March 11, 2015

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

It is not often that a book, other than the Bible, challenges me to self-examination and into a deeper walk with Christ.  “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” has done just that.  I was so affected by this book that I decided to share about it in our newsletter with the hope that you will pick it up and read it as well. In “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” the author, Peter Scazzero, invites the reader “to a deeper and wider journey with Jesus Christ.”  His primary observation is that “It is impossible to be spiritually mature, while remaining emotionally immature.”   He shares his realization of the link between emotional and spiritual health through sharing his own journey of transformation.  Pastor Scazzero uses biblical examples of David and Job as well as personally painful stories of hiding his own emotional life from God, others and himself.


Having a Doctorate in Ministry in Marriage and Family from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master in Divinity from Gordon-Conwell, Scazzero is able to integrate both the emotional (psychological) and the theological.  He is the founder and senior pastor of a large, multi-racial, international church – New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, New York.

Written to believers, in particular believers who desire a revolution in their life in Christ, the book is broken into two parts.  Part one addresses “The Problem of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality” in order to help the reader recognize what emotionally unhealthy spirituality looks like.  Part two provides the “Pathway to Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” – the actual how-to’s of getting there.


Summary of Main Points:


When looking at the issue of emotionally unhealthy spirituality, the author points to the fact that believers have tried many different approaches to discipleship:  Bible study, deeper levels of community, the power of the Spirit, prayer, spiritual warfare, worship, serving, etc.  Having tried these approaches, many times they just are not enough.


At times, deeply rooted behavioral patterns crop up and create distance in our relationship with God.  No one teaches us how to battle against those behavioral patterns.  So instead, we are left with an extensive to-do list and deep guilt when we don’t check it all off.  Even when we try to do it all, we just seem to be busying ourselves instead of actually allowing ourselves a relationship with God. As part of being emotionally unhealthy, Scazzero points out that many believers do not respect their full humanity.  We have been taught that many of our feelings are dangerous and need to be suppressed.


As “good” Christians we tend to think that we should not experience feelings like anger or sadness.  We even may go so far as “to lie to ourselves, sometimes convincing ourselves that we aren’t feeling anything because we don’t think we should be feeling it.  We shut down our humanity.” (p. 72)


• “The problem is that when we neglect our most intense emotions, we are false to ourselves and close off an open door through which to know God.” (p. 72)


• “When we deny our pain, losses, and feelings year after year, we become less and less human.” (p. 70)


I like that Scazzero does not blame all of our emotional unhealthiness on our family of origin.  He acknowledges that all families are broken.  However, he says “The great news of Christianity is that your biological family of origin does not determine your    future.  God does!!” (p. 103)


“Discipleship, then, is the putting off of the sinful patterns and habits of our biological families and being transformed to live as members of Christ’s family.”


My Evaluation


There is so much more meat to this book.  Fortunately, Scazzero provides steps to emotionally healthy spirituality.  I do not want to give it all away.  My hope is that you will pick up the book and start your own journey.


As a Christian Counselor, I was deeply drawn to the connection of emotional health and our spiritual walk.  Many people come to us stuck in present circumstances created by decisions from the past.  They struggle to get through – due to a culture that has taught them to distract themselves from their pain or to push it aside and stuff it.  When believers become emotionally healthy, they also become spiritually healthy, growing exponentially and bringing revival to the Bride of Christ, the Church.


Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2006)


The Top Ten Symptoms of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality

1. Using God to run from God

2. Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness, and fear

3. Dying to the wrong things

4. Denying the past’s impact on the present

5. Dividing our lives into “secular” and “sacred” compartments

6. Doing for God instead of being with God

7. Spiritualizing away conflict

8. Covering over brokenness, weakness, and failure

9. Living without limits

10. Judging other people’s spiritual journey

Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2006), 23-37.

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