Care for Children in Honduras.

Healing the Alienation of Our Souls

Sister Mary Margaret Kreuper was eighteen years old when she took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. She spent the next fifty-nine years of her life dedicated to the Roman Catholic Church. In 1990, she became principal of St. James Catholic School, continuing in this role for twenty-eight years.

When she retired in 2018, the archdiocese conducted a financial review of the school for the new principal. It discovered that the nun had embezzled at least $835,339 over the course of ten years. Federal prosecutors say she used the money to bankroll her gambling habit. She has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the authorities.

Her lawyers told the Washington Post, “Later in her life, she has been suffering from a mental illness that clouded her judgment and caused her to do something that she otherwise would not have done.”

In other news, comedian Howie Mandel tells People magazine that he has been living with severe anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder for nearly his entire life. He uses humor to get through the toughest moments and is speaking up because “my life’s mission is to remove the stigma.”

Mandel adds, “I’m broken. But this is my reality. I know there’s going to be darkness again—and I cherish every moment of light.”

Three responses to burnout

Tennis star Naomi Osaka shined a spotlight on mental health issues when she announced that she would not be speaking with reporters during the French Open due to anxiety and mental distress, then later withdrew from the tournament. She has since withdrawn from a Wimbledon tuneup tournament next week in Berlin.

Her story is all too common these days.

Licensed psychotherapist Tess Brigham writes in Forbes that burnout is at a record high right now, with 52 percent of participants in a recent study reporting that they feel burned out; 67 percent say burnout increased for them during the pandemic. Brigham recommends that we set boundaries around work to prevent becoming depleted, do something for ourselves to experience joy and excitement, and take breaks from social media and other activities for rest and recreation.

While I am not a professional counselor, I can affirm all three recommendations as biblical.

Jesus called his disciples in the midst of a very busy season of ministry to “come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). We are to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4), seeking joy in life through the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). God’s word prescribes a weekly Sabbath from work for worship and rest (Exodus 20:8-11).

However, there is a deeper cultural narrative we need to understand as we seek spiritual and mental health in our post-Christian age.

Three responses to "rugged individualism"

Bioethicist Katherine Wasson, writing for the Hastings Center, warns that “rugged American individualism is a myth, and it’s killing us.” She observes that “none survive or flourish without the help of others.” As a result, the myth that we can do what we want in society and that no one can tell us otherwise continues to endanger us and society.

In response, she encourages us to recognize people who are being kind or courageous toward others, reinforce the fact that freedoms come with correlative responsibilities and obligations, and reaffirm our mutual commitment to the common good.

As with the Forbes article, I can affirm that Dr. Wasson’s observations are deeply biblical. We were created for community (Genesis 2:18) by a triune God who experiences community within himself. We show that we love our Lord by loving our neighbor (cf. Matthew 22:37-39) with acts of sacrificial service (1 Peter 4:10).

However, there is still a deeper narrative we need to understand if we are to experience the healing our souls need most.

"You have never talked to a mere mortal"

Tuesday was the eightieth anniversary of C. S. Lewis’ classic sermon, “The Weight of Glory.” On June 8, 1941, the literature professor and Christian apologist preached in Oxford’s University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, a historic and beautiful church I have visited several times with deep reverence.

In his sermon, Lewis exposes what he calls our “inconsolable secret”: “The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality.” As Lewis notes, we each feel an unstated but powerful sense of alienation and estrangement from ourselves, others, and God.

However, it will not always be this way. One day, according to Lewis, “The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.” While we are presently fallen people in a fallen world, “All the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumor that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in” (Lewis’ emphasis).

As a result, we should see ourselves and every person we meet as immortal beings. Lewis notes, “You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

"Apart from me you can do nothing"

The ultimate solution to the existential alienation that plagues us is to seek healing not from ourselves, others, or our broken culture, but from the God who loves us. To be sure, he uses counselors and therapists as agents of healing, but our greatest need is for intimacy with him. Our greatest service is helping others find intimacy with him.

Jesus was clear: “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Are you abiding more in Jesus today than you were yesterday? If not, why not?

Publication date: June 10, 2021

Photo courtesy: Pexels/Daniel Reche

For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

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