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Healing with Spiritual Practices: Proven Techniques for Disorders from Addictions and Anxiety to Cancer and Chronic Pain
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4 Healing with Spiritual Practices manner of teaching and training methods adapted from secular and church- based methods to help people grow in closeness to God and in fellowship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Christian community, even in the face of temptations and suffering. These efforts to behave virtuously extend to the ways people treat others who do not name Christ as their lord and to reshape the world into a socially just realm. Thus, Christian virtue formation worked through three steps to yield spiritual satisfaction. Usually, the emphasis of efforts to help promote spiritual formation involved first having a goal of becoming more Christlike. The idea was to conform behavior and attitude to approximate Christ’s. That was understood to involve simultaneously complete reliance on the Holy Spirit and effortful practice in learning, acting, and seeking to develop Christlike attitudes. It was understood that one must respond well under testing, so some spiritual formation methods built in rigorous self-control tests and confession, repentance, and absolution rituals for inevitable fail- ures. Some methods entailed tests like fasting. Others expected that rigorous duties and schedules for prayer, devotion, scripture reading, and meditation would be their own tests. When life tested people through suffering (e.g., ill- ness, losses), people were expected to cope faithfully. In short, spiritual formation was based on a virtue-building paradigm, and although there are many ways to form Christian character, we will focus on virtue development. Christians, and other spiritual people, often use worldly ways to build spiritual closeness. This is analogous to building a concrete structure by using a wooden frame (i.e., ways of the physical world) and asking God to fill the frame with inner concrete (i.e., character development in a way that gets the person closer to God) to form the weight-bearing walls, columns, or other structures that will hold up the edifice of a Christian character and allow a Christian community to benefit. Classic Virtue Theory The Christian method of virtue formation paralleled those developed in secular societies. A summary of a classic virtue-building model involves four steps.3 First, the person sees the goal. The sight is more a glimpse than a clear-sighted focus because people cannot precisely anticipate what the vir- tue might look like in their lives when it is fully formed. Second, the person practices the virtuous beliefs, values, and acts until the particular virtue becomes a habit of the heart or tacit knowledge (as opposed to focal knowl- edge4). Third, the person undergoes numerous self-imposed or life-imposed tests, trials, temptations, and suffering. All of those, one hopes, can strengthen the virtue. One way this strengthening occurs is through tests, trials, temptations, and suffering that may temporarily erode the virtue but