10 misconceptions that cause us to keep a distance from God
We desire to draw close to our Heavenly Father but unanswered questions and unspoken worries keep us standing at a distance. At times, it is feelings of shame and guilt that keep us away. We feel unworthy to draw close to a holy God. Other times, we imagine Him to be angry, petty, disinterested, or too busy to pay us any attention. Difficult encounters with authority figures can also dampen our enthusiasm to approach the ultimate Authority Figure. How can we correct our views and lose our inhibitions?
Before proceeding, please read the post, Why does God feel distant, no matter how much I pray?
Some reminders to begin with
To begin, it is helpful to remember that:
1. Our feelings do not represent the truth
When faced with different choices, our brains often turn to our emotions to make the final decision. We often go with whatever “feels right”. The Bible calls this being led by the flesh.
Jeremiah 17:9 ESV The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
This is a human instinct and a dangerous one, because our heart is “deceitful above all things”. Whatever gives us a “right” sensation at the beginning does not always lead to right things at the end. We are warned that “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
Romans 8:5-8 ESV For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are to be led by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit for the truth. To draw close to God, we cannot rely on our emotions and whether we “feel right” or not because our emotions don’t represent God’s truth for us.
John 16:13 ESV When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
2. Human ideas are not the same as the fact
No one likes to be misrepresented by what other people say about us. It is best that they come to clarify the facts with us directly. It is the same for God.
Today, there are so many ideas about God and His Word that it can be confusing to see God for who He really is. Which ones are just human ideas and which ones are fact?
The Bible explicitly warns that we will face false teachers who will “secretly bring in destructive heresies” — some ideas can be “so clever they sound like the truth.” Indeed, deception has indeed infiltrated many sources of Christian teachings.
2 Peter 2:1-3 ESV But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
Ephesians 4:14 NLT Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
We need to be careful not to rely on human ideas, opinions, logic, and reasoning, but take the time to study God’s Word for ourselves. Then we will not be “tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching.” Many new teachings have arisen over the decades which we may take in as the “truth” and there are many ideas we need to shed.
Thankfully, God in His faithfulness, has given us both His Word and His Spirit to point us to His truth. God’s Word tells us that the “thoughts of the wise are worthless”. Only God Himself can show us the truth about Himself. To draw close to God, we cannot rely only on what others tell us about how we are to relate with God, we need to seek God for ourselves. God is faithful and will respond to us when we seek Him with all our hearts.
1 Corinthians 3:18-20 NLT Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.” And again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless.”
3. God’s presence permeates every living thing
God is not “out there somewhere far away”, He is not inaccessible. God is present in all life and He is right here with us right now. The fact that we are breathing means that His presence is with us, because it is God’s Spirit who sustains all life. We can, and should, ask God to reveal more of Himself to us directly. To draw close to God, we do not need to go anywhere or do anything in particular because He is already present with us here and now.
Ephesians 4:6 ESV one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Acts 17:28 ESV for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’…
Job 33:4 ESV The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
We tend to project our own human ideas and feelings onto God the Father
God the Father is no ordinary father. Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son to illustrate the kind of Father that God is.
When the prodigal son realised how much he had sinned against his father and dishonoured him, he felt unworthy to go back as his son. Instead, he asked to work for his father’s estate simply to earn a decent living.
On seeing his son from away, however, the man’s father unceremoniously ran to his son, hugged him, and kissed him. He not only gave his son’s dignity and position back, no questions asked, he ordered a feast to be prepared with the “fattened calf” which was reserved for special occasions.
Luke 15:18-24 ESV I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
As he returned home disgraced, ashamed, unclean and smelling of pig manure, the prodigal son might have expected his father to:
- judge and condemn him
- lecture him
- shame him
- demand that he work hard to pay back for the inheritance money he lost
- reject him
Yet his father did none of these things.
The son had made the mistake of projecting his own human understanding and ideas onto his own father, without really knowing his father’s heart and compassion for him.
This is what we tend to do to God too.
Confronting the obstacles that keep us from knowing God intimately
Here are a few examples of the obstacles in the way we feel or the way we think that can prevent us from knowing God intimately.
2 Corinthians 10:5 NLT We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.
1. God does not need our protocols
Jesus told the parable of two men who went to God’s temple to pray. One was a pharisee with a strict religious education and training. The other was a tax collector, whose profession people often associated with being crooked, dishonest, and greedy.
The pharisee did many religious rituals that looked good on the outside, while the tax collector simply grieved over his own sins and genuinely cried out to God from his heart. God looked with favour on the tax collector, rather than the pharisee with all his religious protocols.
Luke 18:9-14 ESV He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
God desires us to start with a humble and contrite attitude in our hearts before Him. He does not need us to bring Him our good works, offerings, or perfect words. All these are empty compared to offering all of ourselves, even our broken ways, so that He can help transform us to be more like Jesus, His Son.
Psalm 51:16-17 ESV For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Yet we can hinder ourselves by thinking:
- “I haven’t done anything for Him yet. How can I go to God empty-handed?”
- “I can only go to Him by fasting / attending a church service / reading the Bible / listening to music.”
- “I don’t know how to pray / use the right words to pray. So I feel incapable of reaching Him.”
- “I need to mature more as a believer before I can approach God confidently. I can’t do so now.”
The truth is, we can confidently draw close to God empty handed, simply as we are, and receive His mercy and grace.
Hebrews 4:14,16 ESV Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
2. God does not have our human shortcomings
We can make the mistake of projecting our own human frailties onto God.
We may erroneously think:
- “I cannot forgive myself, why would God forgive someone like me?”
- “God is too busy for me. There are billions of things He needs to attend to. (i.e. I can’t multitask, be everywhere all at once, and care for billions of people, so I can’t see how God can.)”
- “How can God help me? I can’t see any way out. There’s not point in seeking Him.”
- “He must be bored of me and of listening to my requests and putting up with my sins (because even I find it hard to tolerate myself).”
- “I have strayed away and left Him. He won’t accept me back because I know people who won’t.”
2 Timothy 2:13 ESV if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.
God is not human. We should not make the mistake of protecting our own broken human ways onto an all-powerful, perfect, and eternal God. His ways are far higher than ours. He is the Source of perfect love.
Numbers 23:19 ESV God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
The truth is, God is infinitely good and powerful. His ways and abilities far surpass all our imaginations.
1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—
3. God is not like our parents
Besides projecting our own broken ways onto God, we can also make the mistake of protecting our parents’ broken ways onto God.
For some of us, being someone’s son or daughter has not been a good experience. Therefore, we can shy away from our Heavenly Father because we can’t be too sure if all parent figures are going to be like ours.
We may subconsciously keep a distance from God because we think:
- “My parents have not been warm or embracing of me. I can’t imagine God welcoming me with a hug.”
- “My parents always remind me of how I fall short, I think God will do the same too. He is going to condemn me and tell me all the things I have done wrong or not done well.”
- “God wants to control me and ruin my fun (because that is what my parents seem to do to me.)”
- “God is an angry judge who is just waiting for me to sin so that He can catch me and punish me (just like how I was always severely punished at home.)”
- “God is not interested in me (because my own parents didn’t show much interest in me. I felt neglected and abandoned.)”
- “God must be insensitive, demanding and uncaring (just like my dad / mum.)”
- “My parents are filled with anxiety and fear. I am highly afraid of God too (because that was the only emotion I experienced at home.)”
The truth is, we need to see God in terms of how He describes Himself, which is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”
Exodus 34:6-7 ESV The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
4. God gives us joy, giggles, and laughter
Sometimes, when we look at the condition of this earth and the condition of people in general, we can forget that God is the Creator of joy, giggles, and laughter. We can project the world’s bitterness onto God.
We stay away from God when we think:
- “There is so much brokenness, cruelty, and sin in this world. God must want us to suffer.”
- “God hasn’t gotten rid of evil in the world. He must be slumbering and dis-engaged.”
- “My entire family has suffered so much. He doesn’t care about how we feel.”
The truth is, our Heavenly Father takes great pleasure in giving us the Kingdom of God, therefore let us seek Him first and invite Him to redeem the brokenness we see around us. The fruit of His Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Luke 12:31-32 ESV Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Ezekiel 33:11 ESV Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?
Galatians 5:22-23 ESV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
5. Jesus is our merit
Most times, we don’t feel worthy of God’s love and attention, especially when we become fully aware of how sinful we really are. Yet we need to keep in mind that we approach God based on Jesus’ merit, not our own.
We set a limit to the power of what Jesus’ work on the cross, as well as God’s grace, when we think:
- “God won’t accept a sinner like me. I’ve sinned so much that He will never forgive me.”
- “I am not good enough.”
- “I need to ‘fix’ myself first. I need to be perfect before I can go to Him.”
It would be a mistake to belittle the power of the cross. Jesus came to save sinners just like us.
The truth is, we can never work for or earn God’s favour. It is His generous gift so that no one can boast or take credit for it.
Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Romans 5:6 NLT When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.
6. God won’t reject us even if we might want to
Just like the prodigal son, we can believe that God will reject us because there are things that we cannot accept in ourselves. We need to keep in mind that a good and faithful Father will not reject His own children when we need Him and humbly seek Him.
Therefore, we need to turn away from thinking:
- “I don’t deserve God’s love.”
- “I should be punished for what I have done. Nothing can make things good / right again. I don’t deserve God’s grace.”
- “No one seems to find me worthy of their love and affection. Neither will God.”
- “My mind is filled with self-condemning thoughts. God must also condemn me.”
The truth is, God will not reject anyone who approaches Him with a repentant heart that is broken-hearted over our own sin. He already knows everything, and why we do the things we do. He wants to help redeem us from our sinful impulses, not to condemn us.
Psalm 51:17 NLT The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
1 John 3:19-20 NIV This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
7. God invites us to build an eternal Kingdom
Worldly influences around us tell us that life is all about satisfying our desires. Perhaps we are very goal-oriented and expect God to go along with and bless our personal agendas. Or we may have heard the saying, “life is not fair,” and subconsciously also thought, “God is not fair.”
We may not realise that such subconscious thoughts colour our views of God and cause us to judge His plans for us, rather than submit to His will and experience His sovereign, good, and perfect leadership.
Such judgments lead us to think:
- “He says He is a good God but I don’t experience His goodness. He hasn’t given me what I want.”
- “God hasn’t answered my prayers. Maybe it is pointless to seek Him.”
- “I am angry with God for blessing others but not me.”
- “I have achieved everything using my own effort and talents. I don’t need to approach God for anything.”
- “I’ll come to Him when I finish (____), or when I have more time.”
God is committed to building an eternal Kingdom, one that He plans on sharing with us. God will lead us safely to eternity with Him, and teach us how to avoid the things in this life that will lead us to eternal death.
Our focus and desires, however, are usually focused on more shortsighted, earthly things, rather than the eternal inheritance that God has in store for us.
Colossians 3:23-25 ESV Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.
The truth is, God will give us all we need when we seek the Kingdom of God first. His ways are far wiser and better than what we can plan or hope for for ourselves.
Luke 12:31 NLT Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.
Deuteronomy 8:18 NLT Remember the LORD your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful…
8. God wants us to rest in Him
This world tells us that a full life is one that is filled with activity and enriching experiences, and that we should aim to be the “best versions of ourselves” that we can possibly be.
When we follow such worldly mantras, we will also assume we will please God when we do or “achieve” a lot for Him. We can become so preoccupied with Christian activity and performance that we can neglect just being still, being close to Him, and experiencing the rest He gives for our souls.
We may presume:
- “God is happy when I keep busy serving Him.”
- “God must set high standards for me to achieve. I probably need to pray very hard and persistently before I can reach God.”
- “I cannot meet His high performance standards, so I might as well not try.”
In the Bible, we read about how Jesus entered the home of two sisters, Martha and Mary. The Lord commended Mary for sitting at His feet and listening to Him, as opposed to Martha who was busy serving her important guest.
Luke 10:38-42 ESV … And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
It takes discipline to be still before God and just wait and listen for His voice, but it is a discipline we all need to develop. We may find that He corrects us and tells us to cease all our striving because we have been chasing the wind.
Psalm 46:10 ESV “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Ecclesiastes 1:14 ESV I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.
The truth is, God will always be present with us if we seek Him with all our hearts, and we will find deep pleasure and joy as we rest in His Word and His promises.
Exodus 33:14 ESV And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
9. God is not the One who steals, kills, or destroys
We give Satan licence to enslave, torment, destroy, and even kill our families when we turn away from God — and particularly when we participate in witchcraft, idol worship, and various forms of the occult. Jesus, on the other hand, offers us meaningful, empowered, and abundant lives.
John 10:10 ESV The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
When we do not know how to recognise the devil’s schemes — and our family’s own role in giving him the licence to destroy us — we may be misled to think:
- “God has tormented my family and made us go through great suffering. I don’t want to get too close to Him.”
- “God withholds good things, He puts people through un-ending tests and trials.”
- “My parents (who follow Satan) have been a source of great pain. God must not be a good father either.”
- “God doesn’t care for my feelings. He cares more about His plans than about me.”
- “I hear all these (demonic) voices in my head that torment and condemn me. Maybe it is God who is doing this.”
God did not send Jesus to die on the cross, so as to condemn and destroy us, but to save us from the works of our enemy.
John 3:17 ESV For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
1 John 3:8-10 ESV Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
The truth is, God is not the enemy of our souls, Satan is.
10. God sacrificed for us first
Because God is spirit and invisible, we can take His presence for granted. As a result, we may pay more attention to the things or people of this world.
With such a mindset, we may think:
- “I will consider entering into a serious relationship with God only after I do this thing.”
- “My family won’t approve of me following Jesus, so I won’t get too close to God.”
- “God may ask me to give up certain (earthly) things as I get closer to Him.”
- “I will turn to God 100% sometime before I die. In the meantime, I will live my life the way I want.”
God has made it very clear that He does not consider anyone worthy of Him if we only give Him our lives in half measures.
Jesus gave up all His heavenly privileges to be born as a human being to die a terrible death in order to pay for our sins. He gave up His riches, His supremacy, and His dignity for our sakes. What He has given up for our sakes far exceeds what we will ever have to give up on earth for Him.
2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
Matthew 10:37-39 ESV Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
The truth is, Everything on earth is passing away but God’s love for us never will. Let us not chase after the things of this world and risk losing our souls. Instead, let us draw close to God and ask Him to reveal more of Himself to us. He is a good Father who cherishes His children who turn their hearts towards Him.
To receive notifications of new posts from Teaching Humble Hearts, please subscribe here .