Spiritual malpractice ...

A few more great thoughts and insights from Adam McHugh on listening to people in pain ...

McHugh writes about how a colleague of his was headed to visit someone in the hospital and announced, "Time to speak some truth."

McHugh says, "This idea prevails in many Christian circles, that preaching is the healing balm for suffering.

Whether it's sickness or divorce or job loss, a crisis calls for some sound biblical exhortation.

I have a number of issues with this.

First, it assumes that hurting people do not believe the right things or believe with enough fervency. They may end up receiving the message that their faith is not strong enough for them to see their situation rightly, or that something is wrong with them because they are struggling.

Second, preaching to people in pain preys upon the vulnerable.

It's stabbing the sword of truth into their wound and doing surgery without anesthesia.

Unwelcome truth is never healing.

Third, 'speaking truth' into situations of pain is distancing.

You get to stand behind your pulpit or your intercessory prayer that sounds a lot like a sermon, and the other person is a captive audience, trapped in the pew of your anxious truth.  [Alice here ... I couldn't love this last phrase more!]

Suffering inevitably makes a person feel small and isolated, and preaching to them only makes them feel smaller and more alone, like a scolded child."

This entire section in my book is bolded, circled, underlined and marked with ten exclamation points!

As a person who suffered through a couple wicked years of post-partum depression while my husband was in seminary, I was "preached at," "prayed over," and scolded with Scripture more times than I can remember.

It was always horrible.

It always made me feel worse and more alone.

It often made me feel like my depression was very much my fault.

And it insinuated that, if I just believed the right thing, memorized the right verse, or prayed the exact right prayer, I would be miraculously (and very quickly!!) healed.

"Speaking truth" to people in pain is spiritual malpractice.

That is what I wrote to one "Christian physical therapist" who did nothing to treat my physical pain, but simply told me that the reason I was suffering was because "the devil did not want my husband to go into the ministry."

Incredible that this stranger knew this very bizarre truth, huh?

Then he charged me for a medical visit that never took place.

Even in the midst of my depression, I knew enough to tell him I would report him for spiritual malpractice if he tried to collect on this bill.

I never heard from him again.

Thank God.

We walk with people in their pain.

We save our preaching for other venues.

Tags: Called to Community, Living Hospitably, Mission of the Church, The Marginalized