WoW 124: On transformation through suffering, Psychotherapy Series, Part 3 [Words of Wisdom]

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WoW 124: On transformation through suffering, Psychotherapy Series, Part 3

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Last week​ we talked about how if you want transformation you must change your thinking, your feelings, and your actions. Yet this doesn’t go far enough in describing the process of change.

Transformation is a ​mysterious​ thing. Jesus said it was like being born again and that by definition it is mysterious. A spiritual rebirth comes from above. There is a kind of transformation that only comes from God. If we think we can fashion our own radical transformation we are sorely mistaken, either through pride or by being deceived and believing that the material world is all there is.

Yes, there are ‘evidence-based’ treatment modalities. There are techniques, approaches, and ways of being that we see consistently work in helping clients grow and heal. And yet there is a certain element of mystery in the healing process. I’ve learned to rely less on a packaged process and more on a relational, and spiritual process. By relational, I mean that in therapy I seek to love people well. Love comes before transformation. ​Transformation​ moves at ​the speed​ of applying the truth to our lives as we live connected to others.

When people come into therapy they naturally come in ​suffering​, wanting to stop doing certain things, and seeking to learn to overcome specific struggles. As counterintuitive as it sounds, don’t focus merely on stopping a certain behavior. Don’t even focus too much on quieting your suffering. It is in the midst of experiencing the suffering that you can draw close to Christ and depend on Him and see yourself and the world in a new way.

My prayer for you in therapy is that you would have your soul and spirit shaken to the core. You must experience a spiritual awakening. I hope you will go on a journey and experience something that is very difficult to put into words. I hope the fundamental way you experience God, how you experience yourself, and how you experience a soulful connection with others will grow.


“For this immense love that Christ, the Word, has cannot long endure the sufferings of his beloved without responding. God affirms this through Jeremiah: I have remembered you, pitying your youth and tenderness when you followed me through the desert.”

St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night, in ​The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross​

“The Lincolns of this world are people who have experienced what the New Testament writers termed metanoia. The word literally means “a turnaround.” It is a fundamental transformation of mind, normally brought about by personal suffering, great awareness, or Damascus Road experiences. This reveals an utterly new imaginal world. Until we “imagine” our worldview differently, intellect and will, of themselves, provide only temporary and often weak change. Metanoia, an utter turnaround, involves seeing with a new mind and is seemingly necessary to transform us personally and to help us transform social structures and institutions. In other words, we are, first of all, assumed to be on a course of ego, narcissism, and self-interest, with a what’s-in-it-for-me attitude. Other disciplines might speak of “insight,” “eureka moments,” “flow,” or “peak experiences,” but metanoia is always known to be a grace from nowhere. The recipients always know for sure that it is an utterly unearned gift. If they don’t, they are destroyed by their own hubris, or pride. The biblical tradition would say that this turnaround is entirely dependent upon an experience of The Absolute. Afterward, we know at least three things at a deep level: God is good, the world is good, and I am good. That is all we need in order to begin. We then have an utterly grounded imaginal consciousness, and fear has been foundationally overcome. Our psyche is no longer based in the small self, but in the Great Self, the Christ Self.”

Richard Rohr, ​The Wisdom Pattern​


What difficulty, struggle, or suffering can you accept today?

What are you trying to control?

Will you surrender what is out of your control to God?

(Use these questions as a journal prompt and to guide your prayers this week)


Instead of running from suffering, accept it, and surrender to God and His loving care. Then take courageous action.

Live wisely,



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