Once you are a Christian, Satan is going to do anything he can to try and create a sense of division, distance and/or friction between you and God. One of the most effective ways for him to do this is to get you in a position where you are avoiding certain subjects in your prayer life. Whether it’s past sins, past traumas, current struggles, anger issues, looming fears, or anything else, it is vital that you keep those lines of communication totally open.
So how do you do this? In this post, we’ll talk about some strategies you can use to help break through the emotional barrier. But first, you need to identify your reasons for shutting down in the first place.
This is a big one. When we feel intensely ashamed or guilty over something we have done or are currently doing, it’s easy for Satan to drive us into a corner of silence. To get back out, we need to remember that God already knows everything about us. We can’t keep any dark secrets from Him. At first this might sound threatening, but it’s actually a good thing, because it means we can’t ever shock or surprise God.
Satan works hard to get you to think God is reacting to your issue with the disgusted shock of a human who just found out some dirt on you and now they’re opinion of you has radically changed. But this is not how God thinks. He knew this issue would become an issue since before He even created you, and He still wanted you. God loves you as you are. He isn’t standing around waiting for you to clean up your act before He’ll look at you. Whenever we start feeling trapped in shame, God’s truth is what we need to set us free again. Read the following post to gain some perspective about what God’s attitude really is towards you at this time:
Escaping the Trap of Guilt
ANGER & HATE
Sometimes anger and/or hate is the reason we shut down on God. Maybe He’s done something to you that you can’t forgive Him for. It’s okay to hate God—did you know that? Hate is a very normal and natural response when you feel deeply wounded by God. Hating God does not make you a bad Christian, nor does it mean you are spiritually flawed. God wants total honesty from you. If you are furious with Him, He doesn’t want you to pretend otherwise. The key here is to avoid isolating yourself from God, because then Satan will have a field day with you. Hate and anger become powerful instruments of torment when we refuse to let God help us process them in healthy ways. If you are willing to talk to God honestly about why you are angry with Him, you will actually end up with a stronger, deeper and more joyful relationship with Him. If you are feeling nervous about being honest with God about your anger, read Being Honest with God.
Sometimes we stop praying because we’re afraid that God is going to lash out at us in anger. We hope that if we don’t pray, God won’t notice us, and then maybe we’ll be safe. This logic is based on a very wrong and damaging deception about who God is. God is not an unreasonable monster who is just waiting to explode on you. Maybe you’ve had to deal with some short-tempered humans in your life, but God is extremely patient, gentle and kind. Yes, He gets angry, but only with those who are willfully defying Him. Are you trying to defy God? If not, then He’s not angry with you.
Our behavior is not what provokes God to anger. He responds to our heart attitudes. Maybe you’re doing something that you know God doesn’t like, but you can’t find the resources to stop. Meanwhile, you figure He must be boiling with fury over your ongoing sinful behavior. If this is the case, then stop to consider what your heart attitude is. Do you sincerely want to please God? If so, then God is not upset with you. God responds to our heart attitudes, not to how well we are able to manage our flesh in a given moment. You can’t overcome your flesh without God’s help, and if He’s not helping you, He has a positive reason for withholding the resources you need.
Or maybe you think that God demands that we tremble in His Presence. After all, aren’t we commanded in the Bible to “fear the Lord?” Yes, we are, but this is a fear that is based on a positive respect for God’s power, not a negative fear of His cruel Character. Read How to Recognize a Destructive Fear of God.
Maybe God has hurt you one too many times and you have shut down as a way of trying to protect yourself. The problem with this is that God hasn’t gone anywhere. Silence doesn’t really separate us from God’s Presence or power, it just makes us feel cut off from His love. The truth is that God puts us through painful experiences in order to draw us closer to Him so that we can ultimately experience greater joy in our union with Him. To learn more about why growing closer to God has to involve some painful experiences, read:
The Benefits of Betrayal: How God Uses Traumatic Experiences to Strengthen Our Bond with Him
STARTING THE CONVERSATION
Now that you’ve identified the issue, it’s time to start the conversation. But how? There are several different exercises that can help you break through the emotional barrier—see which one works best for you.
This exercise is particularly useful for helping you connect with the reality of God’s Presence in the room with you. Get two chairs and set them up facing each other. Then sit down in one of them and imagine God sitting down across from you. Start talking to Him out loud as you would a person that you can see. Praying out loud helps focus your thoughts and having the chair to focus on helps you connect with the reality of God’s attentive Presence.
The Indirect Approach
When you find it too difficult to talk to God directly, it can help to take a more indirect approach. Describe your problem to yourself in your mind. Then pause to reflect on the fact that God hears all of your thoughts. Invite Him to comment on everything you’ve just said by praying something like, “Any thoughts?” or “I’m open to feedback.” This approach gets you to the point of listening to God without having to try and get through a long speech to Him. Sometimes we are in too much pain to bear the image of speaking to God directly for more than a few seconds.
Writing It Out
Writing out our thoughts helps us focus on what we are trying to say. It can also help us get around the intensity of direct communication. Write or type God a letter explaining why you have stopped talking to Him. Be honest. Don’t minimize. If you think He’s been a jerk to you, tell Him. If you’re afraid He doesn’t love you or that He won’t forgive you, say so. End the letter by asking Him to help you get back into a better place with Him.
The goal of this exercise is to help you get more connected with God’s positive view of you. Imagine that you are a parent who has a child that you dearly love. If that’s a bad image for you, then imagine that you are standing somewhere with a very good friend. Whoever the second person is—child or friend—put them in the position you are now in with God. Give them all the emotions that you are now feeling—pain, anger, fear, or shame. Because of the way this person feels, they have stopped talking to you. But because you love them very much, it grieves you to have this barrier of silence between you. Imagine how you would go about encouraging this person to start talking to you again. You understand the false assumptions they are making about you. What would you say to help them understand how positively you feel towards them?
When we turn the tables and try to see ourselves from an outsider’s perspective, it’s often much easier to connect with God’s love and compassion for us. If your child was afraid that you were upset with him, you would go out of your way to assure him that you weren’t. If a friend was deeply wounded by something you did to her, you would try to convince her that you completely empathized with how she felt and you would try to help her understand your positive motivations. When those we love are in crisis, it brings out our compassionate and caring side. God loves you far more than you love any other human and He is already responding to you with far more gentleness, patience, and empathy than you dare to imagine. Once you stop talking to God about certain things, it is very easy for Satan to fill your mind with all kinds of lies about who God is and how He views you. You need to realize that images of God glaring down at you in your mind or smirking at your pain or turning His back towards you are not coming from Him. Such images are manufactured by demons who are trying to make their lies sound more credible. If you are a Christian, God is never going to push you away from Himself or say anything to you that makes you feel discouraged, hopeless, and fearful in your relationship with Him. If you are not a Christian but you want a relationship with God, then your desire for God proves that He is calling you to Himself and inviting you to start a relationship with Him. Either way, the silence on your side must be broken. Start talking to God today. Don’t help Satan take you down.