Over thirty-five years ago I did research for my Doctor of Ministry dissertation which was titled, "The Effectiveness of Various Spiritual Disciplines in Facilitating the Emotional Healing Process." It was a look at how the personal practice of spiritual disciplines (prayer, Bible study, journaling, meditation, etc.) assist us in the healing of our damaged emotions. In the 70's and 80's very few protestants ever spoke about "spiritual formation" or "spiritual guidance." At that time, I had to rely heavily upon Catholic and Episcopal writers. But today, as evidenced by the book Sacred Rhythms (written by Ruth Haley Barton who studied at Wheaton College) and Celebration of Discipline (written by Richard Foster from Friends University) people from almost all theological backgrounds are interested in this topic.
The sub-titled for the Sacred Rhythms book is, "Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation." What is suggested by this title is the idea that by our entering into a disciplined pattern of spiritual practice God is able to enter into our life and bring the transformation and healing we long for. Spiritual disciplines, in essence, become "windows" through which the transforming power of God's grace can shine through. Thus, our emotional, spiritual, and relational healing are not just a matter of "recovering" from a life hurt; rather, healing is a by-product of our participation in spiritual disciplines which become "means of grace." My conclusion, 34 years ago and today, is that therapy and spiritual formation can, and should be, closely intertwined.
In Solution Focused Brief Therapy it is the client who establishes the "Best Hopes" for therapy and brings the content for discussion into each session. As we begin to explore these hopes, however, I frequently find that people believe that their "preferred future" will only be fully realized through God's intervening work in their lives. Finding one's Sacred Rhythm is a powerful way of uniting with God and walking with Him in the journey that leads us to wholeness, healing, and life. So I would ask you, "Have you found your sacred rhythm?" If not, worry not; there are spiritual guides and therapists too who can help you explore the spiritual practices that will be right for you; and I, for one, would be honored to assist you in this journey.
I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
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Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.