Many people ask us about spiritual direction. What does a spiritual director do? What do you talk about in spiritual direction?
I have benefited from talking with a Christian Spiritual Director many times, but especially when I can’t feel God’s love or can’t hear God’s voice.
Three times in my life I felt this way. I was stuck in spiritual desolation with no light at the end of the tunnel. Just darkness, disorientation, and God’s absence (like in Psalm 77 and 88).
In Journey of the Soul we call this hitting The Wall.
The first time I hit The Wall I was badly persecuted in a summer job during college. Everyday I was yelled at by my boss and laughed at by my coworkers. I was ostracized and alone. If God really loved me why would he let me suffer like this?
Then in my late 30’s I burned out in my ministry as a pastor and psychologist. I was pouring living waters on people but my own soul was dry as dust.
Then a few years ago I was plagued with shame as an organizational leader. God had called me to lead Soul Shepherding’s growth but I felt incapable of doing what needed to be done.
The first two times I encountered The Wall I didn’t know what was happening or what to do. In the desolation my soul was being drained of life. I couldn’t feel God’s loving presence.
But the third time I hit The Wall, I had our CHRIST stages map that forms the pathway in the journey of our soul.
The map showed me that The Wall is not a dead-end — it’s the Spirit of Jesus’ invitation to go deeper into the Inner Journey (or I Stage). For this soul work I knew that I needed the ministry of spiritual direction.
For my spiritual director I chose a dead alcoholic priest named Brennan Manning. I read all 13 of his books forwards and backwards because on every page I was drawn into God’s grace to heal my emptiness and shame.
“God loves you as you are, not as you should be,” Brennan kept reminding me. In my weakness God’s grace became sufficient and strong for me (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
I also had three soul friends that I kept pouring out my emotions to. I felt like I showed them my worst self, a self that I judged and abandoned (and God too it seemed).
But they kept seeing Jesus alive in me. They accepted me with my faults and messy emotions. They ministered God’s grace to me.
Christian spiritual direction is a soul-saving ministry, especially in times of desolation, or whenever you need God’s unfailing acceptance and tender wisdom embodied to you in one of Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20).
But you may wonder, “How is Christian spiritual direction different from counseling or coaching?”
Let me briefly describe the uniqueness of Christian spiritual direction, especially as it’s practiced by Soul Shepherding’s team of Sr. Spiritual Directors:
Counseling vs. Spiritual Direction
Counseling (from a therapist or pastoral counselor) focuses on overcoming a hurt, conflict or mental health problem.
Christian spiritual direction helps you to sense and respond to God’s presence in the midst of your life’s challenges. You learn to value Christlikeness over personal comfort.
Coaching vs. Spiritual Direction
Coaching focuses on achieving goals and being more effective in your work or life.
Christian spiritual direction helps you listen to the Spirit’s still, small voice and join with the Lord’s purposes in your life and work or ministry (1 Kings 19:11-15). You learn to abandon outcomes to the Lord.
Discipleship vs. Spiritual Direction
Discipleship usually refers to a structured program of learning Bible teachings and practicing spiritual disciplines.
In Christian spiritual direction you receive empathy and prayer from a friend or mentor which fosters your intimacy with God and helps you sense and follow the Holy Spirit.
Healing prayer vs. Spiritual Direction
Healing prayer focuses on asking God to minister emotional healing for a past hurt or memory and usually involves a structured interview and prayer.
Christian spiritual direction is an open-ended conversational process that focuses on your experience (or not) of God’s presence and your spiritual formation process of becoming more like Jesus.
Christian spiritual direction may not fix all your problems or give you everything you want in your life but it can help you to appreciate God’s loving presence and wisdom in all you do.
Soul Shepherding also has a team of Sr. Spiritual Directors who are available to give you the empathy, guidance, and prayer you need. They’ve been personally trained in our model of spiritual direction that’s Christ-centered and psychologically informed. You can learn more and schedule a time to connect here.
Listen to this week’s Soul Talks podcast: “Soul Care for Pastors & Leaders” Bill was recently hosted on the 95Network’s podcast by Dale Sellers and we’re sharing it with you! In this caring and hope-filled conversation, Bill and Dale go in-depth on what it looks like for pastors and leaders to receive spiritual care in the midst of the challenges of ministry. Listen in for practical insight into next steps to caring for your soul and be cared for by Bill’s insightful and spirit-led prayer for you.