Why Am I Afraid to Get Closer to God?

October 31, 2012 — 8 Comments

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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.

Discussion Questions

What fears are keeping you from pursuing greater intimacy with God?

Or

What has helped you overcome these fears (or similar fears)?

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  • Brittany

    I am terrified to get close to God..for some of the reasons stated but mainly for the fear of losing someone I love (mainly my daughter). It sounds silly, but I fear getting closer to God will allow bad things to happen..”tests of faith”. I’ve seen it so many times with really godly people..a spouse or child of theirs dies, someone gets cancer, the lose their house, etc. idk how to not feel afraid about this…I think about it all the time.

    • crDaniel

      Hi,
      I may not have the perfect answer but I do have something that will encourage you.
      God will NEVER harm you or let something harmful happen to your loved ones. He Himself, loves you so much and just like a good and loving father would never snatch their child’s toy from them, likewise God will not take your daughter away from you.
      I used to think the same thing as you, that something bad is going to happen to me and my family by God’s will, but then I was taught that doubting and being afraid is normal but we should also believe that God’s love conquers all fear. His Perfect love means that He will not take away what’s dear to you and me, well because God is the one who gave us those dear things in the first place!

      • I appreciate your well meaning comment, but you are putting promises in God’s mouth that he never made. Job for example lost everything dear to him. If you are encouraged by promises God never made you’ll just end up being far more hurt in the long run.

        Here is an actual promise you can cling to. “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.” Rom 8:28 and “I am convinced that the suffering of this present time is not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.” Rom 8.

        This isn’t a theory for me. It’s not a pat theological answer for a philosophical debate. God took my wife from me when I was the closest I had ever been with him. I’m still waiting to see the good that God will do with that but I know it’s coming.

  • Kathleen McCullough

    My fear is just exactly the same as Brittany’s. I’m so glad she shared this fear. That’s why I landed on your article. I want to draw closer to the Lord, but I think clouded theology and superstitions that aren’t rooted in truth have led me to an unhealthy fear of the Lord- one in which I view God as mean and almost…I don’t know, ready to strike just to test his followers. That sound so awful, but I worry that if I get close, something will happen to my son. Something tragic or horrible. Something I can’t handle. How do we overcome such a fear and experience true intimacy with the Lord?

    • Thank you for your honest comment. I can definitely relate. I’d like to give the best answer I can to your question so I’m going to write another article about it. I’ll post the link here when it is up.

  • crDaniel

    Hello
    I looked at this page just today when I was feeling afraid of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
    While my family and I were praying we could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit and my hands immediately raised to the skies and I honestly felt I was going to start speaking in tongues because I felt slightly unaware of my words, though i was speaking english and my tongue also felt different.
    After that experience i have been feeling this strange burden or fear of actually experiencing the Presence of the Holy Spirit because of there’s so much power and glory, I feel overwhelmed and startled.
    I will truly appreciate any helpful reply!

    • Fear is a natural response to the Holy Spirit coming in power. But there are many spirits. Test the spirits to make sure it is actually the Holy Spirit you are encountering. Seek him in his word. He doesn’t tend to give experiences like that just for the sake of feeling. They are meant to equip you to go and do his work and be a witness of his power to both believers and unbelievers. “If you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each ones deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing you were ransomed by the precious blood of Christ.” 1 Peter.

      You are a royal priest for a Holy God. Fear dishonoring his precious Son’s life given for you by not living worthy of the grace that has been given to you.

      • Jenny Cornejo

        I came upon this blog searching for reasons I feel scared when I am in the presence of God… still haven’t found anything on it, but your answer that it’s natural to feel scared made me feel a little better. It’s happened to me twice where I was seeking God in prayer And I felt the rush of His Holy Spirit come… by this point I’m crying so much and my nose is stuffed and then I become afraid I’m going to pass out or die. … so then I stop myself from from going any further…