The Five Life Tasks – 1- Spirituality
This presentation is the first in the series, Five Life Tasks.
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Good afternoon to all of you. I was watching the news recently and the newscaster on Nightly News said, “Twentyfive percent of the US population has a mental disorder.” By definition, a mental disorder is some mental or emotional problem that is so serious that it negatively impacts daily living. Some people can’t work. Other people have a lot of problems with their relationships. So that’s a quarter of all the people in this country – one in four.
One of the blessings that God offers us through the Law is mental health. Do you remember that promise? Let’s look at it in Deuteronomy 28, verses 1 and 2.
Dt. 28:12 – It says, Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments, which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you on high above all the nations. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God. So He’s telling them that He gave the Law so that we would know how to live according to the universal rules that God has created about the way the universe works. And He said, “You live by the Law, and you’re going to be in sync with the universe. And so you’ll be blessed.” And before verse 28, He talks about what happens to you when you don’t do that.
V28 – And in verse 28, He says that one of the problems with disobedience to the Law of God is, that the LORD will strike you with madness, and blindness, and confusion of heart. So we see a lot of that in our society today, because we’re not living according to the rules that make people happy and mentally healthy – and physically healthy, for that part.
I will have to say, in thinking about all of this, and after working in the mental health field now for seven years and the ministry for over thirty, it seems to me that very few of the mental problems that I have seen stem from a biological or a genetic cause. Most of them come from two sources. One is our environment – the way we are treated by other people and what happens to us in life, either in our families, or at school, or with other people that we meet – especially when we’re young. And the second one is from poor choices that we make about how we’re going to live our lives.
Now, if you look at this from a biblical perspective, we say that breaking God’s Law can lead to mental problems, because obeying the Law of God keeps us healthy and happy. When we talk about obeying or breaking God’s Law, that’s a choice we get to make, isn’t it? I think the poor choices we make are actually out of line with God’s Law.
So, how is it that even Christians, who strive to obey those universal rules, have mental problems then? I’ve thought a lot about that, and I think it’s very subtle actually. Everybody in their life develops a style of living – or strategies for living life – as we grow up, so that we can get through life. And those strategies are generally a reaction to the things that happen to us, both good and bad. And the choices that we make about how we’re going to live our life often seem helpful to us in the beginning, but as we grow older, the flaws in our choices come back to us sometimes with really harsh consequences.
Now, I’m going to give you an example of how this works. I met a man in my private practice who grew up in a very, very bad environment. To say the least, his parents were not there to take care of him emotionally as a child. They were absent. They were too consumed with their own problems. And as a result, very young he had to learn to fend for himself emotionally. He had several choices he could have picked, even as a child. He could have sought out someone else to take care of his needs. But his choice was to kind of withdraw his feelings and hold them within himself. We call it repression in psychology, but it’s actually a form of selfdeception about how we feel. And it becomes hard to be open and truthful about our feelings – hard to express how we feel. This man had terrible problems with expressing appreciation, love, just about any strong feelings. He had trouble being honest with himself about what he could feel. So his wife, and his children, and the people he worked with, all saw him as a very icy, kind of cold person.
Now it gets worse from there, because his father used to beat him. And he became very angry about that. But he chose not to let his anger into his consciousness. He chose to not feel that as well. So he wasn’t honest with himself about that and wouldn’t deal with it in a healthy fashion. So he always had relationship problems, because the anger that he held within himself would spill out on his family, and on his work associates, and on his friends when he was under pressure. We can think about that scripture that says, “Be angry and sin not.” God knows that we all get angry, but there are ways to deal with it without inflicting it upon other people. But because, as he got older, he didn’t change his strategy and resolve that anger that he felt when he was a little child, he – to use the biblical terminology – we could say he sinned against his family. And we’ll talk about that in a minute, too.
Another problem occurred because his father was so rough on him that he became somewhat paranoid. His outlook was not really according to reality, but distorted – not a true picture of what was going on around him. He always thought everybody was out to get him. That’s what happens to us when the ones that we want to love are too rough on us. It makes us distrustful, and fearful, and negative, and depressive, as this man was. I remember when I first started talking to him, he told me that he carried a big knife with him through his teenage years, because he always thought that somebody was around the corner waiting to get him.
Well, he got older, and he got married, and he had kids. Because he always had this fearful, negative approach to the world, and thought people were automatically down on him, he advertently taught his children that life was, first and foremost, dangerous, and that people were out to get them, too, and they had to be careful. We all know that we have to be careful. But this was kind of outofbounds with reality – out of normal bounds. Because he was angry, he would explode in rages that would make his children feel afraid. He never beat them, but his rages were terrifying to his children. So they believed him – that the world was a dangerous place, because home felt dangerous to them.
This man wanted to do the right thing. He didn’t want to be like his father. But the strategies that he adopted as a child to get through the life that he had to live inadvertently caused him to pass on to his children that same negative outlook, and a fearfulness and dread of impending danger. That’s so associated with faithlessness, isn’t it? Because God’s the one that’s supposed to protect us. When you have an overleaning sense of dread, it’s really hard to have faith.
So to kind of summarize it, what was his strategy for living his life? Well, it was don’t show anybody your feelings – even yourself – and don’t draw close to people, because they’ll hurt you, and always be on guard, because life is very dangerous and people are out to get you. Those strategies helped him survive as a child and as a teenager, but now that his children are grown, he saw that these strategies caused him to make big mistakes in his parenting. He was realizing as he got older that his anger was affecting his work relationships and his wife was even afraid of him. So what seemed to work at one time didn’t work toward the end. And it seemed to compound itself. His defenses and his unresolved emotional issues tainted his relationship with his children, and made it hard for him to work for or with others. It made life really hard on his wife. One of the things I noticed about him was that when I first met him he was fifty, but he lookd sixtyfive. All that anxiety that he carried with him all his life, just really took a toll on his apprearance and his body.
In psychology we talk about human defense mechanisms. They’re all designed to keep us from facing unpleasant or hurtful reality. That’s what this man was employing. They help us avoid the truth. Now, let’s look at the biblical picture of that. Let’s go to Jeremiah 17:9. It talks about the very same capability.
Jer. 17:9 – It says in Jeremiah 17:9 that the heart is deceitful above all things. Now it doesn’t mean that every part of us is evil, or that we’re just horrible, terrible, rotten, but it’s talking about – if you read the context – the capability that we have for selfdeception and to deceive others as well. What happens to us is, as we grow older, the self deceptions that we practice as children – the strategies we develop to get away from unpleasant realities – tend to ruin our relationships in our life as we get older.
So, I’m thinking about some scriptures. Solomon said, “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child.” That’s where we first learn to employ those mechanisms. And John said, “We should worship God in spirit and in truth.” (Actually, Jesus said that, but John quoted Him.) And David told us, “God desires truth in the inward parts,” doesn’t He? As we grow up and get more mature, we’re supposed to face the truth about ourselves and our lives, that we couldn’t face when we were children. We’re to resolve those old hurts so that we can be healthy, happy people.
So, if you think about it, the Bible and psychology come to the same conclusion about how to live a healthy life in a healthy way, and also how to accomplish it. They define healthiness the same way, and the method for accomplishing it is the same. Truthfulness about oneself and life work, while our defenses serve a purpose, but in the end cause us more trouble than they do good.
At LifeResource Ministries, as it evolves, we’ve talked a lot about the need to be mentally healthy in order to be a good church and to be good Christians. Paranoia and faith don’t fit in the same mind. Anxiety and faith don’t fit in the same mind. Anger and love don’t fit in the same mind. Guilt and obedience don’t fit together. Internal dishonesty and truth in the inward parts don’t fit together.
You might ask the question: Everybody has defense mechanisms – it’s just part of being human – why is mental illness so bad in this country. And it’s true. We live in a society – it’s not just the United States; it’s western culture generally – that produces an incredible amount of mental illness. And I don’t know all the reasons for that, but I do know that in western culture, we are gradually losing the capacity to relate to each other in a healthy way. The choices we’ve made have put us in a position where we’re losing the ability to connect to each other as people. That’s bad, because we are designed for relationship. The brain mappers are discovering that the human mind is organized in order to relate to others. So the fact that we can’t do that well is literally making us crazy.
I talk about this with my peers at work all the time. We have to teach parents how to make eye contact with their children, and communicate love through eye contact with them. I’m working with a woman now who swears at her child all the time and can’t figure out why he’s angry. I mean, what kind of a relational IQ does that give you? She’s very intelligent. But that’s what I’m talking about. In our culture we don’t know how to connect to each other – how to treat each other with respect, how to communicate love.
One of my peers was telling me she was teaching a father and his daughter to play this eye contact game, where they had to look each other in the eyes. At first it was one person’s turn to direct the other one around. When you looked up, that meant you had to take a step back, and when you looked down, you had to take a step forward. And when they looked to the left, they had to go to the left. They always had to keep locking in on each other in between. It was just a little fun game to give the kid some power to move the parent around, but it caused them to look at each other in the eyes – something they weren’t used to doing and was hard for them to do.
We all know those people that suck up all their feelings. You can’t find out what they’re really like, because it’s not available. We just know a shell – an image – not the real person. So I was thinking about how to help people live their lives more truthfully and faithfully, and how to avoid some of these pitfalls of life. Because it would make us better Christians, and it would draw us closer to God, and it would make our congregations safer places for our children – not to mention our families. Here’s what I came up with. Both the Bible and psychology talk about various aspects of life that are very important if you want to be mentally and spiritually healthy and happy. If we’re balanced in these areas we are going to tend toward mental health and happiness more. Once I learned these five areas, when people come into my office to talk to me about their problems, I’m always listening with one ear to see how they’re doing in each of these areas, because I know they are important parts of life. If there’s trouble in one or more of them, then there’s going to be disturbance in that person’s life to some degree.
So what I’d like to do is examine each of these five areas in a presentation. I’d like to talk about what psychology says about it and what the Bible says about it. The point being that we can each examine ourselves and our strategies for living, and the fruits of them. And then maybe even we can identify some of our defensive strategies and learn our way around those to be more open and more truthful with ourselves and others. So, hopefully, our selfexamination, as we go through this series, will help us find a way to be more balanced and truthful and faithful and happier. And all that, of course, will strengthen us as people, as parents, and as Christians, husbands and wives, and help us draw closer to God.
So, let’s begin.
Where did I get the five areas? They are all mentioned in the Bible, but I didn’t think about them out of the Bible because the Bible doesn’t put them in a list anywhere. But once they were put in a list, it becomes very apparent that these five areas are very important. So it was helpful to me to see them listed.
And what would the first one be? The first one would be – hold on to your hats now – spirituality. Do you find it interesting that psychology has found that spirituality is a very important part of life? If we can’t find resolution there, we’re not going to be happy or mentally healthy as much as we could be. How does that square with what you have been told as a Christian about psychology in the past?
I’ve heard some of these TV evangelists and other ministers, too – some, friends of mine – rant about humanistic, Godless psychology. You’ve heard that kind of talk. Well, where I was trained, I was taught that people are more than just physical beings. And if a person has any kind of spiritual underpinnings – any kind of spiritual belief system – we should not tamper with it, for one thing, and we should use it to support the person as we can, because that’s good for them. I think about how I do that, since a lot of times people don’t believe just like I do, and I remember that Paul said, “Even the Gentiles have the Law written in their hearts.” If you stop to think about most religions, do you know any religion that doesn’t believe that love is important? They all do. So that’s an example of what Paul was talking about.
So I heard a quote once – since we’re thinking about the fact that we’re spiritual beings – that said, “We’re not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Well, we are human beings. I’m not spirit. I can pinch myself and feel that I’m made out of something physical – flesh, not spirit. But I also know that we have the capacity to think about and entertain spiritual things. So to be whole – mentally healthy, happy – we need to acknowledge, and to think about, and make some choices in this area of life.
Now, what is spirituality? How would you define it? Let me give you six things to think about – a way to think about what spirituality is. The first one would be an acknowledgement of a higher power. That relates to faith, doesn’t it? The second one would be how we worship that person and why we do it. The point of worship, really, is to be in harmony with God and to draw closer to Him. The third thing would be knowledge of God or the divine – in other words, revelation or enlightenment. The fourth thing would have to do with meaning in life or our purpose. Very important. Why are we here? The fifth thing might be giving and receiving, which has to do with love and service and taking care of others who are less fortunate and all that. Then the sixth one could be living the faith or how we practice what we believe about God and spiritual things.
Now, would you say that’s a pretty good list? It really helps you get specific and think about it, doesn’t it? And all of these things are covered in the Bible. But where do you suppose that list came from? Well, it came from a book titled, Adlerian Counseling: A Practitioner’s Approach, by Thomas Sweeney. It didn’t come out of the Bible. But it’s so helpful for us, even though we know that these things are in the Bible, to have them listed for us so it gives us a way to kind of wrap our minds around what spirituality is.
So what I want to ask you next is, how are you doing in this area of your life? Now, I’m not asking you that question to make you feel bad, but only to cause you to think about it. Nobody always figures everything out, so we’re always going to be working on this until the day we die. But it’s good to think about it, and to decide things, and then question and wonder.
The first area that we want to think about would be the acknowledgement of a higher power or faith. Humans have a natural desire to seek God. Do you know any cultures in the world – any cultures in the history of the world – that didn’t have some kind of religion? It just goes hand in hand. If you have people, you have spiritual, religious beliefs.
I talked recently about what the brain mappers are discovering about the human mind. According to a report from the Institute of American Values, they said, “The human brain appears to be organized to ask ultimate questions and seek ultimate answers.” They also said, “Religiosity and spirituality significantly influence well being.” The brain appears to be structured for relationship – that life without satisfying relationships is unhealthy. Religion always has to do with how we relate to God and other people. Christians believe that it is necessary to be in relationship with people and God, because He’s created us that way so we desire an eternal relationship with Him one day. But it’s also important to know that it’s good for us now to be thinking about our relationships with God and others.
Let’s go to Hebrews 11, and verse 6.
Heb. 11:6 – It says, But without faith it is impossible to please Him. For he who comes to God must believe that He is – that makes sense, doesn’t it? If you were God, you would want people to know that you existed, wouldn’t you, before they started worshipping you? So God wants us to believe in Him. Well, how do we know that He is? How can we?
Hold your place there in Hebrews 11, and go with me to Psalms 19, and verse 1.
Ps. 19:1 – David said, The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork. What did he mean by that? Well, he knew – but we know even more now – that all the stars and all the planets are not just blobs of burning gas and rocks scattered in a chaotic fashion, that the entire universe acts in a predictable way, because there are laws that order it all. It’s the product of planning and design, rather than a big explosion. There may have been an explosion, but that, too, functions according to rules.
Heb. 11:6 – The second part – back to Hebrews again – Hebrews 11 – says that we must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. So do you believe that God lives and rewards you if you diligently seek Him? If you do, do you live your life that way? People who have these general beliefs that there is a higher power have confidence that He exists.
So, that’s the first one of the six things. If you believe that God lives – if you have the spiritual belief about a Creator or a spiritual essence, you’re going to be happier than if you didn’t. And of course, as Christians, we adhere to the belief that is taught in the Bible about who God is.
So, the second one is, is your worship satisfying? Does it draw you closer to God? Does it help you feel like you’re in harmony with God? When we talk about drawing closer to a person, what does that entail? Well, it means that we get to know them better, doesn’t it? And we do that by sharing more of ourselves with the other person, so that you really know who we really are, and they with us. Worship is kind of like that. It’s not just singing the same line of a song over and over again, or praying the same prayer over and over again. It’s to learn more about God, and how powerful, and how wonderful, and how loving He is, and to learn how to get in harmony with Him, and to please Him – what He wants us to do in our lives.
I was thinking about our little group here, and how much we have learned in the last year and a half. It’s really quite amazing when you stop and think about it. We still have plenty of problems, and we are small and not as powerful as a lot of groups, but I think we’re slowly putting in place some core Christian teachings that are going to draw others to us eventually. We struggled for awhile with the idea that we were small, but we’re starting to get over that and have fun with each other. We’re realizing that even a few people can worship effectively together. We can get to know God better together, even if we’re a small group – in some ways, it’s even easier. For a while we struggled with the idea that we were superior to others, because of the things that we know. We’re getting over that and realizing that knowing things is good, but that’s not the whole ballgame. So that’s really good for us – to be humble. And we’ve struggled with the idea that someone else is supposed to take care of our spiritual needs. We’re getting over that. We’re all participating more. And because we’re participating more, we’re getting a lot more out of it. And that’s good for us.
Don’t let these comments tell you to think that worship has only to do with church services, because it doesn’t. Our prayer life is very important, isn’t it? Our lifelong study of God’s Word is important. If we want to be in harmony with God, we’ve got to listen to what He says to us out of His book, and we have to talk to Him. It’s also about the good works that we do to help other people.
Last summer we went to Camp Outreach in Kentucky and we painted and remodeled and worked on the homes of elderly people, who couldn’t afford to have others do it and didn’t have anyone to help them. I was thinking about all the people that went to it, and there were people there who held regular jobs and had to take vacation time. Then we asked them to pay tuition on top of that – you know, losing a week’s salary and pay money to go do something for somebody else. And they did that. Why did they do that? They did that to learn more about what God is like, more about Godly values – to gain more harmony with God, in other words. That also is worship.
So how is this part of your life? Have you gotten stuck in that idea that you just come and put in your time at church once a week, and that’s all there is to worshipping God? It’s sort of the bread and water of spirituality, isn’t it? Isn’t it helpful to think about our need to be closer to God and in harmony with Him? And to think about the choices that we make everyday in that regard? It’s very helpful to me, I know that.
Knowledge about the divine. That’s the third area. Acts 17:18 – let’s turn there.
Acts 17:18 – A group of Epicurean and Stoick philosophers began to dispute with him – that would be Paul – and some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” And others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” And they said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?” “You’re bringing some strange ideas to our ears and we want to know what they mean.” And then it says in parenthesis, (For
all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent there time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) They were sort of the religious intellectuals of the day, I guess – you know, Greeks. So Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus, and he said, “Men of Athens, I see in every way that you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Now what you worship as something unknown, I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth, and does not live in temples built by hands, and He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life, and breath and everything else.” Here’s Paul trying to share what He knows about God with people who acknowledge that there’s something they don’t know by the very statue they’ve got standing there.
So, what I want to ask you is, are you happy with what you know about God? Or do you need to know more? I was thinking, again, about human relationships, and how much alike it is to relating to God, and if we’re going to have a relationship with somebody else, we have to give them feedback about how they affect us. We need to know if the way we’re treating the other person is helpful or hurtful, or fun or irritating, if we’re loved or despised, or whatever. And we also need to know the same thing about God, don’t we? If we’re ever going to have a relationship with Him, we need to know if He approves of what we’re doing, and if what we’re doing is what He likes.
Think with me about this for just a minute. We are physical beings, aren’t we? And while we desire to know about spiritual things, we are limited. We can’t know anything about God unless He reveals it to us. We’re completely helpless to understand about Him. If you read human history one way, it’s just a sad record of humans trying to worship God the way they think is the right way. To me, it’s always made sense that God would know more about how He would like to be worshipped than we would.
We were having a discussion this morning after breakfast about how the church used to be very straight forward and simple, and now, after two thousand years, it’s embellished with all kinds of liturgy and tradition and all this stuff. We came to the conclusion that the way it was in the beginning is the way it was intended to be. I certainly believe that.
We have this Bible, which says it’s the Word of God. It says it’s God’s revelation about Himself to us. And in it, we are given a choice as to whether we will worship God, but how we do it is not left up to us. It’s very closely spelled out what God wants. He decides that. Because He lets people decide if they’re going to worship Him or not, so should we. We should not put people down because they believe differently from us, but we should also do what we know God wants us to do, as much as we know.
Okay, moving to the fourth one then. The fourth area to think about in spirituality has to do with the meaning in life. I mentioned in the beginning that the human brain is organized in such a way that it seeks answers for the purpose of life. It’s not simply good enough to live for pleasure and for self. We wind up disappointed if we do that all our lives. We are built to seek for a higher purpose. That usually kicks in with us when we are teenagers, because we’ve developed enough of our brain wiring that we can think about those things – because they are abstract. So we try to figure out where we fit and what our life is for. Here, again, God reveals to us why He made us and what our purpose is. Of course, we also want to know what specifically we are to do while we are living this life. We’ve talked before about in the New Testament that everybody is given a gift so they can help other people. And that gift is to add meaning to our life besides the purpose of eternal life with God. It’s not just some eternal life in the future, but it’s a purpose for being here now. If you don’t know what that is, life is very empty.
Do you know what your gift is and what you’re using it for – or if you are using it? If not, then you’re probably not as happy and fulfilled as you could be, and neither are the others around you, because they’re not receiving the benefit of your gift. People who know where they’re going, and why, tend to be happier.
I read a really interesting book about this years ago called, Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankel. He said – and I believe he’s right – that we detect our purpose as things come to us each day. The hard things happen in life. How are we going to handle them? Will we be gracious and tolerant and forgiving, as God has forgiven us? Or will we be meanspirited and close ourselves off? Will we allow ourselves to sink into discouragement? Or will we rise to life’s challenges? I think it’s in the challenges of life – in fact, I don’t just think this, the Bible tells us this – but it’s in the challenges of life that God forges our character if we participate in this with Him.
I’ll give you an example. I have a good friend who was a scientist for a large electronics company. He had a degree in physics, and he had experience working with ink and paper in the press of a large church. He went to work for this company, and he was the perfect one to learn how to do inkjet printer technology. He told me that he had a project manager who was extremely difficult to work for. He was really political. He was sneaky and manipulative. He was dishonest. But worst of all, he was really rude and abusive to the people that worked for him. My friend told me that he was really getting upset by all this. His blood pressure was going up. He couldn’t sleep at night. He was snapping at his wife. He realized that he was growing spiteful. So what was he going to do? Well, he went to God with it. He laid all his feelings out. He explained the whole thing. And he asked God to show him what he should do. Then he fasted about it. It came to him that his boss was probably this way to everybody – not just him. And he said that’s just the little bit of relief I needed – to start thinking about him – that he was this way to everybody and it wasn’t anything personal. He said, “It didn’t make it any better, but it helped me realize that it wasn’t just about me.” So that realization helped him grow calm, even though he was still being treated the same way. He began to pray every day for his boss, because he wondered why he treated everyone like that. And one day, not long after he took this turn in his approach toward his boss, his boss walked into his office, closed his door, sat down and told him that he and his wife were on the verge of divorce, and that he was the only person in the department he felt comfortable talking to. And he broke down and wept. My friend listened sympathetically, and after a while the boss got up and left. From that day forward, his boss was just as disrespectful and rude to everyone else, but to him, he showed great deference. And a few months later my friend
was promoted to project manager in another area, got a huge raise in pay and no longer had to work for the man.
I asked my friend what he learned from that, and he said he learned it was more important to hold form than to have one’s way. So he was trying to do the right thing – do what God wanted him to do – rather than tell this guy off and be right. That’s a very interesting lesson for me. It points to what’s important in life to me – that there are more important things than just always reacting to what happens to us.
The fifth point is giving and receiving. Do we know how to love other people? Interestingly, we’ll find out later that one of the five major areas of life that promotes happiness and mental health is our ability to have and maintain loving relationships with those who love us, but this is also part of religion, because all religions emphasize love as necessary for life.
Now there have been a lot of studies done about this – plenty of documentation – to show that people who can give and receive love tend to be happier. Can we hang in there with other people and their imperfections, or do we blow off relationships if they don’t suit us? Can we express our feelings honestly, so others can know us? Can we trust other people and let them see our feelings and our faults? Or is the world an unsafe place where we have to hide it from everyone? Do we know how to let other people help us? Do we know how to help other people? Do we love God? And do we know that God loves us? Love, when you boil it all down, is just really about taking care of each other. There again, I keep coming back to Camp Outreach and what I learned there – what happens when people reach beyond their own desires and extend their resources to help other people. People who love are also loved – not necessarily by the same ones they love, but it does come back to us.
Then, lastly, do we live our faith, or are there huge gaps in our practice of it? This is one of the easiest to understand. If we don’t make a goodfaith effort to practice what we say we believe, if we don’t attempt to live by our conscience, then those failed attempts create guilt in us, don’t they?
Paul said, “Whatever is not of faith, is sin,” right? So, if we’re not following our faith, then we’re sinning. We’re hurting ourselves. And when we live outside of our conscience, that causes guilt, and guilt creates anxiety, and anxiety sometimes causes anger, and anger is the same thing as depression. Those are some mental health terms, aren’t they? It all started with sin. So it’s not good for us to live outside of our conscience. It’s mentally unhealthy.
When I talk to people in my practice, I look to see if they’re violating their conscience, and try to help them begin aligning their life with what they believe is right. Of course, as Christians, we have an incredible gift given to us by Jesus Christ. Let’s look at that in 1 John 1, verse 8.
1 Jn. 1:8 – It says, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. That goes back to what I said in the beginning, doesn’t it, about selfdeception and the fact that we need truth about ourselves. If we try to kid ourselves and repress feelings of anger that might be sinful, or other feelings that are wrong or bad, unhealthy, and we deceive ourselves, he says the truth is not in is. And he says, But if we confess our sins, in verse 9, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all our unrighteousness. So accepting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in our life is one of the most mentally healthy things you can do – not to mention the fact that you get to live forever.
None of us can be successful living within God’s Law or within our consciences perfectly. So Christ died to pay that penalty for us. That doesn’t allow us to live outside the Law, but it does erase the penalty and it can remove the guilt that we feel and know that God cares for us and is going to take care of us. But we still need to strive to please God, don’t we? When we fail, we’re forgiven, and we have no need of guilt then. And if practiced, living in the knowledge of God’s way leads to mental health.
Now that’s a very quick look at the importance of spirituality in life – 1) acknowledgement of a higher power, 2) worship, which is harmony with God; 3) knowledge about the divine, which is revelation from God; 4) our meaning in life or our purpose; 5) giving and receiving, which has to do with love and service; and then, 6) living the faith – faithful practice of what we believe.
So, I hope looking at these six areas of spirituality have provided some food for thought on an important aspect of life, happiness and mental health. It’s a huge area – daunting to think about it – but if we think about the choices we make and the strategies we employ, any steps we take to move toward attunement with God will enrich us and help us to be happier people.