Willing to Be Changed! (Well–almost)

change.jpgThey are good people.  They may be pleasant and intelligent people.  Very often, they are Christian people.  Yet, some of these same people never seem to grow up emotionally.   There are some people who have developed their thinking processes quite well.  There are some who have the capacity to grasp intellectual complexities and make sense of them.

Yet, there are people who have just never been able to progress or move ahead in terms of allowing the Gospel to make a difference in the way they handle their emotions.

Recently, I read an interesting book entitled Church on the Couch: Does the Church Need Therapy?  The author, Elaine Martens Hamilton (a therapist), speaks of what she sees in and hears from some Christian people who are not experiencing real internal change. 

As a result marriages are falling apart at the same rate as for people who don’t attend church.  Too many of our kids are angry and disconnected from their families.  In growing numbers we are addicted to food, pornography, television and money.  We’ve got to be honest with ourselves: an intellectual understanding of faith does not equal spiritual maturity.  (p. 28)

Consider some of these situations, which may be all too familiar:

  • A seventy-year-old man who has been a Christian much of his life.  He is combative and argumentative when he is displeased and does not get his way.
  • A thirty-year-old woman who regularly gets into "drama" with others at work.  She has a long history of being a very difficult person to deal with.
  • A young man in his late twenties who has the emotional maturity of a fifteen-year-old.  His wife feels as if she must be wife and mother to him as well as managing the household.  His irresponsible spending has put their family in financial jeopardy.

Several years ago, I read a book entitled The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter and Geri Scazzero.  In telling the story of their own faith journey, the authors observe that:

Despite all the emphasis today on spiritual formation, church leaders rarely address what spiritual maturity looks like as it relates to emotional health, especially as it relates to how we love other people.  (pp. 18-19)

What has been your own observation regarding the emotional maturity (or lack of) of Christ-followers?  How does this relate to spiritual transformation?


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7 thoughts on “Willing to Be Changed! (Well–almost)

  1. Okay, I will be brave and admit I am one of those people you describe who never grew up emotionally. I attribute a lot of it to being brought up in a hyper-legalistic church setting (and continuing that into Bible college days, where we were still pretty much treated like children). About 3 years ago things came to a head and I decided to get some help. Yes, therapy. Thank God for a very godly therapist who has freely introduced me to some great books (and people) . . . the first of which was Sacred Companions by David Benner (highly recommend it) which really blew me away with the thought that God desired to transform my life. That led to some other books including Scazzero’s book. I would say it took over a year of talking before I could get a grip enough to start moving forward. I wholeheartedly affirm the connection between emotional health and spiritual transformation. I think we ignore a part of ourselves which was created in God’s image and which he longs to transform along with the rest of our being, and that neglected part wreaks all kinds of havoc in our lives. I will say that I don’t think this growth would have been possible without having been led (totally) to a great community of faith where openness and community and interdependence are highly valued, and modeled intentionally by very humble leadership. Short question . . . long answer. But seriously – I think this is vitally lacking in our churches today.   

  2. My life has been blessed with loving, mature brothers and sisters in Christ, but I have met many who claim to be believers in Christ – who have not forgiven or apologized, who want their own way, who are argumentative, who become highly defensive when confronted with a wrong behavior, etc. etc. And then they wonder why others stay away! This is a very complex issue and in recent years I see an increase.  The only One who can transform us is the Holy Spirit but He wants hearts that are willing to be changed. These books sound interesting. Will have to check them out. Thanks for your post.

  3. Dianne,Thank you so much for this comment!  It sounds like you have done some great work over the last three years and that God has been very active in this.  For so many people, therapy has been a catalyst toward making some much needed and desired change.I also appreciate the way you affirm the importance of a strong community of faith, along with your individual work.  You said it well– a group where openness, community, and interdependence are valued and practiced.Thank you for your willingness to be open and candid about your own life in this comment.  Thank you for sharing a part of your story that affirms what this post was trying to get at. (By the way, I have read Benner and found him to be really good.)

  4. Karin,Thanks.  Your list of these negative behaviors is one that many of us can relate to well.  (Either in what we have witnessed in others or have seen in our own lives.)  I agree that these can be very complex and can only be dealt with through the power of God. My concern is that some of us seem to have toally disconnected the way we behave relationally and emotionally from our transformation in Christ.  Thanks so much.

  5. Great and timely article! We just began a study on spiritual maturity in our Wednesday night class.
    My husband and I were bogged down in legalism for years. We felt guilty all of the time and didn’t feel much joy in being a Christian. We finally started to really study the bible (for ourselves) rather than just "getting preached at". What a difference! We have read the bible through 3 times in the last 4 years. God reveals more of himself to us each time and it’s so exciting. I am a firm believer that we can’t mature unless we stay in the Word. I compare it to becoming friends with someone, you will never know them intimately if you just visit them 1 to 3 hour per week.