spiritual development Articles

Christian Couples Counseling: Tips For Growing in Your Faith Together

There is a reason marriage traditionally takes place in a sacred place, in front of God, family and friends, and is celebrated in the community. The process of two flawed, amazingly complicated human beings joining together is incredibly complex, and married couples need encouragement and support to resist the forces that would tear them apart, both internal and external.

No one reaches adulthood without suffering some sort of emotional harm. We bring whatever damage we have suffered into a marriage, often without much awareness about how much it influences our thinking and actions. This lack of awareness makes the inevitable changes that come in relationships very difficult. Faith in God can help us endure difficult transitions with hope for the future, more so when our spouse shares that faith. Growing together successfully, however, will require kindness, curiosity and mutuality.

Among the defenses that arise from early emotional damage is a need for control. For some, this need for control spills over into religious beliefs and spiritual practice. If I have a strong internal need for control, the language of faith can become a twisted tool in my hand, used to bludgeon other viewpoints into submission. A good practice is to do a little self-check when confronted by an op...

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Spiritual Development: Definition and Purpose

Spiritual Development Core Definition

Many a theologian has offered a definition of spiritual development over the course of two millennia. Spiritual development can mean many things to many people in the secular and pluralistic environment we inhabit in our terrestrial world. Spiritual development, in essence, is to believe in something beyond the material universe and to develop an awareness of realities beyond the confines of time and space.

What does spiritual development mean for the Christ follower? Acts 17:28 answers the question well: “For in him we live and move and have our being.” Our essence, belonging, search for meaning, and purpose originate from the Lord as transformed through the person of Jesus Christ and God’s infallible and unchanging Word.

The purpose of spiritual development is summed up well in Romans 12:2 that exhorts us with these powerful words: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” God’s truth and purpose transform the soul, spirit, mind, and strength in all of our activities. Everything we have, including our knowledge, skills, talents, and abilities, are to be st...

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Anxiety Attack Symptoms and Treatment: A Christian Counselor’s Perspective

If you have had a panic attack, you already know how upsetting it can be. The symptoms are very distressing. They include, but are not limited to, chest pains, a racing or pounding heart, feeling faint, weak, or dizzy, having difficulty taking a deep breath or rapid breathing, feeling sweaty or having chills, and a sense of impending doom or terror. Some victims of panic attacks say that they feel as if they are having a heart attack. When experiencing these kinds of symptoms, a trip to the emergency room is a wise precaution, just to make sure that something more serious is not happening.

Your Body’s Defense Mechanism

Signs of stress can be our body’s way of telling us to slow down. Our bodies are amazing in complexity, astonishingly resilient at times, and surprisingly fragile at others. Its fragility means that the body is equipped with a remarkable defense mechanism – the sympathetic nervous system – that kicks on in moments of crisis. In the jungle, an animal has a split second to decide whether to flee or defend itself, which you may have heard referred to as “fight or flight.”   At that moment, the entire body prepares to go into action. Imagine walking into a room and spotting a long snake in the shadows. Your pulse pounds, stress hormones floo...

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How Shame Inhibits Personal Growth and Development: From Hide-and-Seek to Hide-and-Blame

Part 2 in a series on the neuroscience of surprise and the weight of wonder. This series explores how raising children up is really the work of growing adults down: grounding and embodying the Self in relationship, integrating the brain and coming out of hiding.

My 4-year-old is hardwired for surprise. This might not be apparent in her favorite game: hide-and-seek.

Because when Taliah was younger, especially, these games ended almost before they began. Often the seeker, eyes closed and counting, was startled by a knee-high tackle from a toddler screaming with delight. Surprise! Taliah had come tearing out of her hiding place if she’d even made it that far.

Her stamina for the game has increased – along with her neural pathways.

Recently our family was hiking Multnomah Falls outside of Portland, Oregon. The cascading, 630-foot Falls are summited through 13 switchbacks along a steeply routed 1.2-mile trail.

The slow ache of Taliah’s tired little legs soon gathered into a neocortical chorus in her mind. That well-rehearsed refrain we’ve all heard as parents:

“Daaad, are we there yet? Can I ride on your shoulders? Pleeeaase?!”

A tantrum was mounting. And we were only at trail marker 5 of 13. I began bending down towards Ta...

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Surviving the Trauma of Infidelity

Jennifer cannot forget the day she saw a racy text from a female co-worker on her husband’s phone. As she looked through his text messages, she could see many exchanges between her husband and this other woman – and the texts were not about business. When she confronted her husband, he told her it was her fault that he had to seek out another woman’s affection. He blamed her for his unfaithfulness. Jennifer kept hearing his harsh words repeating themselves over and over in her mind.

Michael is trying to focus while at work, but all he can think of is finding his wife and his best friend in bed together. He is consumed with intense anger and he feels as if someone had punched him in the stomach. How could the two people he cared for the most do this to him?

When You are Confronted with Your Spouse’s Affair

You feel like a nuclear bomb has just gone off in your life. How could this happen? You are reeling as you take in the fact that your spouse has been unfaithful. If you are in this situation, you are no doubt experiencing a wide range of intense emotions and pain on many levels. You may be feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. You may wonder whether you can survive now that you know about the affair.

Yet even in the midst of all your pain, God’s presence ...

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Christian Counseling Distinctives #1: Prayer

There are a number of things that differentiate Christian counseling from traditional secular psychotherapy – and foremost among them is prayer. Prayer, in the Christian context, is uniquely suited to Christian counseling. The reason I say this is because in a sense prayer and Christian counseling both derive their power and influence from the same source – namely, a relationship.

Is Prayer Really Powerful?

If you come from a Christian background, and perhaps even if you don’t, you will be familiar with expressions about the “power of prayer.” Prayer is ubiquitous – it is everywhere and yet it remains one of the great mysteries of faith. I remember once seeing a man with a ball cap that read PUSH on the front and on the back Pray Until Something Happens! Without devolving into a treatise on the different kinds of prayer (thanksgiving, intercession, deliverance, confession, etc.), that acronym PUSH is a fairly concise representation of why we pray. We want something to happen. Prayer is goal oriented. In this, we see that the motivation to pray and the motivation to seek Christian counseling have something in common. There is a goal; we want something to happen.

The confusing thing about prayer is that it can feel as ...

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Why Does Psychology Fail?

Christian Counseling vs Secular Counseling

Okay, so the title may be better stated as: “Why does psychology sometimes fail where Christian counseling would succeed?” The truth is that psychology  ?  in the sense of professional psychotherapy  ?  does work. And yet, sometimes it fails. This leaves us with the question: Why does secular counseling work for some and not for others? What is the difference between Person A, who has an addiction, gets counseling, and stops, and Person B who follows the same process yet he does not stop? Are some counselors just a “bad fit” and the best you can hope for is to get a good match? Is it simply a matter of finding a “good counselor” who knows what they are doing? And does not the client themselves play a role in the outcome of their therapy?

So where does that leave you, the client, in terms of your hopes for success? You can try and filter out the bad counselors, find a good match, and of course you will do your part. Yet, for all that, counseling still seems to be a hit and miss endeavor.

We Are More than Just Bodies with Brains

I would like to suggest that the reason secular counseling still frequently misses the mark is because it only addresses part of the issue. Secular counseling in its purest f...

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