Someone said somewhere that you are as close to God as you want to be.
That means that we all have fears that keep us from wanting to be closer to God. We are afraid of the implications.
I have examined my heart and listed below the main fears that are keeping me from pursuing intimacy with God. Perhaps you resonate with some or all of them:
1. Fear of humiliation
I am afraid God will ask me to confess something embarrassing or have an uncomfortable conversation
Ultimately I am clinging to some sin or unwise behavior that I am too embarrassed about to confess to other men in the church. It could be something like yelling at my kids or wife when I am angry or stressed. It could be that I have not been keeping my eyes from wandering toward beautiful women when I am in public. Whatever it is, I know that when I get close to God he will ask me to come clean with these things and its just embarrassing. I feel like I’m the only one that God asks to confess these types of things to my brothers.
On the other hand, I am also afraid he will ask me to inititate a conversation with a stranger so I could listen to them and offer the Gospel as the solution to whatever they’re going through. This takes time and is awkward and embarrassing.
Sometimes I just want to be closed to God without it having to effect what kinds of conversations I have with people. But it is hard to be intimate with someone who has asked you to do something and you have refused to do it. It is especially hard since He never asks you to do anything harder than what He already did for you.
2. Fear of burdening commands
I am afraid God will convict me to live a standard of holiness I don’t have the strength or will-power to sustain
After some sort of mountain high experience of God’s presence I always feel this renewed strength to be able to live completely for God. I feel like following the inner voice of the Spirit’s impression on my heart is easy. It comes so naturally eat, drink, and do everything to the glory of God.
But then the mountain high feeling fades and I am in the valley again. It is not long before I eat to be comforted. Drink (usually unhealthy soda) to be satisfied. And do everything for my own name’s sake. To even think of reversing those things back to God’s glory sounds so tiring. I forget the joy that comes from pleasing God and I fear missing out on the comforts and satisfaction of these lesser-but-easier-to-achieve-and-control joys.
3. Fear of being let down
I am afraid that I will call out to him when I need strength or self-control and the strength or control won’t come
If I am honest with myself, I believe that God has let me down before. Intellectually I know that this is not true. He never fails his children. He is faithful and we are faithless. Whatever hardship he sends our way is for the good of our own faith and joy in him. But despite knowing that it still feels at times that he has let me down.
There have been times where I have been overwhelmed by temptation to give in to lust. I knew I was getting weaker by the second. I cried out for strength. I pleaded for self-control. But it never came. I fell into sin and I blamed God for not helping me.
Upon reflection I realized that I was too proud to ask for prayer from the men in my church that agreed to pray for me in times like those. I didn’t want to admit to them that I was so weak. I would have never seen that if God had instantly given me strength. He would have been reinforcing my pride and my desire for self-sufficiency. By allowing my feet to stumble on the rocks while keeping my head from suffering a fatal blow, he answered my prayer for strength and self-control through first humbling me to truly rely on him.
Even still, I am afraid that relying on him and not myself means that I never know when he is going to teach me humility through my failure. Honestly, that still scares me.
4. Fear of responsibility
The closer you get to God the more he places you in positions to lead. With increasing leadership comes increasing responsibility.
I wonder if the reason there is a lack of male leadership in the church is because we know we’re screw ups and that leading people is a huge responsibility. “Someone who is less of a screw up should be responsible for the spiritual well-being of the church,” we say to ourselves. The problem is sin nature makes every one of us a screw up. God calls us to lead from weakness so that his strengths are clearly evident.
Even still, I am afraid both that more leadership means my weaknesses will hurt more people and that my failures will be known by more people.
This blog is already too long to get into the Gospel solution to these fears. But I think it it is good to not rush into the answer. Take time to examine your heart for what fears are keeping you from running hard into the open arms of God.
What fears are keeping you from pursuing greater intimacy with God?
What has helped you overcome these fears (or similar fears)?