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What Everybody Ought to Know About Resolving Spiritual Distress

What Everybody Ought to Know About Resolving Spiritual Distress

Sooner or later, we all come to the place where we experience spiritual distress and question our beliefs.  We ask questions like, “Is there a God?” and “If God is real, why did He allow that to happen?”  When the questions, doubt, and confusion become stronger than a person’s faith, spiritual distress has set in.  When this happens, we can respond three ways.  We can retreat into our own world and refuse to deal with the issues.  We can sit on the fence, thinking, thinking, thinking, and refusing to take action like the bird in the picture below.  Or we can confront the problem directly and actively seek to resolve the distress.  While there may be a time for each choice, only one has the potential to bring true resolution to the problem.

  • Retreat and Denial.

    A classic coping mechanism that many of us use is denial.  When we deny there is a problem, we temporarily avoid the pain involved with it.  We see denial on television all the time.  Have you witnessed a crime fighter get shot and keep going as if nothing happened?  He or she was on a mission and chose to ignore a serious medical problem until the job was done.

    While most of us are not ignoring bullet holes in our torso, we do choose to ignore spiritual holes that have taken the wind out of our sail.  Life is not always a picnic and terrible, traumatic things happen all the time.  Being of a part of a particular race, creed, color, age group, or socioeconomic level doesn’t protect you from the woes of life either.  Therefore, no amount of money can ward off a cancer diagnosis.  Professing your belief in a Savior doesn’t protect you from alcohol related liver disease.  Even being the most disciplined, organized person in America doesn’t protect you from depression or anxiety disorders.

    Have you seen young children cover their ears to avoid hearing a parent yell at them?  When we choose to ignore that we are in pain because we can’t grasp the bigger picture of life, death, and disease we are doing a similar thing.  To say that we need a few minutes to regroup or even a few weeks or months can be a healthy delay.  But, if we have gone years ignoring a real and serious issue, we’re only hurting ourselves.  It’s time to deal with holes that have damaged our spiritual armor.

  • Sitting on the Fence with Indecision.

    Should we stay or should we go now?  The title of this 1982 song by the Clash says it all.  The indecision is painful too.  There are clearly pros and cons no matter which way we go.  But sitting on that fence, man it’s a killer.  For one thing, your behind is really going to start hurting you if you stay in that position!

    Sometimes the fence fools you into thinking it’s the safest place.  You haven’t decided to put blinders on and forget about the bullet hole.  But, you haven’t decided to jump into the raging rapids and totally lose control either.  It seems like you are just floating on a boat in the warm sunshine, just enjoying life.

    But in reality, there is no comfort to be found sitting on the fence of indecision.  No, instead, it’s like hanging in the air waiting to hit the ground but never knowing if/when you’ll hit.  Your mind and emotions get tossed in the wind repeatedly.  Do we deal with the problem?  Do we ignore the problem?  When we can’t decide, we end up signing up for the same torture again later.

  • Confront and Resolve.

    Ok, I’m sure you knew this was coming.  The only way to resolve spiritual distress is to tackle it, knock it down, and deal with it once and for all.  No more denial, no more fence sitting, confront & resolve!

    The question is how do we do this and not end up worse off than we started.  It makes the most sense if you look at it like having to climb over a mountain to get to the other side.  Just a short time ago, I had to defend my dissertation as the final big step to finishing my doctoral degree.  It was a highly stressful situation.  My heart rate and blood pressure were through the roof.  I had enough body sweat to bathe a gaggle of geese.  And my overly excited gastrointestinal system provided a new level of bonding with the restroom.

    However, there was no other way to finish the degree.  I had to go over the mountain, tackle the challenges and in other words just “git er done!  And although I had to do it alone the day it actually happened, I had a lot of help along the way.  We have help getting over spiritual mountains too.  Here are a few places we should consider.

    1. Priests, Pastors, & Spiritual Advisors.

      Thankfully, there are people called to a life of helping others navigate their spiritual journey.  These people have gone through many years of education, and spend every day helping guide others through difficult times.  Reach out to someone you considered called to a life of spiritual guidance.

    2. Authors, Bloggers & Podcasters.

      Personally, I have made it through several spiritual struggles by reading the wise advice of authors and bloggers and listening to podcasts.  Depending on your faith background, you may choose different types of resources.  Joyce Meyer, a Christian author, has been very inspirational and helpful to me.  So, if you’re not sure where to turn, Joyce Meyer Ministries has tons of helpful resources.

    3. Trusted Friends.

      Friends who know us well are often the best listeners and support systems we could ever hope.  A word of caution is to open up only to people who you can trust to be helpful.  Sometimes well-meaning friends are in a place where they only add to your pain and confusion.  Choose wisely and let others help you work through your spiritual distress.

    4. Medical Professionals.

      There are times when spiritual issues have shaken us so terribly that we also need medical attention.  When spiritual issues are not dealt with, they will spill over into other areas of our lives.  Physical problems, emotional problems, relational problems and a general lack of peace can result.  Physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, counselors and more are available to help with whatever you need.  Don’t be afraid to reach out and grab the helping hands that are available for you!

      Whatever you are going through, know that you are loved and that you are not alone.  I strongly encourage you to reach out to someone for help.  You are worth it, your life is worth it, and better days are within your reach!

Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you struggle with the basic spiritual beliefs such as whether God is real and does He care for you personally?
  2. Have you suffered a significant loss or trauma that has left you confused about the purpose of life and your role in it?
  3. Is it time to reach out to someone for help in dealing with this issue once and for all?

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