Developing a relationship with God where we feel loved and graced upon is the most precious gift you can give your mental health. Rules and regulations without relationship will only lead to rebellion and resentment. Grace and forgiveness bring healing.
Isn’t it interesting how early experiences shape your view of life and of what God is like?
I wonder now if all those memory verse competitions as a child to get a star on a chart shaped my understanding of faith is all about effort and performance.
Then add on expectations of reading your bible in a year, every year. Praying for a whole hour each day, giving 10 percent of your income (before tax) and a myriad of other expectations both said and unsaid.
I thought Jesus was going to bring life not more heavy performance burdens.
Faith seems to be all about following the rules and regulations to get the relationship.
Recently I read this from Dr. David Seamands.
R + R-R = R + R.
Rules and Regulations minus Relationships equals Resentment and Rebellion. Rules and regulations and their enforcement by discipline must be put in the context of loving, grace-full relationships, or they will result in frustration and resentment.
It is perfectly necessary and proper to enforce Christian standards and family rules by correcting and disciplining our children. But we must make it plain to them that our actions are because of what they have done, and not because of who they are. David Seamands Healing Grace
I wonder how many people have walked away from faith because it was all about following the rules and regulations without a loving grace-full relationship.
Rules and Regulations
For many of us, we believe that if we keep the rules and follow the regulations, then we will get the relationship.
But a relationship based on performance never develops intimacy.[pullquote]When you are trying to please God, remember that Jesus has already done so on your behalf. There are no brownie points left for you to earn. David Riddell[/pullquote]
You are always anxiously wondering if you have done enough.
Then when you discover that you haven’t met the standards, hopelessness, and depression floods your soul.
You try harder only to yet again fail. The pendulum swing between anxiety and depression keeps oscillating.
Rebellion + Resentment
Over time you see that this religion is like a strangling straight jacket.
You decide that if God or anyone else wants a relationship where its based on rules and regulations, performance and control then it’s not going to be with you.
So with rebellion in your soul, you leave. You run away from the circus that demands you jump through hoops to get the applause, the approval, the love.
You get out of that constraint.
Loving grace-full relationships
David Seamands describes healthy relationships as being loving and full of grace.
We know in our heads that God is full of love and grace but so often we approach God with a rules and regulations narrative. We have a set of ‘principles’ and ‘proven’ strategies to follow.
I wonder if you have ever felt deeply loved when someone has approached you with a rule book?
Grace cannot be discovered through working at it. It’s a gift, undeserved and, in an embarrassingly good way, FREE.
Justice – is getting what is deserved
Mercy – is not getting what is deserved
Grace – is getting what is not deserved
Darrell Johnson – Fifty-Seven words that change the World
Grace, forgiveness and mental health
Early in my ministry, I discovered that experience of grace is the most therapeutic factor in emotional and spiritual healing. A doctor who works in a mental hospital put it this way, ‘Half of my patients could go home in a week if they knew they were forgiven’ David Seamands Healing Grace (First paragraph)
Inside of all of us, deep in our subconscious, I believe is a bookkeeper. It keeps score. Who has hurt you, whom you have hurt. Crimes committed against you and you against others.
It’s a pus that has infected the core of who you are and how you live. The bookkeeper keeps it alive and keeps you under its control. Shame and guilt are the dust clouds billowing from your history.
Forgiveness is giving yourself and others grace. Rules and regulations will never antiseptically clean out the pus.
Grace is a gift, and the first person you need to give it to is yourself.
Quotes to consider
- Forgiveness requires a most unnatural decision to demand that the offender experience no punitive consequence for wrongdoing. Larry Crabb – The Marriage Builder
- Quit keeping score altogether and surrender yourself with all your sinfulness to God who sees neither the score nor the scorekeeper but only his child redeemed by Christ. Thomas Merton
- The perfectionist measures her personal worth before God in terms of the acquisition of virtue and the elimination of vice, because her vision is a triumphal forced march along the purgative and illuminative trails to the unitive bivouac, the outcome is an unrealistically negative self-image. There’s a conspicuous absence of peace and joy. The yawning gulf between the ideal self and the real self-makes an attitude of gratitude impossible and the likelihood of wide mood swings highly probable. Henri Nouwen
Questions to answer
- What do you think about the statement ‘Half of my patients could go home in a week if they knew they were forgiven.’ Is forgiveness that bigger deal?
- Rules and regulations are of course needed, but how easily do we see these as requirements for a relationship with God?
- How do the rules and regulations change in their nature when you have a good relationship?
- Isn’t It Time to Banish the Bookkeeper? Forgive
- Are You In Sync With The Rhythm?
- 11 Suggestions on How to Chew on the Bible with Mindfulness
Barry is a writer, coach, and course creator that has a passion for Mental Health and Spiritual Formation.
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