Jesus, the killer of comfort -
(Source: jesscalinpark, via thedailywongster)
In faith as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will get neither comfort nor truth- only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair. — C.S. Lewis
(Source: bloodsavedus, via dailybibleverse365)
This is what I’m going into psychology for.. reconciliation of the human soul :).
Several years ago, I worked with a client named Alice. At first glance, there was nothing remarkable about her, but I was to learn otherwise. She came to my office dressed in formless polyester pants and shapeless sweatshirts, perhaps as a way to conceal her heavy frame. Her hair was clean but cut short and unstyled, and the scattered lines and wrinkles on her face were untouched by makeup. What Alice did convey was a deep sense of sadness. It showed in her slow walk, in the slight bend in her shoulders, and most of all in her eyes. They had the look of a puppy that had been mistreated, fearful of what might come next but still hopeful that something better might come along. It was hard for Alice to tell her story. Her face reddened, she directed her gaze downward, her words seemed to get caught in her throat, and she frequently apologized for her difficulty in speaking with me. At times, though, she offered a small joke that lifted the deep melancholy that had settled in the room. During these moments her eyes would sparkle and her sad face would break into a delightful almost child-like smile.
Alice had experienced emotional pain for most of her 45 years. Overweight as a child, she had been mercilessly teased and taunted by her father until he abandoned the family when she was an adolescent. Convinced of her own unattractiveness, Alice had avoided romantic entanglements. In late adolescence, Alice developed symptoms of bipolar disorder and over the next decades suffered from a terrible roller-coaster of emotional upheavals. Medications had helped her achieve a modest level of emotional stability, but she was still subject to unpredictable and powerful shifts in moods that occasionally resulted in hospitalization.
In spite of her illness, Alice had succeeded in creating a meaningful life for herself, one that centered around other people. She was devoted to the care of her elderly mother. She was a loyal volunteer at both the local hospice and the school for the blind. She was a good friend to several people with serious mental illness and spent many hours helping them through their own emotional crises. In our sessions, Alice showed a genuine interest in how things were going in my life. And yet Alice was unable to derive any satisfaction from the knowledge that she was an exceptionally caring and compassionate person. She described herself in the same language her father had used: “big and stupid.” Her contemptuous view of herself was deep-seated. Through our conversations, Alice learned more about the root causes of her self-contempt, but her insights led to minimal change. My other efforts to buoy her self-image were just as unsuccessful. Over many months, I watched Alice go through the full spectrum of her moods: exuberance tinged with the unsettling recognition of where it was leading her, depression that seemed to wash over her like huge waves plunging her into the sea of despair, and total exhaustion that followed her emotional whirlwinds. Yet time and again, she emerged from these cycles intact, picking up pieces of her life that she had created. reconnecting with the people she loved and cared for. How, I wondered, did this remarkable woman manage to sustain herself through her periods of emotional upheaval when she was so weighed down by the added burden of her self-contempt? What could I do to make her life more bearable?
A pivotal moment in therapy occurred when Alice was in the midst of another deeply depressive period. She had been withdrawing from social contact for a few weeks and was thinking more and more about suicide. In this session, Alice was wracked with pain, sobbing so hard it was difficult for me to follow her. I was about to suggest her need for hospitalization when Alice spoke in a kind of language that was unusual for her. “When will my suffering end?,” she cried. The question had a spiritual, almost biblical, sound to me, like a lamentation. Now I was struck by the spiritual tone of her question. I responded in kind with a question of my own: “I’ve often wondered, Alice, how in the midst of your terrible suffering, you are able to find some consolation?” She didn’t seem surprised by the question. Instead, she paused for a long moment and then told me a story.
“When I was first hospitalized, they put me in restraints and threw me in a seclusion room. I was 16 at the time and I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. I was so frightened. I was so scared. I thought I was going to die. And then, lying on my bed, I felt something warm in the center of my chest. And the feeling spread through the rest of my body.”
“How did that feeling affect you?”
“It calmed me down. I felt comforted.”
“Did that feeling speak to you in some way?”
”Yes. I knew that God was speaking to me, He was with me, telling me that He would always be with me no matter how badly I felt. I would be okay.”
Alice and I sat quietly in the room. From a corner of my mind, I noticed that her sobbing had stopped.
”Alice, have you felt this presence at other times in your life?”
”Oh, yes.” She said immediately. “I feel it sometimes when I’m with other people who are going through hard times. And sometimes,” she paused, “I feel it with you.” She hesitated for a longer period of time, looked down at her feet, and softly asked, “Do you feel it too?”
Every therapist knows that there are some special moments in psychotherapy. I experience them as “scared moments” when immediate realities fade into the background, when time seems to stand still, when it feels as if something larger than life is happening. In these moments, I believe, a meeting of souls is taking place. This was one of those times.
So I answered Alice, "Yes, I do."
Alice sat quietly and seemed to be at peace with herself— quite a dramatic change from the intense pain she was feeling just minutes earlier. After a while, I said, “I’d like to talk with you some more about this presence in your life. Would that be alright with you?” Alice agreed.
In the following months, Alice and I spoke often about her sense of spiritual connection. It had been, for much of her life, the source of her resilience and strength. We explored ways she could draw more fully on this powerful resource as she went through her emotional ups and down. And we discussed the implications of her spirituality for overcoming her own unmerciful sense of herself. There was no miracle cure. Alice would continue to struggle with her illness and with her own sense of inadequacy. However, armed with a more fully realized spirituality, Alice was far better equipped to face her challenges. She became more aware of herself, more confident in her own capabilities, and more hopeful about her future. In the process, her mood swings lost much of their ferocious intensity and her visits to the hospital became rare.
As she was leaving the room that day, I asked Alice whether she had ever mentioned her sense of spiritual presence to the other mental health professionals who had worked with her over the years.
Alice gave me a quizzical look as if the answer was only too obvious.
”Why would I do that? They already think I’m crazy.”
— K. Pargament
Fears, even if ill-founded, are real fears and need to be dealt with. Hopes, even if unrealistic, may cause a war. Facts, even if established, may do nothing to solve the problem.
As useful as looking for objective reality can be, it is ultimately the reality as each side sees it that constitutes the problem.
We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order. The Bible tells us that God did not originally make the world to have disease, hunger, and death in it. Jesus has come to redeem where it is wrong and heal the world where it is broken. His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. Jesus’ miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming. — Tim Keller