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Being spiritually competent probably means many different things to different people. I take it to mean a combination of discerning the truth and living out the truth so that you become emotionally healthy. The spiritually competent Christian knows how to interpret the Bible and actively pursues spiritual growth.
Carl Jung, a psychologist, said, “To be fully aware and embracing of all that is within us and consciously seeking to be all that we can be is our most noble quest.” To be that aware is only possible with God’s divine help. If we want to know ourselves better, we must also know God better. When we know God better, we will also know ourselves better.
Each moment in life presents an opportunity to either improve your competence or to remain indifferent. Your choice won’t change your worth before God, however, how you experience life will be vastly different.
Jung had another well-known phrase, “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” It is profound but it is also somewhat cryptic. It’s worth a deeper look. Put another way, Jung is saying you can either suffer legitimately or suffer neurosis.
The Spiritually Competent Avoid Suffering Needlessly
The greatest way to suffer needlessly is at your own hand. So often we inflict unnecessary punishment upon ourselves as a penance. Life has enough consequences built in without you adding your own.
Christ has already paid for your past, present, and future sins. What happens if you don’t fully grasp this core truth of the gospel? You probably develop some sort of neurosis.
C. George Boeree thought of neurosis as a “poor ability to adapt to one’s environment, an inability to change one’s life patterns” with symptoms such as “anxiety, sadness or depression, anger, irritability, low sense of self-worth, phobic avoidance, impulsive and compulsive acts, lethargy, unpleasant or disturbing thoughts, repetition of thoughts and obsession, habitual fantasizing, negativity and cynicism, [unhealthy] dependency, aggressiveness, perfectionism…” (1)
Is it possible that these symptoms show up as a result of avoiding the hard work of spiritual growth? I’m not suggesting it’s wrong to feel anxious or depressed but I am suggesting that it’s certainly possible to reduce and even eliminate them.
Jung was an early advocate for character development in its most pure sense. He knew that we can only really be happy, fulfilled, and socially productive when we have not only come to know but also come to terms with our biggest challenge: ourselves.Dr George Simon, Phd (2)
The Spiritually Competent Suffer As God Wills
Hebrews 10:32-39 and 1 Peter 3:13-17 provide a biblical perspective on legitimate suffering. It’s better to suffer while doing good than doing evil. Sometimes no matter what you do, you’re going to suffer. So it might as well be for the noblest reasons.
To suffer legitimately means you accept life as it is. You don’t need to escape from the fact that all living beings experience some suffering. The criminals on their crosses illustrate this idea:
One of the criminals hanging on the cross next to Jesus kept ridiculing him, saying, “What kind of Messiah are you? Save yourself and save us from this death!” The criminal hanging on the other cross rebuked the man, saying, “Don’t you fear God? You’re about to die! We deserve to be condemned. We’re just being repaid for what we’ve done. But this man—he’s done nothing wrong!” Then he said, “I beg of you, Jesus, show me grace and take me with you into your everlasting kingdom!” Jesus responded, “I promise you—this very day you will enter paradise with me.”Luke 23:39-43 TPT
The first criminal was trying to weasel his way out of the punishment as if he didn’t deserve it. The second criminal accepted the punishment but appealed to God’s grace. The avoidance of developing character leads away from legitimate suffering and toward distressing symptoms. The worst kind of suffering is suffering for no good reason.
If you try to cheat life by hoping someone will ignore your sins and give you a free pass, your circumstances will likely overtake you. This requires no effort on your part, but you can end up suffering more this way than the way of character development.
If you choose growth you will become more resilient and better able to meet life’s demands. This way requires you to choose humility by owning your sins and relying on God’s grace. Accepting responsibility for what you’ve done doesn’t usually remove consequences. You might still suffer, but your suffering will bear fruit, and being spiritually competent will ease your pain. Isn’t the attitude of the second criminal much better than the first?
Read more about suffering needlessly.
(1) modified from what I found on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurosis
(2) Additional thoughts on Carl Jung can be found at https://counsellingresource.com/features/2010/08/03/jung-words-of-wisdom
Image by Jeff Jacobs from Pixabay
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.