Category: Spirituality

The series of messages on emotionally healthy spirituality will invariably elicit different responses to the challenges and issues. According to Peter Scazzero, some of the responses from church leaders and pastors serve to highlight the importance of this subject for the local church. Here are some examples:

  1. I have neglected my inner life.
  2. I have given away my walk with Jesus to manage my congregation; I have impoverished my marriage in the process.
  3. My stoicism, in reality, is a self-protective device, and it demeans who God made me to be.
  4. I need to have more self-awareness.
  5. No more “flying by the seat of my pants” – emotional health takes discipline and hard work.
  6. I need to place a higher priority on time with God and trust Him with the rest.
  7. My congregation needs emotionally healthy practices if we are going to mature as a family of faith.
  8. I am spiritually dry, running on empty. I need to slow down for Sabbath rest.
  9. I am more insecure and averse to conflict than I admit.
  10. Exploring my past is not dwelling on my past.
  11. I take things too personally when it is not my personal responsibility.
  12. The world will go on without me; but I cannot go on without Christ.

As we grow in emotional and spiritual health, we will discover essential changes in our heart and soul reveal significant growth in our personal spirituality. Some of these changes will include the following:

  1. We have a greater capacity to wait on God and surrender to His will.
  2. We are kinder and more compassionate.
  3. We are less pretentious and less attached to nonessentials in our life.
  4. We are liberated from having to impress others.
  5. We are able to live more comfortably with not knowing everything while embracing the mystery of God’s purposes.
  6. We are characterized by a greater humility and brokenness.
  7. We enjoy a new, vivid appreciation of the sacredness in all of life.
  8. We have fewer fears and a greater willingness to take risks.
  9. We have a greater sensitivity for the poor, the weak, the broken, and the wounded.
  10. We are more at home with ourselves and with God.
  11. We perceive others as persons made in the image of God.
  12. We live as the beloved of God who love as we are loved by Jesus.

The vital key to growing into an emotionally healthy spiritual person is Jesus Christ. Knowing Jesus, loving and trusting Him in our daily lives will engender liberating changes in our attitudes, emotions and choices. Believing in Jesus involves becoming the kind of person Jesus calls to be. At heart, we are called to love God and to love one another just as Jesus loves. The question remains: do we love as Jesus loves? Jesus models and embodies the fullness of God’s love for us. We are compelled by the love of Jesus to see ourselves and others as the beloved of God. Knowing we are loved, we are set free to love others with genuine compassion and kindness. Love actually defines our identity, our values, our purpose and our destiny in Jesus Christ who said: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” John 15:9 ESV


Break free from our past

Looking back at our family histories, we discover the various sources of influence on our current experience, relationships and identity. Our cultural background, social context, and personal beliefs affect our understanding of what has happened in the past as much as how we respond in the present. Our parents and grandparents, along with our siblings, may have contributed to our sense of worth, belonging and love. But they could also generate family tensions, strife, rivalry, hatred, bitterness, regret, anger and rejection. We may not realize how certain family patterns carried over from past generations might actually shape present relationships and emotional responses.

But is it possible that the negative effects of our family history remain unchanged over several generations? Do we inherit the flaws, failures and frustrations of our forefathers? Are we helpless victims in the vicious cycle of destructive behaviour? Can we overcome the sinful tendencies of our past? Do we underestimate the negative and harmful influence our family of origin might have on our present situation? What can we do to break free from the power of the past in order to live the life of love God intends for us?

Consider the following dimensions and reflect on how they influence your life today:

  1. Money – Is money your most important source of security? Does making money validate your ability or self-worth?
  2. Conflict – Do you avoid conflict at all costs? How do you cope with fighting and anger?
  3. Sex – Is this a taboo subject? Do you hold on to stereotypes about gender and sexuality?
  4. Grief and loss – Do you find it hard to express your feelings of sadness or loss?
  5. Anger – Do you repress angry feelings? Are you able to express anger without hurting others or yourself?
  6. Family – Do you feel totally obligated to your family? Do you find it hard to be honest about what goes on within the family?
  7. Relationships – Do you trust people easily? Are you afraid that people will disappoint you? Are you vulnerable?
  8. Different cultures – Do you only feel safe and comfortable with people of the same culture? Do you hold personal biases or prejudices against people of different cultures?
  9. Success – What are your personal indicators of success? When do you feel a failure?
  10. Feeling and emotions – Do you feel constrained in expressing certain feelings? Do you react emotionally before thinking about it?

As we review our past, especially our family histories, we might discover some deeper issues that continue to affect our sense of self-worth and identity. We may have inherited destructive patterns of thinking and behaviour. Our pain, suffering, and brokenness remind us of our human condition as people in need of God’s grace, mercy and love. Through the power of Jesus Christ and his love for us, we can break free from our past and experience healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Understanding our past and inviting God to deal with our brokenness will set us free to embrace a new sense of emotional wellbeing as well as a new awareness of spiritual vitality. We are invited to release our fears, our past hurts, our regrets and our bitterness to Jesus. There is nothing in our past that cannot be redeemed by Christ and turned into good according to God’s mysterious power and purpose.

As we explore the pathway to a balanced and healthy spirituality, we realize the importance of nurturing emotional health in our life. It is possible to grow emotionally healthy without a personal commitment to Christ. But it is also possible to be zealous about spirituality and remain unaware of one’s social, emotional and psychological deficits. When we integrate emotional health with contemplative spirituality, the disciple of Christ experiences a holistic transformation.

What is emotional health? How do we describe contemplative spirituality? I wish to share an outline of both as presented in Scazzero’s book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (2006:45, 46).

Emotional health is concerned with the following:

  • naming, recognizing, and managing our own feelings
  • identifying with and having active compassion for others
  • initiating and maintaining close and meaningful relationships
  • breaking free from self-destructive patterns
  • being aware of how our past impacts our present
  • developing the capacity to express our thoughts and feelings clearly, both verbally and non-verbally
  • respecting and loving others without having to change them
  • asking for what we need, want, or prefer clearly, directly, and respectfully
  • accurately self-assessing our strengths, limits, and weaknesses and freely sharing them with others
  • learning the capacity to resolve conflict maturely and negotiate solutions that consider the perspectives of others
  • distinguishing and appropriately expressing our sexuality and sensuality
  • grieving well

Contemplative spirituality focuses on spiritual practices and concerns such as:

  • awakening and surrendering to God’s love in any and every situation
  • positioning ourselves to hear God and remember his presence in all we do
  • communing with God, allowing him to indwell fully the depth of our being
  • practicing silence, solitude, and a life of unceasing prayer
  • resting attentively in the presence of God
  • understanding our earthly life as a journey of transformation toward ever-increasing union with God
  • finding the true essence of who we are in God
  • loving others out of a life of love for God
  • developing a balanced, harmonious rhythm of life that enables us to be aware of the sacred in all of life
  • practicing the spiritual disciplines for our life today
  • allowing our Christian lives to be shaped by the rhythms of the Christian calendar rather than the culture
  • living in committed community that passionately loves Jesus above all else

By nurturing emotional health and contemplative spirituality, we will discover the fullness of life that Jesus promised.. We are commanded by Jesus to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength as well as to love our neighbor as ourselves (see Mark 12:28-34). Loving God well, loving others well and loving ourselves well are essential to living the Jesus life.

We enter the new year with mixed feelings. The economic outlook seems shaky and uncertain. Our collective optimism about the past year has been tempered by sombre and cautious sentiments about 2012. The recent baptisms on Christmas Day have certainly inspired us and given a sense of positive excitement about what God is doing in our church community. The fourfold priorities for WVBC in 2012 and beyond serve to direct our energies and resources toward outreach, spiritual formation, community-building and discipling the generations. We have reasons to be positively engaged in 2012.

We need to address the ongoing challenge of becoming an authentic community of disciples who love Jesus and who love one another. What are the traits of a healthy spirituality that will ensure substantive growth in character and compassion? What are the symptoms of an unhealthy spirituality that will erode faith, hope and love? We shall explore these questions over the next eight weeks in our pulpit series: “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.”

I am aware of the frustrations and disappointments associated with superficial Christian living. I am mindful of the times when our souls are dry and our emotions are draining. I am alerted to the struggles of sincere followers of Jesus Christ who experience insecurities, the need for approval, addictions, self-loathing, feelings of failure and depression. I am concerned for those who have given up on the church because they are weary of Christians who are angry, compulsive, defensive, arrogant, opinionated and too busy to care.

Simply having the best intentions to become a good Christian is not enough. Our best efforts and sincere expectations could still leave us in a state of pain, discontentment and perplexing mess. I believe that God reaches deeper into our emotions, memories and spirit so as to transform us in our inner life and person. There are layers of our emotional life that have been impacted by a legacy of past hurts, relational crises and mental anguish. Shame, secrets, lies, betrayals, unresolved needs for love and acceptance, disobedience and unforgiving spirit simmer beneath. I believe we need healing and transformation. But it must begin with an honest realization that emotional health is vital to spiritual wellbeing. We cannot experience spiritual maturity without emotional maturity. I believe the work of divine love and grace in our lives include the work of healing, forgiveness and renewal through the Holy Spirit.

In Peter Scazzero’s book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, he lists ten symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality. Reflect on the following and allow the Spirit to speak into your heart:

  1. Using God as a way to avoid the difficult areas in my life God wants to change.
  2. Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness and fear.
  3. Dying to the wrong things.
  4. Denying the impact of the past on the present.
  5. Dividing our lives into “secular” and “sacred” compartments.
  6. Doing things for God instead of being with God.
  7. Spiritualizing away conflict and thus avoiding conflict.
  8. Covering over brokenness, weakness, and failure.
  9. Living without limits and boundaries.
  10. Judging other people’s spiritual journey and experiences.