In couple’s therapy, one key dynamic that I frequently see is that of pursue/withdraw. One partner, feeling disconnected from their partner, will try to engage them in some way, sometimes by asking questions, sometimes by being physically close, and sometimes by trying to provoke an argument. The other partner will often respond by withdrawing, either physically or emotionally, because their partner’s intrusiveness feels overwhelming and threatening. When the pursuer notices their partner withdrawing, they often ramp up the pursuit because they now feel lonely and abandoned. On and on this cycle goes. The pursuer pursues. So the withdrawer withdraws. So the pursuer pursues. So the withdrawer withdraws.
Perhaps our relationship with God is not so different from the way we often relate with our spouses. Are there not times in your life where you felt God’s absence and tried to evoke a sense of his presence by praying, reading your Bible, or just being more spiritual? And then you have probably had times where you have feared that God will not really be there for you, so you withdraw from him (at least in part) and begin to take care of yourself.
I believe that God does not play our games. I do not think that God “pursues” us in the sense of needing to get our attention. I also do not think that God “withdraws” from us when he feels overwhelmed by us. Rather, God is accessible, engaged, and responsive to us. In other words, God is simply and irrevocably present in our lives.
The challenge we have in front of us involves the capacity to risk approaching God, vulnerable and open, presenting our lives to Him. By “approach” I mean that we come before God as we are rather than trying to pull God into our life, as the pursuer might try to do. In approaching God we also do not try to manage our life on our own, as the withdrawer might try to do, but instead present our requests to Him. We hide neither our desires nor our fears from God’s sight.
We know that couples will be more intimate if they express their deeper needs to one another (the pursuer’s need for comfort and connection and the withdrawer’s need for safety and stability) and have their partner respond to that need. In the same way, if you bring forth your heart before God, you may find that he truly cares for it.