.
You may also like: 3 (Surprising!) Reasons to Stay in Your Comfort Zone
What about you? What are your best tips for how to grow spiritually with intention? I’d love to hear your wisdom in the comments below.
Great article! 2 questions: Do you use the same journal for writing your prayers and your study notes or do you separate them and why? Also, what time of day to you have your quiet prayer/study time? I struggle to be consistent with this. Thank you!
Full transparency: I struggle with consistency too. Part of the reason I wrote this article was to help me in my growth! As a general rule though, when I do study/prayer time it’s usually in the afternoon quiet time or the evening. And I write my prayers and study notes in the same journal – they often relate to each other. It looks like chicken scrawl to anyone else but it helps me organize my thoughts! God bless. (I apologize for the delayed response. A glitch on my blog was preventing me from viewing comments.)
Laura Bracklein says
Great article Mary. I’ve had more stress in my life in the last couple years than I’ve ever experienced before and like you that can mean a really difficult time connecting to God. I just can’t keep my thoughts on Him and off my stress when I’m trying to pray and study. Thank you so much for your suggestion to journal my prayers to deal with the distraction. It might just transform my prayer life!
Laura, thank you for sharing your struggles, we all have them! Stress definitely makes an impact on us spiritually. Satan is definitely trying hard to get us down. Praying for you! Hope the journaling idea helps. (I apologize for the delayed response. A glitch on my blog was preventing me from viewing comments.)
This is wonderfully helpful. Thank you. I am so excited to implement some of these ideas and encouraged to restart others. My biggest stumbling blocks to these are finding quiet time and having the energy to do what it takes to find/create that quiet time. I feel so burned out and tired.
I am so glad you found this helpful, Deborah. And yes, making the time is definitely the hardest part. Kind of like forcing yourself to take that first step while exercising. But you’re always glad you did afterward! (Sorry for the delayed response. I had a glitch on my blog and it wasn’t displaying any comments).
You seem to have useful ideas to tackling prayer distractions. I’d like to try them coz for me prayer comes easily, be it in happy times or in difficult times. I would like to try some of your methods.
Thank you, I hope you find them helpful!
Thank you Mary, for guiding me as I read your guidelines and your experiences it all really speaks to myself I thank God for answering my prayer to help me to be more closer to him. Your one of it! God bless …
God bless you in your walk Kathy, prayers for you!
Judith Favor says
I can’t simply go without leaving a comment. This post is a great read.
Margaret Moatshe says
Thanks Mary for guiding how to go deeper to be close to God. I am encouraged and uplifted Spiritually. This teaching has helped me, I am going to put it in practice for now.
This is something I was looking for lately. Thank you for sharing your experience.