Monday, December 23, 2013

12 Steps to Defeat Depression: Spirituality and Prayer Part 1

Our trouble is that we have established bad thought habits. We habitually think of the visible world as real and doubt the reality of any other. We do not deny the existence of the spiritual world but we doubt that it is real in the accepted meaning of the word.  
                                                              ~A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God


“I’m not a religious person, but I am spiritual.”

Ever hear that comment?

Here’s what people who say that usually mean:

“I don’t like ritual. I don’t have to go to church on Sundays, Saturday nights, or any other day of the week to be in touch with God, or a higher power. I don’t have to connect with people in a church or join a religious group to think and feel deep, spiritual thoughts. (Actually, doing that and hanging out with those judgmental hypocrites actually gets in my way.)

“I’ve tried a little of this and a little of that; I’ve connected with myself, nature and others around me. I do good things. I work on my self-esteem so I can love others and foster relationships. This gives me a deep sense of my place in life and in a greater good.” (Whatever” greater good” means.)

And what many imply is that even if they don’t believe anything specific, all of their good-deeds-done will certainly get the attention of God, or that higher power, and gain them a ticket into heaven, or whatever self-actualization realm they aspire to, when the time comes.

Or it could be they believe “all that religious stuff” is just man-made, unnecessary rubbish. A horrid time-waster.

Or, it could be a combination of all of the above, with a little bit of every "religious belief" and philosophy carefully mixed together. 

I once made this point to someone during a rather heated conversation about religion: “Well, if you combine a little of this and a little of that, then what you eventually come up with is the religion of _________________ (insert person’s name).”

“Well, what’s wrong with that!?” they countered, looking surprised and insulted.



Because what if you’re wrong?”

They angered at my response, cast me a vicious look, quickly pivoted and walked away. Nobody likes hearing they may be wrong. And I suspect that what incensed them even more is that they assumed I thought—or was telling them—that I knew I was right.

Make no mistake about it: What you believe does make a difference, because wrong believing leads to wrong behavior!  It affects every aspect of your life.

And I’m not talking about being wrong about the little things; I’m talking about the BIG things, the things that matter most—in this life and into the next.

Did you notice my wording in the last sentence? Yes, I did mean to imply that what you believe in this life will make it or break it for you as you face eternity and move into it. So spirituality does matter! Who you know does, and will, make a difference. It always has, both in fleshly and spiritual life.

Oh, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with building up one’s self-esteem, (although many Christians will argue that with me), especially since so many people emerge from childhood with a crummy, misguided, unhealthy vision of self and spend a lifetime trying to make up for it. (Research shows that the majority of comments that parents give to their children are of the negative variety, by an average of seventeen-to-one!)

(This also includes kids who grow up believing they’re god’s gift to the world, and can do anything or achieve anything—and, by-the-way, the world owes them—just because they exist. That’s also unhealthy, poor self-esteem.)

There’s also nothing wrong with being energized by viewing nature or spending quality time in it, (see my meditation and mindfulness posts), although I do reject what most people mean when they say they “connect with it,” since, by definition, connecting, means: “to join, fasten together; to associate or consider related; to be joined or united to; being related to.” Being “connected” to nature in this way is a pantheistic belief. (Pantheism generally promotes the belief that all forms of reality—nature, people, animals, life—are considered either modes of God or part of Him.)  

Let’s not confuse spirituality with mindfulness, a vital component of the spiritual.

We are all designed to interact with other people: encouraging, helping, being encouraged and helped, as we make this journey together.

Because we’re complex beings, comprised of mind, body and spirit, it is critical that we nurture all parts and not dismiss or neglect the spiritual part. (The part that most often gets neglected.)
Nurturing the spiritual brings a healthy balance to your life, and research evidence links immune system function to spiritual well-being. And for eternity’s sake, it is the most important part of our existence.

We all draw a spiritual line for ourselves, and stand on one side of it or another. (If you’re agnostic, you straddle it, which really isn’t very comfortable.)

If you’ve read my blog for some time, you know on what side of the spiritual line I fall.  

I believe that God exits. Not, “a god,” but God. One, manifested in three persons. And that belief is the foundation of my life, the cornerstone upon which I plant and root my spiritual and physical existence. It’s what I cling to when life gets ugly, what drags me out of the trenches when I’m mired in mud and sucking slop. It’s what soothes my soul when depression, sadness and gloom threaten to destroy me physically, mentally and emotionally.

Are you unsure whether you need God in order to be spiritual?

Consider what the French physicist, mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascal believed: that all human beings make a bet with their lives on whether God does or does not exist. You either do, or you don’t, and whatever decision you make, you either act (live) like you do or you act (live) like you don’t.

Like it or not, we all must confront the same question:

Do you believe in God, or do you not?

Is spirituality important? Absolutely!

Why? Because, at its core, true spirituality gives you a sense of purpose, something that is often very hard to come by when you’re suffering in depression.

As the biblical verse reminds us: “… to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

And isn’t that what we all crave: life and peace?

How appropriate it is that we should embark upon our spirituality discussion just days, or hours, before millions around the world celebrate the birth of the most important human being to have ever lived. The man, who in three short years—and an even more dramatic three days—managed to turn the world upside down. 

The man who came to earth for the specific reason for you to know God and truly know what it means to be spiritually rich!

The man who came so you could have peace.

He proclaimed His coming first to men considered by their nation to be the most worthless in society. He chose to glorify—by His birth—a little, globally insignificant town called Bethlehem. The kings of the earth ignored Him, (until one got word that he might have some unexpected competition); and the proud have never been able to understand Him, or His purpose. And because they don’t understand, they arrogantly choose to reject or flippantly dismiss Him.

He proclaimed and physically demonstrated the invincible love of God for all mankind, so that we could be enabled to unconditionally love ourselves and others, forgive ourselves and others, and bring our lives into the miraculous grace and glory of God!

This man, Jesus—who embodies spirituality—is the most important gift mankind has ever received.

As you celebrate Christmas, reflect on the most precious gift you have ever been given:

God, all wrapped up in human flesh.

May the joy and promise of Christmas past, present and future fill your hearts with joy, peace and hope!

Merry Christmas!  


NEXT WEEK: More spirituality, reasons and proofs for God; just who is God? and why the answer to that question matters to you. Also, how you respond to spiritual battles affects whether you’ll have victory over depression, or continual defeat.

Until next week,

Thanks for joining me!