“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus’ words upon the cross were filled with unimaginable anguish at the horrific magnitude of what he was experiencing. In our own humanness, we too have probably found ourselves uttering similar words , words conveying despair, hopelessness, and powerlessness about our own unbearable circumstances whether personal or global.
From a psychospiritual perspective, if Jesus were alive today and expressing the despondence and desperation that can come with our human condition, how might he be responded to? Would he be sent to a psychiatrist for medication? Would he go to a therapist to help him work through his feelings and inner terrain in hopes of understanding them in context to the relationship dynamics patterns and problems of his family of origin? What would his “treatment plan” include? I wonder what diagnosis might be given for his insurance to pay?
Or perhaps, Jesus would be guided to a spiritual director with whom he would sit knee to knee and heart to heart, entering the sacred space of the spiritual direction relationship, an early Christian approach to healing and growing in spiritual maturity and wisdom. Of course, this example is tongue- in- cheek since Jesus, in his Infinite Wisdom, is always “The Spiritual Director,” for whom we are listening and waiting. The human “spiritual director” is simply one who companions another in this journey of listening for God, discerning God’s movements, and responding as called instead of reacting in the hurtful and unwise ways that a person might if not attentive to one’s spiritual core. Jesus, in that Infinite Wisdom, invites us to draw upon the well of divine truth that lies within each of us. This is the work of spiritual direction.
In the spiritual direction relationship, the only “goal” is to remember that we have been created as whole and perfect images of God, regardless of how broken or cast out we may feel. Wholeness is the birth right of each individual. The circumstances of our lives and our feelings and thoughts about them do not define us. Instead they offer the opportunities to delve deeply into the question, “Where is God in this for you?” “I don’t know” and “No where” are perfectly acceptable answers. The trained spiritual director listens and explores with the other God’s presence and activity in their own life circumstances, be they daunting and confusing or joyous and celebratory.
At the “The Light in the Darkness” program, mental health counseling and spiritual direction were both lifted as approaches to addressing spiritual darkness. Many therapists today are becoming attuned to the spiritual dimension of life and the importance of addressing it. We also understand brain chemistry and its imbalances better, invaluable information in treating certain mental health disorders. I believe it is essential for the person of faith to remember that God uses all of our lives and its circumstances to draw us closer and to help us grow into authentic Christian maturity, not to punish or test us.