Why Do I Distance Myself from God?

Learning why we distance so we can learn how to draw closer to God.

As a teenager, a basketball court was my sanctuary. It was the place where I felt the safest.

When I was on the basketball court, I could distance myself from all my anxieties, fears, guilt and regrets. Unfortunately once I stepped off the court, all those feelings came surging back.

I lost my mother to cancer when I was a teenager. Her loss was painful and left a void in my heart. To avoid the pain her loss created, I chose to live with a level of emotional distance in all my relationships.

I had a pretty simple mantra – “I can’t get hurt if I don’t let people in.” I still struggle not to let this mantra define my relationships today. Unfortunately, this pattern of creating distance in relationships with people influences the way I build my relationship with God (1 John 4:20).

Learning why we distance ourselves from God is one of the necessary steps needed to build an intimate relationship with Him. In this article, we will discuss 5 reasons why we choose distance from God instead of intimacy, followed by ways we can start attaching to Him.

Ignoring our insecurities

When I don’t deal with my insecurities, they taint the way I view God and the way I believe God views me.

Insecurities constantly drive the uncertainty of a nagging question many of us experience: Am I worthy of being wanted? I have felt for much of my life that the answer would be no, and as a result, I would be rejected.

This was the root of my insecurities. I created distance in relationships with people and God to avoid rejection.

[8] When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” [9] For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, [10] and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”

[11] So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

Luke 5:8-11 NIV

Peter witnessed the power of Jesus, and although moved and in awe of Jesus, he felt he was unworthy to be in his presence. Like me, Peter would rather distance himself from Jesus, by telling him to “Go away from me, Lord…” than to risk experiencing the rejection he felt he had deserved. Peter had undealt with insecurities.

We can try to deny, avoid, or even harden to our insecurities but they will sabotage every relationship we seek to be close to. I have learned that when I try to be something on the outside that is different from what I am on the inside, I get more insecure.

In the presence of Jesus, Peter could not hide or deny who he was, blurting out, “…I am a sinful man!” instead of rejecting Peter, Jesus instead gave him a vision of what he would become.

Reflection questions

  • How do I deal with my insecurities?
  • What insecurities make me distance myself from God because I fear being rejected?
  • How could dealing with those insecurities help me find my purpose?

Running from responsibility

Throughout my life I have run from responsibility. I believed responsibility would lead to failure, and failure to rejection.

Creating distance in relationships was my way of avoiding responsibility. When I was given responsibility, I would defer to others or be indecisive or procrastinate until someone else made a decision, taking the responsibility from me.

If I maintained a level of distance, from people or from God, then I could set myself up to fail without being able to blame anyone else but myself. It’s easier to hide behind being indecisive or letting others take responsibility than choosing to give my best at something and risk finding out I didn’t have what it took.

[1] The LORD spoke his word to Jonah son of Amittai: [2] “Get up, go to the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it, because I see the evil things they do.”

[3] But Jonah got up to run away from the LORD by going to Tarshish. He went to the city of Joppa, where he found a ship that was going to the city of Tarshish. Jonah paid for the trip and went aboard, planning to go to Tarshish to run away from the LORD.

Jonah 1:1-3 NCV

In the first few verses of the book of Jonah, we see God giving Jonah a responsibility to preach against the conduct of the people of Nineveh. Instead of taking responsibility for God’s calling, Jonah chose to run away.

God will call us to take responsibility for a number of things, ranging from the impact we have on relationships to what He wants us to do with the gifts and talents He’s given us.

Reflection questions

  • What responsibility am I refusing to take?
  • Where do I go to run away from God and the purpose He has for me?
  • How can I decide to take responsibility?

Not dealing with shame

While listening to an episode of our podcast, I learned that undealt with guilt and shame were some of the biggest enemies of intimacy. I saw how true this was when I realized how often I chose distance as a way to hide and avoid shame.

If I couldn’t blame someone else for my guilt or shame, I would detach and avoid relationships with God and others to create distance rather than seek forgiveness and resolution.

[7] At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. [8] When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the LORD God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the LORD God among the trees. [9] Then the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”

Genesis 3:7-9 NLT

After choosing to disobey God, Adam and Eve soon felt shame for the very first time. Later when God was looking for them, seeking connection, Adam and Eve were creating distance. They chose to deal with their shame by running and hiding from God. Distance is not a new response to shame, nor is it God’s way of dealing with our guilt.

When people turn to you, they discover how easy you are to please—so faithful and true! Joyfully you teach them the proper path, even when they go astray.

Psalm 25:8 TPT

Shame is such an unproductive response to our guilt. It prevents us from experiencing the intimacy God so desperately wants to have with us.

Reflection questions

  • How does shame make me distance myself from God?
  • What is causing shame in my life?
  • How can I choose to let the shame bring me closer to God, seeing my need for Him instead of growing further apart?

Quitting on the fight

Like any other relationships, being close to God takes work. At times, I don’t want to have to keep fighting through my emotions, desires and sins to do the necessary work to be close to Him.

[3] Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. [4] Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

[5] Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!”

1 Kings 19:3-5 NLT

Shortly before this passage, God worked through Elijah in an incredible way to win a huge victory over his enemies. Nevertheless, at the beginning of chapter 19, after defeating hundreds of false prophets, Elijah runs away upon the threats of a single person. Nothing had actually happened, nor was anything going to, but he allowed his fears to take over and make him want to give up.

However, by the end of the chapter, Elijah had progressed to being able to express fully his emotions to God, allowing God’s voice to calm His fears.

Reflection questions

  • How do my fears make me want to give up?
  • How can I choose to be honest about my fears with God so I’m able to listen to His voice?
  • How will I start fighting again?

Comparing God to people

Here’s a fact: Any relationship that we allow to get close to us will at some point hurt and/or disappoint us. The bible teaches us that we are all sinful and that sin is relationally destructive. God alone is good and without sin (Mark 10:18 NIV).

All of us have experienced hurt or disappointment in relationships. If you’re like me, you associate hurt and disappointment with intimacy and often believe distance from intimacy will protect us from hurt and disappointment.

Actually, hurt and disappointment come from sin, not intimacy. This is why we cannot compare God to people. God is a father and wants us to experience true joy and a full life.

But like a father, God knows that the way to true joy and full life is through spiritual training. Most of us resist spiritual training because it doesn’t always feel good. But God trains us for our good.

[9] Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! [10] They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.

Hebrews 12:9-10 NIV

When we distance ourselves from God to avoid hurt or disappointment we are actually hurting ourselves. We need to remind ourselves, God is not like people.

God is not like people. He tells no lies. He is not like humans. He doesn’t change his mind. When he says something, he does it. When he makes a promise, he keeps it.

Numbers 23:19 GW

God’s desire to be close to us is so strong that he has taken away every barrier that keeps us distant from him.

Reflection questions

  • Do I compare God to people? In what ways? 
  • What negative views of God make me be distant from Him?
  • How will I start using the Bible to help me develop the right view of God and dismantle the lies I believe about Him?
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