Why People May Fear Getting Closer to God!
Have you ever experienced a moment when you wanted to fully submit to God, fully trust Him, renew your relationship with Him, and strive towards Him in a way you never have, only to feel a block internally, something holding you back?
Now we of course have to take into account the role Shaytan plays in holding us back from moving closer to God, but we can't JUST recognize Shaytan's role without assessing our own. We have to also recognize our role, turn inward, reflect, and assess the internal factors that are holding us back as well!
Through my work over the years in navigating the psychology of faith and our relationship between our psychological experience and our spiritual path, I have come to realize a very core truth about why many of us struggle to fully submit to God. There are many psychological barriers that can keep us from fully giving our heart in our relationship with God, and acting in a way that is inline with our love for Him. But there is one psychological barrier that I feel is very common and is at the core of our lack of spiritual growth and our ability to have a fulfilling, loving, and wholehearted relationship with God, and that is this: FEAR OF GETTING CLOSER TO GOD.
You might think it is bizarre for someone to fear getting closer to God, because His closeness and love is what we all want or at least claim to want right?
But if we look at our human relationships, we will see that fear can be a common psychological barrier that keeps people from experiencing the beautiful aspects of a relationship such as: trust, vulnerability, love, and nourishment. In fact, it is often people's fears that make them act in a way that is not consistent with their claim to love that person they are in a relationship with. And in order for there to be a true connection between two people, each person in the relationship has to assess their fear and what is holding them back from fully committing in a relationship, fully loving, fully investing, and fully opening themselves to receiving love!
Similarly, our unresolved fears about our relationship with God can hold us back from fully committing, fully loving, fully investing, and fully opening ourselves up to receiving His love!
So what leads many people to FEAR getting closer to God?
Fear is a psychological barrier that can be a result of many factors. When it comes to fears regarding our relationship with God, they can result from our own understanding and experiences of our faith. In deeply exploring psychological barriers to spiritual growth over the years, I have come to learn that fears can easily be embedded into our psyche due to our past experiences and interactions with faith throughout our lives, especially in our childhood and upbringing. They can also result from trauma and abuse that was associated with one's spiritual experience or understanding of faith (i.e, a parent perceived as religious being abusive).
But in addition to these reasons, fears can also result from us not assessing ourselves, connecting to ourselves, and monitoring how we interpret our world, experiences, and path. If truth is not a priority in our lives, we can find fears accumulating due to our lack of effort to interpret our experiences through a truthful lens in which we prioritize God and what He teaches us over how the influences of people, society, or even ourselves and our own perceptions and experiences.
And so, fears about our relationship with God can result from many many factors, but I would like to share ONE factor that I find to be very common and of great significance when it comes to our lack of spiritual growth.
This factor is what keeps people stagnant, stuck spiritually, and finding themselves unable to move forward in their relationship with God and receive all the transformative, nourishing, and awakening benefits of that relationship!
So what is this factor that contributes to many people's fears of getting closer to God?
It is this: the belief that if they get closer to God, God will afflict them with more tests.
Time and time again, I have heard people who are going through significant pain and struggles in life say the following: "If this is love, I do not want it."
They are referring to being loved by God as they are going through the test. This association we have in our minds between God loving us and us being in pain, comes from the way we understood and interpreted teachings in our faith such as "God tests those whom He loves."
And while this is in fact true, and God does test those whom He loves, our understanding of this teaching and our experience with it has led to many people connected more to the pain or "test" aspect and not the "love" part. I believe that this is often due to Islam often being taught without connecting people's hearts to the immensity of God's love for us and what that really means!
I have found that those who have a negative interpretation of this teaching were taught about Islam growing up, in a way that was void of God's love. They were taught about halal and haram (what is allowed and prohibited), and God's anger and consequences, but understanding His love for them was not nurtured in their psyche and heart, and this is a huge problem. For it is a lack of truth that breeds unhealthy fears.
And unfortunately, many people are living and acting in response to limited knowledge they have about God. This is why seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught us. Knowledge is what leads to truth. And truth is light. And light is what helps us see reality for what it is. Truth liberates us from the illusions of the world, the traps of Shaytan, and the fears we have accumulated that are not rooted in what is real.
As a psychologist, my work has centered around helping others connect to truth, for healing, growth, empowerment, and peace cannot exist in the absence of truth. When I work with those who are struggling, I see time and time again how the process of healing is rooted in one's ability to face their inner world, their thoughts, fears, and beliefs and begin differentiating between what is true and what is false.
It is this realization that led me to explore deeply how our thoughts, beliefs, and fears can contribute to struggles on our path to God. As a result, I began focusing significantly on psychological barriers that keep us from spiritual growth. This work led me to develop courses like my UnMasking the Heart course for I believe that the more we can tackle the psychological barriers between us and God, the more we will free our heart from all that is not true and does not serve our path!
This work is so important, and so I leave you with these questions to help you turn inward and reflect on the relationship we deem most important in our lives:
When was the last time you deeply assessed your relationship with God?
If it is important for us to assess our relationship with our loved ones, how can we forget to consistently assess our relationship with the One who has loved us first and loves us the most?
If our relationship with Him is a priority, shouldn't we take a deep and truthful look at what is keeping us from fully investing in this most important relationship?
What are your own fears about getting closer to God? What do you think is holding you back from fully submitting to Him and investing in your relationship with Him?
May God help us tackle all the barriers that keep us between us and Him and may He make this coming new year a year of much growth and a time in which we unlearn and shed what no longer serves our path to Him.
"Has the time not come for those who have believed that their hearts should become humbly submissive at the remembrance of Allah and what has come down of the truth? And let them not be like those who were given the Scripture before, and a long period passed over them, so their hearts hardened; and many of them are defiantly disobedient."
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