Barriers to Receiving God’s Love

Elspeth Carr

A few months ago, our Living Wholeness supervision group discussed barriers to receiving God’s love. Afterwards, we were invited to reflect on three questions: 

  • What are my barriers? 
  • Where do they occur in the sectors of my circles? 
  • By what means might they be dismantled?

I named my pride as a one of several barriers and went around the sectors to understand it better. For each sector, I have added notes, seeking to predict prideful habits to be aware of, and to suggest new pathways to breakdown defences and alter entrenched habits. In the heart circle, I add additional notes to explain how God graciously meets and rescues me. 

Physical Sectors 

Appearance. Pride means I can present as better, or more, than I actually am; and rob God of glory that belongs to him alone. Note: need a sober and conscious acknowledgement of who and whose I am.

Behaviour. I can act superior, engaging in ‘one-up-man-ship’ tactics and perfectionism. Note: Think through and practise gentle and lowly ways. 

Communication. Silence is used as a self-protective, conceited tool to hide ignorance.  If feeling more secure, I am opinionated and hold the floor to silence others. Note: Watch and monitor motivation: fears or dominance.  

Soma. Sometimes sleep is interrupted by ruminating on my appearance, behaviour or communication. Note: Recognise. Confess. Be at peace.

Mind sectors

Cognition. A long-held misbelief that I was cognitively inferior to others. Note: Practise gratitude to God for what He’s given and tell others of His goodness.   

Mood: I habitually felt inadequate and inferior and had many fears. These feelings resulted in a superior demeanour. (In my thirties, my fears seemed entirely out of proportion to conscious memories of a stable and quite happy childhood. I asked my parents if they could explain. They did. I’d been extremely ill as a baby and, until I went to school, I would turn blue when I ran. The doctors said I would not live to adulthood… so I imbibe  my parents genuine, though unspoken fears, for my life, and I am the beneficiary of their prayer-filled faith that I be healed.) Note: As a child my favourite verse was: When I am afraid, I will trust in You. I am learning to practise this. 

Volition: My living can be impaired by fears and result in an overbearing presence. Note: Listen to God’s direction and follow Him, not detours, or stagnate.

Perception: Growing up, I experienced terrors and nightmares often, perceived as both real and irrational. Note: Practise stillness in God’s presence and use my senses to be awed by God and His world.

Thoughts: My mind has habitually dwelt on and been fed by fears and threats. Patterns have become entrenched: judging others and drawing unfavourable comparisons between self, and others especially those who threaten me.  Note: Be alert to thoughts and make every thought captive to Christ.

Heart Sectors with the Spirit circle

As I enter the heart circle, the Spirit, Jesus, and my heavenly Father greet me. The encounter is initially all about Him. It goes like this (often clockwise first, then returning anticlockwise):

Conflict: When meeting a ‘big’ person or idea, fears multiply. I’m thrown off my perch, deeply challenged. Hurt pride threatens to overwhelm me.

Note A: The God of compassion meets me here. My focus is on Him. He welcomes me just as I am. Come, He says, and I am comforted. I’m reminded of His many comforts, His tenderness, and His mercy reassures me. 

Note B: Consider and practise how to meet others as God meets me, with tenderness, mercy, and kindness rather than as a threat or challenge.

Cope: I can overrule plans. I can thwart others’ rights when jealous. I can seek to override sound systems.  Subjugation can be used to get my way. Fight and pretence, flight and faking can be used. It is certainly not fun.

Note A: Once I am calm, He leads me to face my true self: gently exposing what is false, reducing perceived threats, revealing the ugliness of my superior attitudes. 

Note B: I would like to learn more about how to grieve over my sins of pride. Keep prayerfully practising Connecting with Understanding, so others are helped to face the barriers they face in receiving God’s love. 

Centre: I often usurp God as my Lord. I often lord it over others, especially those closest to me. 

Note A: Practise naming the ways I have usurped his Lordship in the past 12 or 24 hours and surrender these to Him. I spent a few weeks making a map of ‘S’ words vertically on my circles to remind me (Stay, Sit, Still, Seek, See, etc). 

Note B: I consciously acknowledge the rightful place of others in my sphere (particularly those I’ve robbed of their place). I envisage what is, and how to take, my rightful place. 

Control: My over-controlling patterns are quite entrenched, alongside (a now less common) hopelessness and helplessness.  

Note A: The God who redeems meets me here. He is in control. What a relief! May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Note B: There are numbers of challenges to learn here. Honouring others above myself by not controlling them. Becoming less demanding on myself (to cover up my weaknesses). Choosing the last place. Being quiet so others have the freedom to be, to think, make mistakes, to be led by the Lord, to serve.

Truth: Long-held belief in my inferiority robs me of self-respect and self- acceptance, causing me to assert my superiority. It is born out of lies about who I am. Trust in God for my salvation has not been difficult but trusting Him personally to be with me day by day has not been my lived reality until recently. I have generally depended on me. 

Note A: Here I meet the God of all faithfulness, my Rock and my Saviour.

Note B: Forgiving myself (in all the sectors where I’m conscious of pride rearing its ugly head) is helping build a truer view of my worth before God Himself. This in turn can help me view others as valued and valuable, able to be forgiven and to trust in a faithful God. 

Love: The tank can be empty, dried up by seeking security and worth in the wrong places. This weakens my esteem, creating a lack of confidence which demands much of others and gives little in return. 

Note A: The God of love overwhelms me with His love, reassuring me of my worth as His own unique daughter. Perfect love casts out fear because fear has to do with judgment and those who fear are not made perfect in love.

Note B: Learning that God and His love is enough for me, for every person I encounter, every situation, trouble and doubt. He is the gift I receive and give. 

Having received God’s love, faced and named the barriers to His love that my pride erects, I can place each of them at the cross, seek His forgiveness, and receive the exchanges He offers as per the five ‘F’s (now anticlockwise in the heart circle):

  • God’s unFailing Love
  • God’s Forgiveness and Faithfulness
  • God’s Freedom
  • God’s Fullness of life, like an ever-flowing stream.
  • God’s presence and power, promises and purposes to Fight the good Fight of faith unflinchingly against the foe of my pride.

Final note: On the square, I find my pride quickly pulls me to be left upper quadrant.

It often hides, is resistant to being dislodged, and can quickly re-appear after a ‘good’ day or ‘successful’ encounter. It’s ugly and most tenacious. This stronghold means it requires oft-repeated dismantling by our great and gracious God. My ‘L’ (Learner Driver) plates need to grow ever larger. I’d love to hear wisdom from fellow pilgrims.