Have We Overspiritualized The Christian Walk?

Is there a danger to putting our best foot forward? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is the kind of post that is really hard to write. It’s because I know there are some readers who will be shocked to realize some things about me, but I hope that if they do, it will bring them comfort. I know I am an answer man to many, but there are many times that I have my own struggles and those are often with the Christian walk.

Sometimes I think we overdo how it is. I know many people who have rich and vibrant prayer lives. I don’t deny that for a moment. For me, this is an honest struggle. I have a very hard time with prayer. It could be because of my Aspergers. It’s hard enough to talk to a person. Make that person divine and in fact a being who is tri-personal and it becomes even more difficult. I more often do minute prayers than long extended prayer times. I find it hard to know what it means to wrestle in prayer for someone. If that’s you, excellent. Not knocking you. I am better at brief prayers throughout the day.

Sometimes I see Christians talking about their Bible study and how awesome it is every day. God just shows them something new that they hadn’t seen before. If that’s you, excellent, but I wonder if I’m more like other Christians want to admit. Sometimes, you’re just reading the text. You don’t get anything immediately. Maybe you can make a connection. Honestly, I seem to get more just doing my nightly Bible reading with my wife. I read it out loud for us together and sometimes I do get things that way.

Church services can be outright boring to me. I’ve grown tired of preachers who just give a text and jump straight to an application and Christianity is all about just being a good person. This doesn’t even get to the music. The music part to me seems more like a concert. I don’t really relate and I can’t remember the last time I sang along. It’s all too awkward for me.

Sometimes I think we put forward a position where we shouldn’t struggle in the church and our lives are full of joy abundantly. Excuse me, but I know I’m rarely at that level. Many times when I am in a crisis, I find it hard to follow James and count all things joy. If anything, I can find myself lashing out at God and accusing Him and asking Him if He remembers His promises or if He even cares about the suffering going on.

Yet when I read the Psalms, I wonder if I’m not the odd one out. The Psalmists seemed to do that a lot. It’s strange that the question the Psalmists normally had was not if the people remembered the covenant, but if God remembered it.

We seem to have this attitude in the church that if we put forward an image of our lives being less than perfect, there’s something wrong with us. We’re not fooling anyone. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re free of struggles. Sometimes a good worship service shouldn’t leave you feeling happy. It should leave you feeling miserable with the conviction of sin. (This doesn’t deny that you could have happiness when you realize grace and forgiveness.)

1 in 3 men are said to struggle with pornography in the church, yet how often at a church service do you hear guys sharing that with other guys? It’s almost like we want to treat sin as if it’s not really real. Our messages at church are more self-help and can be found in any episode of Dr. Phil more often. You won’t get the Biblical text from him, but many times the messages are awfully similar.

Maybe also this idea of putting forth this image is damaging. It damages new Christians who think there’s something wrong with them and it bewilders skeptics who think we don’t take life seriously. Christianity is just a feel-good religion to them. I try to tell them sometimes being a good Christian will mean you feel miserable. You feel the evil in the world or you feel the weight of your own sin or anything else.

I fear we can present the Christian life as just one amazing experience after another. I doubt that’s what it’s really like for most people. On the other hand, some could say I am guilty of intellectualizing matters and focusing too much on that area. They could also be right. Could it be like in most other cases, moderation is what is needed? Maybe the middle ground.

I conclude this wondering what your thoughts are. Maybe you’re out there thinking you agree with me and there’s too much show in our personal lives and very little grow. Maybe you think I’m way off base and want to tell why. Comments are always open. Let me know.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

  • Kshos23

    From the title, one would guess you are complaining about potential rigidness, strictness and monastic joylessness that is sometimes presented as the Christian walk, yet it’s not the message your blog post intends. Oh well.

    For prayer life, I don’t think what you do is wrong at all. Some people have different characters and personalities and thus different spiritualities are suited for them. This is something you’ll find talked about in, say, Catholic churches where some people prefer to receive Communion in the hand, while others in the mouth and some even on their knees. So if you have difficulty praying for long amounts of time, and find it much more comfortable to simply talk to God and have short prayers over the day, there is nothing wrong with that.

    As for Bible study, again, I can certainly sympathise with you as there is nothing wrong with not getting amazing insights every time you open the Bible. I would give you advice which may or may not work, and that is to read other people’s interpretations of certain Bible passages and what they may mean for us, and perhaps even start doing what is called Lectio Divina, which is prayerful contemplation of Bible verses, starting with reading, then meditation, prayer and ending with contemplation. Fun thing, it is actuallly a traditional Benedictine practice, not a modern one (although there are modern adaptations for contemporary people to understand and practice more easily)! If you want to practice it, just look it up and see how you do!

    As for worship services, well, you get what you get. Some worship services are better than others, such as Lutheran ones, but it depends on where you end up.

    As for joy in the Christian walk, I’ll just point out how Mormons are stereotypically considered as preternaturally happy people who are always willing to help others yet also take great enjoyment in their lives. A similar sentiment is echoed by G. K. Chesterton and his view of Personalistic Christianity, and if Mormons can take great delight and joy in their lives, all the while staying faithful to their religion, then it seems logical that we as Christians, who are supposed to be adopted sons of God and can communicate with the creator of all reality who desires our supreme happiness, should be able to outdue them in that!

    Of course, this is not to say that we should have perpetual joy without any complaints in our Christian walk, as suffering and even our own stubborness can interrupt such hopes, and I am simply putting forward my own thoughts on the issue.

    And anyways, perfect happiness where we will never experience suffering is not something of this world, but of the next, so our hopes for the best life should be placed in the New Creation.

    • Thanks for the reply. I actually do get something more out of the text when I read with my wife in the evening and I have a habit of reading just two verses at night before I go to bed and thinking about them.

      We used to worship at a Lutheran church when we lived in Tennessee. It was wonderful. We always go there again when we go back.

      Thanks for your comments on prayer as well. Good to know others think the same way.

  • gromit45

    The book Truefaced helped me a lot to focus myself on being an “authentic” Christian.
    But that being said it is easy to go back behind a mask cuz so many others always wear one. Too often other believers are not ready to have honest and open talk.
    Once you do experience real sharing, it’s hard to go back to superficial bible groups.

  • Sean Michael Killackey

    Every week I hear your comment about most songs at Church being ‘songs a woman could singer to boyfriend but with Jesus’ name substituted’ in the back of my head. I would prefer older hymns. (For example, I like the work of Fernando Ortega, he has very good renditions of such hymns, and his own compositions aren’t bad either.)

    I think you make an interesting, and basically right point, about the Psalms. In the vein of your remark, Psalm 77 comes to mind; check out the rendition of it by Sons of Korah (Psalm 77a, anyway). Or Psalms 10. Or, well about a half dozen come immediately to mind, and many more could be easily called to mind too. Which seems to be your point.

    Your comments about sin and sermons and the Church are insightful as well. Which is a shame, since how can we know God’s love fully if we ignore sin? God’s love is partially defined in terms of sin: of how he saves us from sin and cleanses us from it into holiness.

    • Indeed. I think there is way too much pablum in the church as if just being a peaceable person and such is the Christian goal. Very little is about the Kingdom of God. Another good read here is “Why Men Hate Going To Church.”

      • Sean Michael Killackey

        Yeah, I saw your post on that, it sounds very interesting. I’ll have read it. In fact, it might be particularly good for the church where I’m at, as we are in a transition period, and have an interim pastor until the end of th year. I’ll had to read it and recommend it to my friends in the church, including the youth pastor, and some on the church board and transition committee. (One of the things they noted was that very few people in the church have been Christian for less than 20 years. Where are the new people?)