The one thing I ask of the LORD- the thing I seek most- is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORD’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock.
Psalm 27:4-5 NLT
I’m asking God for one thing, only one thing: To live with him in his house my whole life long. I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet. That’s the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world, The perfect getaway, far from the buzz of traffic.
Psalm 27:4-5 MSG
The time we spend with God is special.
When we read the Bible and pray, which is what many call a “quiet time,” we are entering the only secure place in our noisy world. We are connecting with God, and we will find joy, security, and peace beyond anything this world can provide.
But let’s be honest—“the buzz of traffic” can be hard to tune out. Every day, we face obstacles that stand in the way of our quiet time with God and tempt us to give up on it. That’s why, every day, we need to identify these obstacles so we can overcome them.
Here are five common obstacles to spending time with God, along with some ways to overcome them.
Obstacle #1: Anxiety that distracts us from God
Jesus continued from there toward Jerusalem and came to another village. Martha, a resident of that village, welcomed Jesus into her home. Her sister, Mary, went and sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach. Meanwhile Martha was anxious about all the hospitality arrangements.
Martha (interrupting Jesus): Lord, why don’t You care that my sister is leaving me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to get over here and help me.
Jesus: Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her.
Luke 10:38-42 Voice
The biggest obstacle to Martha’s relationship with Jesus was her anxious distraction. Though everything Martha was worried about probably needed to get done, none of it mattered more than being connected with Jesus. Mary probably also had things she needed to do or worries that nagged at her, but she decided to slow down and be with Jesus before doing anything else.
Stress is a natural part of life, and we’re never going to be fully free from it (no matter how many things we check off our to-do lists). We can’t always control the stress that life throws at us, but we can control our response to it. We can either let it drive us closer to God, or farther away from him.
Let anxious distractions drive us to God
Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.
Philippians 4:6-7 Voice
Instead of letting our anxious thoughts distract us from God, we can let them drive us to him. This translation says God longs to hear our requests; he wants to help us with our anxieties and give us a type of peace that goes far beyond human understanding. In some ways, then, every anxious thought we have can be an opportunity to get closer to God rather than an obstacle that stands in the way of our relationship with him.
If anxiety is distracting us from spending time with God, here are a few ways to overcome it based on Philippians 4:
- Talk to God about our needs. This could include practical, physical needs, like things that you want to get done. But this also includes deeper, more emotional needs, like comfort, security, rest, and connection.
- Be thankful for what has come. Gratitude is a scientifically-proven tool for reducing anxiety. Praying about what we are grateful for helps us realize that God has taken care of us in the past, and he will continue to do so. It also puts our lives into perspective; the things we are worried about today are small compared to all that God has given us.
- Pray about everything! Sometimes we feel like we’re burdening God or others with all our thoughts and feelings, or that they’re too small or insignificant to share. God wants us to pray about everything, regardless of how small or how many times we’ve prayed about it before.
Praying like this gives us access to a peace that is beyond our own understanding or abilities, and removes the obstacle of anxious distraction from our quiet time with God.
Obstacle #2: Bitterness that distances us from God
Another obstacle to spending time with God is resentment that is harbored in our hearts.
The godless in heart harbor resentment; even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help.
Job 36:13 NIV
The Bible tells us that those who harbor bitterness or resentment are godless. This might seem harsh at first, but it makes more sense when we think about the times we have been full of resentment; we probably were not full of a desire to be close to God.
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
Hebrews 12:15 NLT
Bitterness stops us from experiencing the grace of God; when we are focused solely on how we have been wronged, we won’t be able to see how gracious God is to us. We won’t be aware of the undeserved forgiveness he offers us every day because all we can think about are the people who did us wrong.
God is merciful, and he treats us all better than we deserve. Jesus gave his life for each of us so that we would spread our experience of God’s unlimited patience with everyone around us. That’s why bitterness puts us at odds with God (see Matthew 18:21-35 and Matthew 6:14). If we are holding onto a grudge, and don’t want to let go of it, we won’t want to listen to or talk to a God whose very nature is merciful and forgiving.
Our bitterness might be caused by a legitimately painful or unfair situation, but it’s poisonous to our relationship with God to harbor it. God can help us find healing and purpose in our pain; bitterness only poisons our faith and relationships.
Overcome bitterness with love
But now put these things out of your life: anger, losing your temper, doing or saying things to hurt others, and saying shameful things. Don’t lie to each other. You have taken off those old clothes-the person you once were and the bad things you did then.
 God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So your new life should be like this: Show mercy to others. Be kind, humble, gentle, and patient. Don’t be angry with each other, but forgive each other. If you feel someone has wronged you, forgive them. Forgive others because the Lord forgave you. Together with these things, the most important part of your new life is to love each other. Love is what holds everything together in perfect unity. Let the peace that Christ gives control your thinking. It is for peace that you were chosen to be together in one body. And always be thankful.
Colossians 3:8-9,12-15 ERV
There are two key points of this passage that can help us overcome bitterness:
- Understand that God loves us.
- Look for ways to love others.
Love is the antidote to bitterness. This passage says we should show mercy to others because God has chosen us, made us his holy people, and loves us. When we are aware of how much mercy and love we have received, we will naturally want to extend it to other people.
Reading about God’s forgiveness in the Bible and praying about the ways God has forgiven us will help us think about other people the way God thinks about them. Rather than letting bitterness control our thinking, we can let peace and love control how we think about and interact with others.
If bitterness has a grip on in us, we can take these practical steps to overcome it:
- Look for scriptures about how God loves us.
- Ask ourselves how we can love the people in our lives in the same way. What do our friends and family need from us, and how can we show them they are loved?
Obstacle #3: Unbelief that deceives us about God
So search your hearts every day, my brothers and sisters, and make sure that none of you has evil or unbelief hiding within you. For it will lead you astray, and make you unresponsive to the living God. This is the time to encourage each other to never be stubborn or hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Hebrews 3:12-13 TPT
Another obstacle to spending time with God is unbelief. It makes us wonder whether there is any point in reading the Bible or praying, and doubt that he has a good plan for our lives. Unbelief also makes us doubt that God even exists or hears our prayers.
These thoughts can pile up in our hearts and make us unresponsive to him. Our hearts go astray and would rather do other things more than spend time with God.
Overcome unbelief by bringing it to the light
When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
Psalm 94:19 NLT
When doubts fill our minds, what we need is comfort and encouragement. Hebrews 3 tells us that the way to get that encouragement is by searching our hearts and allowing our spiritual friends to help us. When we bring our thoughts, feelings, and sins into the light by sharing them with God and others, we will find clarity about what’s really bothering us. Our hearts will soften and our desire for God will get stronger.
Being honest about our unbelief often reveals deeper fears and doubts—like whether we are good enough, capable enough, or worthy of love. When we are willing to be honest with God and friends about the deeper parts of our hearts, we will get the comfort, hope, and cheer from God that we’re looking for.
Obstacle #4: Pride that makes us think we don’t need God
The wicked are too proud to ask God for help. He does not fit into their plans.
Psalm 10:4 ERV
Pride is “a feeling of deep satisfaction or pleasure derived from one’s achievements, qualities, possessions, or associations.” The sin of pride focuses us on our human abilities and strength while leaving little room for God. He doesn’t fit into our plans, opinions, or what we think is best because we think we can figure out life without him.
There are many obvious and not-so-obvious signs that pride is an obstacle to us spending time with God:
- We skip quiet times entirely. Not spending any time reading the Bible or praying on a given day reflects deep pride; we think we can handle life without listening to God or asking him for help.
- We don’t obey what we read in the Bible. Even if we do read the Bible regularly, our pride will stop us from obeying it. At heart, this reflects a belief that our way of doing things is better than God’s.
- We don’t ask for help. We might not know what to read in the Bible, how to apply it to our lives, or how to connect with God in prayer. But instead of asking for help, we try to figure it out ourselves.
- We don’t admit sins or mistakes to God or others. Everyone sins (Romans 3:23). Admitting our sins helps us stay humble and recognize our need for God’s help and forgiveness. Covering up our sins (or excusing them away) only makes us proud.
Overcome pride by admitting we need help
Trust in and rely confidently on the LORD with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him, And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way].
Proverbs 3:5-6 AMP
What “paths” in our lives aren’t straight and smooth right now? What are the areas in our lives in which our own insight and understanding just aren’t cutting it? One way to overcome our pride is admitting we need help and can’t figure out parts of ourl ives on our own.
Instead of relying on our pride to figure out what to do, we can come closer to God by admitting we need his help. The areas in which we feel most limited, confused, or frustrated are the areas that can bring us closer to God if we let them.
Obstacle #5: Guilt that makes us run from God
The wicked are edgy with guilt, ready to run off even when no one’s after them; Honest people are relaxed and confident, bold as lions.
Proverbs 28:1 MSG
Guilt can be a significant obstacle to spending time with God; it makes us run and it makes us edgy. When we feel guilty, we may feel unmotivated to spend time with God because we don’t want to face or admit our shame; we would rather avoid it. If something or someone brings our guilt to the surface, we might get irritable or angry. This can be such an uncomfortable experience that we avoid quiet time with God altogether.
Overcome guilt by turning to God
For I am fully aware of all I have done wrong, and my guilt is there, staring me in the face. It was against You, only You, that I sinned, for I have done what You say is wrong, right before Your eyes. So when You speak, You are in the right. When You judge, Your judgments are pure and true. For I was guilty from the day I was born, a sinner from the time my mother became pregnant with me.
Cleanse me of my wickedness with hyssop, and I will be clean. If You wash me, I will be whiter than snow. Help me hear joy and happiness as my accompaniment, so my bones, which You have broken, will dance in delight instead.
Psalm 51:3-5,7-8 Voice
No matter how guilty or ashamed we feel, God can cleanse us. He is the only one who can remove and forgive our guilt; no person can do it, and our avoidance won’t make our guilt go away either.
The writer of this psalm saw that he had sinned against God. Rather than getting defensive about his sin, he freely admitted it. He trusted God for forgiveness, and that’s what mattered to God.
God can heal us and give us our joy back when we are burdened with guilt, but we have to be willing to be completely honest with him.
Pause and reflect
- Which of the five obstacles to spending time with God have you seen most in your life recently?
- What can you do this week to overcome those obstacles?