Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality
Today the church is in crisis. Most of the crises are personal and deep and people suffer silently because they do not want to make God look bad. Christians are bound by a significant amount of fear, wounds, weakness, defects, distortions, and depressed feelings. This is outright sad because the church is meant to be a place of nourishment, healing, enlightenment, and strength.
The souls born in the church are meant to be nurtured and mentored to maturity in Christ. What is even more appalling is preachers and church leaders are not exempt from this epidemic. I believe a large part of why the church is going through what it is going through is because we as the body of Christ have failed to address our emotional health. We have failed to work out our salvation.
We teach and mentor our congregation on spiritual growth, while most people remain carnal or baby Christians all their lives because they are not able to integrate or bring emotional health into the equation. Most of us know people in church affected by divorce, domestic violence, and addictions of all kinds. Now let us look at the definition of emotion, and what the Bible says about them.
What are emotions, and are they mentioned in the Bible?
In Psychology, emotion has been defined as a complex state of feeling that results in physical and psychological changes that influence our thoughts and behavior. Some of the physiological changes are increases in adrenal glands responses-fight or flight, sometimes increase of heart rate, sweating or elevated blood pressure. Some of the common emotions we are familiar with our anger, fear, sadness, happiness, frustration, love, hate. Emotions motivate people to respond to the environment.
God created emotions: God Himself has emotions. In the Bible, God has been recorded as being angry, The Holy Spirit as being grieved by our actions, and Jesus as being upset at the death of Lazarus (John 11:35), and overcome with emotions at the Garden of Gethsemane( Mark 14:32-43). His soul was exceedingly sorrowful even to death.
What is spirituality?
Spirituality has often been defined as the sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, a higher being. It often involves asking ourselves the meaning of life, how we get connected, and how we should live. It drives us to seek a relationship with a higher being. To us Christians, our higher being is God, and our relationship with Him is through Jesus Christ
How are our Spirituality and emotions connected?
God created us with emotions: Romans 5:5 tells us that He poured His love into our hearts. He gives us joy, love, and happiness to share with Him and others to glorify and shine His light on Earth. God uses the emotion of love to draw us to Himself. Emotions can move us to God or away from God, and definitely away from our destinies. In order to understand the connection between spirituality and emotions, it is imperative to understand our make-up and how God intends for us to function, harmonize and integrate the three parts that make our being.
1 Thessalonians 5:23- The word of God talks about our spirit, soul, and body be kept complete and blameless till the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. So man is a complex creature indeed created fearfully and wonderfully. Let’s look at these components of our being separate:
Spirit: Genesis 1:26 tells us we are spirit made in the image of God. The spirit being of us gets revelation, illumination, spiritual inner senses, spiritual fruit, and spiritual gifts.
Soul: This includes our reasoning, emotions, imagination, intelligence, perceptions, curiosity and desires.
Body: This includes the five senses, motor senses and all the physical organs that make up different body systems.
In a nutshell, we are spirit beings, possessing a soul and living in a body. God intends for us to bring all the three in harmony: being led by the Spirit and renewing our mind. When we do this, we function in our sound and powerful minds at the leading of the Holy Spirit.
What are signs of emotionally unhealthy spirituality?
The enemy of our soul has planted many lies in our minds. Most of these lies were passed down to us as we grew in this broken world and in our imperfect families that raised us. One of these lies is that expressing or acknowledging our emotions is a sin, weak, and not Christian. Because of this lie, God’s children have remained emotionally immature and unable to represent God or shine His light. Many Christians struggle to love or even receive love, yet the greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts and our souls (Matthew 22:37), and then to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Most of us are unable to love others because we do not even love ourselves, mostly because of the many lies we tell ourselves about us. This article cannot exhaust the list of signs of emotionally unhealthy spirituality, but below are the most common ones I have seen.
- Denial of our emotion- This is often because we think expressing emotion is wrong and ungodly, but also because we might not want to feel a particular emotion due to the pain or shame it causes us. People often avoid or deny expressing anger, sadness, and worry. God said, “be angry and not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). Experiencing and emotion are not sin, but it becomes a sin if we respond to it in an ungodly way.
- Spiritualizing away in conflict- This is probably the most common in church, where people rarely resolve conflicts but they quickly give scriptures and pray away the conflicts. In my opinion, this has caused us Christians to be incompetent in problem-solving and conflict resolutions. The secular world might be doing better than us by far.
- Covering brokenness, weaknesses, and failure- This is when we present an image of strength while we are dying, hurting and/or broken on the inside.
- Lack of healthy boundaries- Never saying any can result in being overwhelmed by too many things and letting the wrong people into your inner circle. Lacking healthy boundaries often results in doing too much with too little self-care. Setting healthy boundaries significantly help us maintain our emotional health.
- Living in extremes: – The enemy loves to woo us into living in extremes. For instance, there are those that believe all things pertaining to the Christian life are governed by emotions, while others believe the Christian life is successfully achieved by not showing any emotion at all.
Signs of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality
- Expressing emotions in a safe place, to a safe person. James 5:16 says we are to share our sins one unto another so we may be healed. We definitely need to share them with God (He knows them anyway).
- Maintaining self-care- These includes spending time in the word of God to renew our minds, and taking care of our bodies by eating healthy and maintaining a regular exercise routine (nurturing our spirit, soul, and body).
- Being aware of how our past impacts our present- Many of us come out of our family of origin with wounds, hurts, shame or excessive fear and if we are unable to master and heal these things, they end up controlling us for the rest of our lives.
- Accurately self-assessing our strengths, weaknesses, limits –We should seek to have a mentor or an accountability partner with whom we can share these, or join safe groups*.
- Properly learning to resolve conflicts in a Godly way – This includes the ability to negotiate solutions, while at the same time considering the perspectives of others.
The Hope We Have in Christ
I love God, He is so awesome! He has answers and solutions to all our problems. He tells us exactly what to do. If only we could do it. He wants to help! All we have to do is admit we do carry or have these problems and take them to Him. He has asked all of us who are heavy-laden to go to Him and He will give us rest. If you know of any unhealthy ways you express your emotions, will you go to Him and ask Him for help? He is waiting. This is why He sent Jesus to die on the cross: so He could destroy the works of the devil. The Bible is full of people that had weaknesses and went to God, and He did not penalize them; instead, He greatly used them.
The Author is the Founder of Bloom Counselling and Coaching Services
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* Resources to discuss emotional health in safety include Celebrate Recovery Groups ® (nationwide), as well as formal therapy groups and freedom classes in counseling centers and some local churches. Learn more though Our Blog Page.
Reference- Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Health Spirituality, 2014.