The Problem with Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality
Encounter: Reflect on the story of the disabled in John chapter 5. Read it in three different translations underline any words or phrases that seem to be making an impression.
I remember the first time I heard about Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. I walked into my denominational annual meeting one spring about 10 years ago and Pete Scazzero, Pastor and founder of EHS was beginning his workshop by giving us a taste of what it means to go beyond “tip of the iceberg” spirituality. His call was clear, we need to implement a plan for discipleship that leads to two things:
1. Addressing directly the reality that emotional maturity and spiritual maturity are inseparable, that it is not possible be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.
2. Equipping people in a personal, firsthand relationship with Jesus by incorporating stillness, silence and Scripture as daily life rhythms is essential.
Like the Titanic and ships like her that have gone down due to inadequate navigation around what lies below the surface, when we do not recognize the impact that our immaturity, both emotional and spiritual, has on our decision making, relationships and rhythm of life we run the risk of not getting to our destination and at our worst causing some destruction.
When people have genuine spiritual experiences, such as worship, prayer, Bible studies, and fellowship, they mistakenly believe they are doing fine, even if their relational life is fractured and their inner life is disordered. We are sometimes told the more activities we do for Christ the more spiritual we are which at times gives people a reason for not doing the work of maturity. We are told if we just clean up our lives and serve God then all will be well, but the roots of who we are continue unchanged and unmoved.
God wants more for us. God wants us to reflect deeply about why we do the things we do so He can bring healing, understanding and maturity to all areas of our lives. So what is emotionally unhealthy Spirituality? You definitely will want to read the book and join me for the course to get the full picture, but in short order here are the symptoms we may be wrestling with:
1. Using God to run from God
2. Ignoring anger, sadness, and fear
3. Dying to the wrong things
4. Denying the impact of the past on the present
5. Dividing life into “secular” and “sacred” compartments
6. Doing for God instead of being with God
7. Spiritualizing away conflict
8. Covering over brokenness, weakness and failure
9. Living without limits
10. Judging other people’s spiritual journey
This is just the beginning of our journey on the pathway to unleashing the transformative power of Jesus to heal our spiritual lives through joining our emotional health to spiritual practices that open our lives to the Holy Spirit’s work to conform us into the image of God.
One day Jesus visited a place where many of the “broken” hung out together as they waited for someone to put them into a bathing pool at the “House of Loving Kindness.” It was said that at times people were healed in those waters. Jesus’ question to a man who had been sick for 38 years seems out of place, maybe even blunt, when he asked, “Do you truly long to be healed?” When the man answered him back and said he was waiting for someone else to help him into the water. Immediately Jesus said to him “Stand up! Pick up your sleeping mat and walk.
This story in John 5 has a way of reminding us that we cannot wait for someone else to do our maturing for us. Each of us is responsible to decide if we truly long to be healed and to do the work of standing up and walking that journey as he gives us all we need to do it. Doing the hard work to see what is below the surface is what we will be unpacking in this new sermon series and the 8-week course that you can sign up for. Do you truly want to be healed? Do you want to become spiritually mature? This is an invitation to an exciting journey on the seven pathways of emotionally healthy spirituality.
Journeying with you,
Reflect: Are you able to identify in your own life any of the 10 symptoms of unhealthy spirituality? Can you trace back where those may have taken root in your life? Write those symptoms down in your journal and begin to ask God for guidance.
Encourage: Seek out encouragement and guidance from trusted sources like a pastor, spiritual director or counselor to help you discern what may be below the surface that God is inviting you to explore and find healing and maturity.
Gather: Sign up for the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality 8-week Zoom Course that I will be hosting. Order your participants pack by clicking on the links in this week’s Renew. Gather with others as we seek to walk in a more emotionally healthy spirituality.