Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Christian Psychologist Walks Into a Movie Theatre...

Last night was girls night, and what did we do? What any group of girls would do-spend money to watch a movie (The Fault in Our Stars) that made each and everyone of us cry(I should note that I'm not one for gender stereotypes, but this one stands to be true) Anyway, it got me thinking-why does anyone pay money to watch a movie about loss that knowingly makes them cry? Maybe it's because we can relate or maybe it's to learn how to empathize. Perhaps it is just for a good cry. Whatever the reason, we confront ourselves with pain- but it is one that we can stand up from our seats and walk away from. What about the pain or loss we can't leave at the theatre?

I'm not a stranger to loss. When I was involved with Young Life we all had our own 'testimony'-essentially our life stories that told of our upbringing and the development of our relationship with God. The more I shared with my peers, the more I realized that so much of my relationship with God has been trying to figure out the pain I have experienced from either loss of a loved one or watching someone close to me struggle. Later, finding comfort in His arms when faced with those situations.

As a psychologist (I have a Bachelors degree now, I can call myself that) I have had the phrase "correlation NOT causation" drilled into my brain. We can't say what causes something to happen with 100% certainty so we just look at the two variables and compare. The two that I will be looking at for today's lesson-God and pain. After all 22 years of my life I have noticed the relationship works in both directions. Let me explain:

In the past I have talked about how tragedy has the power to lead people away from their faith or renew their beliefs. The more a person focuses on the loss in their life, and the pain caused by such, the less room in their head and heart there is for God. Their faith can't shine through the pain because it has consumed the person(essentially-more pain, less God) . However, the more we focus on God and our faith in both neutral and tragic times, the easier it is to realize that the pain during tragedy is only temporary (essentially, more God, less pain). God has planned for comfort in the future and if THAT is the point we can focus on, then we can heal. Granted, believing in God doesn't make the pain disappear by any means (remember-no causation), but it opens up the ability to heal in a positive way, to live focusing on God rather than the loss. It provides yet another chance to get an insight into God's plan and to strengthen the relationship between your spirit and the Holy spirit.

Even though I was able to get up and leave the movie theatre after seeing Augustus Waters and Hazel Grace Lancaster fall madly in love and then lose each other tragically, I wasn't really able to leave their pain behind. It's funny-one of the main quotes of the movie is "all pain demands to be felt"-indeed it does, but it is our choice to turn to God to help recover from the pain.

Every time I pray for a person, group or community going through something tragic I alway pray that the experience draws them closer to God rather than pushing them away. I pray they find comfort in God, not frustration, and I would encourage you to do the same.