God Is Everything Good

The conversation about God inevitably enters my work with clients. I usually don’t ask directly about God as I know many people are allergic to that word, but I’ll say something like, “Tell me about your spiritual connection.” The vast majority of my clients have a spiritual framework: some were raised religious and still practice their religion of birth; others were raised religious and left the religion as an adolescent; and still others have found their way to a spiritual belief system that has nothing to do with religion.

I had been working with Kristin (not her real name)* for about six months when the conversation arose.

“I used to be a part of a church that told me that God judges me for things like what music to listen to or having premarital sex or having some wine with dinner. I don’t want to connect with God because I’m scared to go back to feeling judged for my actions all the time,” she shared with me.

“That’s understandable,” I replied. “But you’re not describing your own God. I want to ask that you turn inside and see if you can connect to how you see God.”

Almost without pause, she said, “God is the Loving Adult of the world. God is everything good.”

Sometimes my clients take my breath away. And when the client is twenty-three and struggling in the deepest way with her emergence into adulthood, when she views herself through a warped lens as someone unworthy of being loved with nothing beneficial to offer the world, when she has no idea who she really is, the petals of my heart open wide and the work becomes about reflecting back an essence so beautiful that was never reflected to her as a child. My soul-sister and colleague, Carrie Dinow, who I met in graduate school for counseling when I was twenty-three and in the middle of my own struggles, often reminds me when we’re discussing the therapeutic process that it’s the relationship that heals. Which is really another way of saying that it’s love that heals. Two people meet in a shared space and create a third relationship body, and when that third body is graced by open hearts, healing occurs.

The small, quiet voice

cannot be heard in the

middle of a city in the middle of

the traffic jam of thoughts that

blare out their statements

through a megaphone.

It can only be heard

in the sacred space where

mind recedes as if behind mist,

where breath meets breath and

sprite-souls rise up in a dance of healing.

The conversation about God arose out of Kristin sharing that she has been plagued by intrusive thoughts about death lately. I had mentioned to her previously that she may be suffering from existential depression, and she promptly Googled it to learn more about the term. Existential depression refers to a state of intense questioning about the meaning of life and the transient nature of existence. Children and adults become trapped in a sticky state of constant awareness of the passage of time and the one undeniable fact that, no matter how wonderful life can be, it all ends eventually with death. They become stuck in a loss-cycle and lose sight of the fullness of the life cycles, where the death and loss always transform into life and renewal.

“That describes what I’ve been going through to a tee,” Kristin said.

“Did you also learn that existential anxiety is commonly experienced by gifted kids and adults?”

“Yes, I saw that, but I didn’t click on it because I think of giftedness as those super-smart kids who did really well at school. That wasn’t me at all.”

“Yes, that’s how most people think of giftedness, but the reality is that people are gifted in many different ways. Some people are musically gifted or gifted with movement. Others are gifted at math and numbers. And some, like you, are gifted in your moral and emotional sensitivity. I don’t think you have any idea how intuitive, insightful, and naturally wise you are. It’s a gift, even though right now it feels like a burden.”

“I did read that existential depression can be a doorway to spiritual awakening. I don’t feel like I’m spiritually awake right now at all,” Kristin said quietly.

“No, of course not. That’s because you’re in dark night of the soul, and when you’re in dark night it feels like you’ll never see the light again. One of the lifelines of dark night is holding the context of transitions: that with every darkness and death comes a rebirth. You are growing right now in great strides, and it’s scary and hard. You’re becoming the woman you’re meant to be. And part of this growth process is connecting to God in a way that makes sense to you.”

And, thus, the conversation about God.

Her work now is to connect actively to her new definition of God. As painful and scary as it is, she needs to allow herself to descend into the depths of the dark night while another part of her – her Loving Adult in Inner Bonding® terminology – stands on the edge of the well and holds the lifeline. At the bottom of the darkness, she will find God. God lives in the darkness just as much as the light, but we must open our hearts to be able to see the glittering coins that live there. As the poet David Whyte writes in his poem “The Well of Grief”:

Those who will not slip beneath

the still surface on the well of grief

turning down to its black water

to the place that we can not breathe

will never know

the source from which we drink

the secret water cold and clear

nor find in the darkness

the small gold coins

thrown by those who wished for something else

~ David Whyte ~

God lives at the bottom of the well. God lives on the cold, kitchen floor, where we collapse on our hands and knees in moments of despair. God lives in reaching out to a friend when our heart is breaking with grief or when our soul is quaking in nameless fear.

God lives in prayer and in silence. God lives in loving action and service toward others. God lives in trees, rivers, creeks, sky, moon, sun, stars. God lives in a blade of grass, especially when we take time to notice a small drop of silver dew resting there.

God lives in our capacity to heal, to shed the wounded images of ourselves that we learned long ago until we see with clarity the goodness and purity that we really are. God wants nothing more than for each us to embrace this essence, to see ourselves through God’s eyes, and say yes to the privilege of this precious life so that we may unpack the gifts that each of us bears and offer these gifts to to the world.

***

* I’ve shared a snippet of our session with grateful permission from Kristin.

15 comments to God Is Everything Good

  • Bettina

    Wonderful!! Thank you “Kristin” for sharing this…And Sheryl again for your deepness!

  • KD

    This is BEAUTIFUL! I try to remember that God (or higher guidance) does not want us to feel fear and experience anxiety. That’s not how God works. God’s love and grace bring us peace.

    Thank you “Kristen” for being a shining example. You are wise 😉

  • Liz

    Thank you! I am religious, though I struggle with it, and it’s hard not to have the right view of God sometimes. I even had it in my head for the longest time that if it’s something I *don’t* want to do, it’s probably what God wants. When you’ve gone through rough times, it’s hard to believe that God wants your happiness. This article is a great reminder though. Thank you!

  • Sarah

    I enjoyed this post a lot. I have been realizing a lot recently that if I’m honest with myself (and God), God often feels like “one more person I’m disappointing.” It’s hard to feel that God truly loves me, rather than meeting my painful, prickly spots with judgement, and “thou shalt nots.” I think the farther I walk in emotional health though, the more I see that those are really just fears and needs for approval working themselves into my views of God…not the real God! It’s painstaking work (as is anything in this vein it seems:) but it has been good to pick apart my views and separate what’s God from what’s my own fear. And I’ve had moments of just feeling loved and peaceful. That, to me, seems much more in line with the God I hope God is 🙂 Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Clara

      Sarah, thank you for sharing. I really related to what you said about the difficulty to believe in a God that is loving, rather than punitive – and I was raised by athiest parents!! For such a long time, I think I was projecting my own super-ego (inner critic) onto my concept of God… I equated my inner critic with my ‘conscience’ and had a belief that my conscience came from God. Discriminating what is from God and what is from our inner critic (or some other wounded part of us) is very difficult and never-ending work, it is at the heart of what it means to be on a spiritual path… the Inner Bonding work really helped me with this. To quote a passge from the well known ‘Desiderata’: “you are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should”. God bless you in your journey.

      • Sarah

        Thanks Clara! I remember realizing the exact same thing regarding my “inner critic”…it was kind of earth shattering to realize that as I worked on speaking to myself with kindness and compassion when I messed up, I’d often “hear God” say mean things too. Realizing that “hey, maybe this isn’t God…maybe it’s just my inner critic using a different voice.” It was really helpful. Glad to hear someone else has done this too (and more importantly realized it!). Thanks for your words, and blessings to you too!

  • Laura

    I needed a reminder that God wants me to be happy. I have never heard of existential depression before, but I feel that it could be a part of what I’m going through. I think I have been living in a sense in a ” loss cycle” for a while now. Te description really resonated with me. Part of my anxiety is a resuLt of obsessing over the idea that I only have one life, so I need to have certainty that I’m making the “right” choices for this life. I’m afraid of looking back with a realization that I didn’t pick the “right” path, and feel that I wasted so much time on the wrong path for me. Then before i know it, i will be old. I know that 100% certainty in my choices is unattainable, which feeds into the reel of anxious thoughts that repeat over and over in my head. This article was very interesting and helpful.

  • sarah

    i feel like this was written directly to me and even about me in many ways. every time i’ve gone through a major transition the existential crisis is holding hands with the terror i feel about whatever i’m going through. maybe it’s really the backdrop, and i often think about existential issues several times throughout my day. it’s all very validating that the dark night can feel eternal, but when we hold on it’s really what leads us to who we really are.

  • Hannah Elison

    I read this post yesterday and it spoke volumes to me! I was raised in a very strict christian home and now have a wall up with God. I have started to pray again and realize the peace that comes from it. Also that God isn’t mad at me. He is of love. In fact yesterday I had a panic attack when my boyfriend went above and beyond to help me and it really felt like our relationship of 2 years was going to another level, it scared me and I wanted to run, I mean break down emotionally and run away, but I worked through the panic attack and chose to pray about it last night. I spent the night awake thinking and praying and realizing that there is inner turmoil in my life that I need to resolve and it has nothing to do with my partner, I feel like God is trying to let me know I am on the right path just keep moving through the pain and fear!

  • Featherlight

    Thank you Sheryl and thank you to Kristin. I can really relate to how Kristin has been feeling. She sounds like me 10 years ago! I wish I had read a post like this back then! I can reassure her that the peace and love that grows from an experience like this is all the deeper. The depth of the blackness and fear is counter-balanced and exceeded by the joy of life on the other side. Plus the skills you learn help you respond to life and anxiety with more wisdom. Good luck to Kristin and warm grateful thanks to Sheryl for her wisdom and support.

  • Stephanie

    Thank you Sheryl for writing this! I always love reading your posts and they have helped me in so many ways. This one was no different. I have never heard of existential depression before but as I was reading your post I could not help but feel the same way as Kristin. I sometimes feel like I am just watching myself in a movie and I am so aware of life and time for the first time in my life that sometimes it’s very overwhelming. It’s funny that this all started with me getting married and now starting to transition into starting a family. Over the last year I have been through so many levels of saddness, happiness, points of feeling depressed, excitment, nervousness, anxiousness, panic attacks.. it has been alot at times and I think I am slowly getting back in touch with God again. Saying my prayers before I go to bed as been something that I’ve truly come to love and enjoy again. The part in your post where you said: ” You are growing right now in great strides, and it’s scary and hard. You’re becoming the woman you’re meant to be.” — just brought a tear to my eye because you are right!

    Just wanted to say thanks again for your post (all of them)!

  • sarah

    I feel so similarly to you, Laura, with the questioning every decision and the fear that, once I’m old, I’ll look back and be disappointed with how my life turned out. It’s a real problem that keeps me from living in the day-to-day present moments. I often ask myself what the point of all of this is anyway, especially when we’re just going to die one day anyway. In my darkest moments nothing seems worth it, and it all seems like a struggle. The grief is profound and inescapable, and there are just times I envy those who don’t think about these things, even though, on a much deeper level, I’m so glad I do.

  • Christine

    Beautiful!! thanks for sharing. This is me! Described perfectly. How do you experience this without fear and anxiety? It has certainly brought me closer to God and I am thankful for that. A part of me is so anxious though. What happens when you emerge?