Summary: Intro to the series on Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Tending to Life Beneath the Surface

Series: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Brad Bailey – January 15, 2012


Most of us know something of the tragedy of the Titanic. [1]

It was created with great pride and potential… created as the largest and most lavish passenger steamship in the world at the time. On April 10, 1912, she began her maiden voyage… setting sail for New York with 2,223 people on board… including many wealthy and prominent figures.

On the upper decks… it was all about keeping the party in luxury… but on the fourth day of that maiden voyage…tragedy occurred. She hit an iceberg…. That tore open the hull and began to take in water.

There were two worlds tragically divided…life on the upper decks looked so impressive… and it was moving with remarkable speed…but on the lower decks…beneath the water line…there was damage and danger that was being ignored until it was too late.

That ship reflects our lives. We were created with great pride and potential…but when we’re only focused on the upper deck… and avoid the problems below… we face the tragic consequences.

> What we need to grasp is that we are each the captain of these lives… who must make choices …choices that can prove destructive and even deadly… or can prove to restore us and lead to the fullness of life which Jesus came to bring.

We need to begin by realizing that the ship is like the iceberg that destroyed it… in which only 10% can be seen. 90% lies unseen beneath the water…and ignoring that 90% can prove fatal.

Today we are beginning a series…. entitled Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.

This series is about tending to life beneath the deck… below surface.

The fact that you are here… I believe reflects that you value the deeper life that God has given you. But Jesus reminds us of a tendency that we are all vulnerable to.

Jesus confronted the religious leaders of his day with words that must speak to all of us today.

Matthew 23:25-26 (NIV)

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

Jesus was not talking to some pagans… the local criminals of his day.

He was engaging the religious leaders. These were those who appeared to take God most seriously….most centrally. These were those who went to every service…. memorized every teaching…. did every proper thing one should.

Jesus uses the analogy of a drinking cup… something that gets washed everyday between the many times throughout the day when people stopped to drink water or tea. It notes that while the outside may be what is seen…it is the inside that determines whether it is healthy to drink from.

Jesus is speaking of the heart… what Hebrew culture understands as the inner life.

Earlier he had explained…

Matthew 15:18-19 (NIV)

“…the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

It is out of the heart… the inner disposition that our lives are defined. True rightness will flow from the inside out.

Solomon said,

Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV)

Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.

Let me take a moment to relate this to the focus on emotional health.

When Jesus refers to the significance of our hearts… he is speaking about that which is a bit more dynamic that simply our English use of the word heart and emotions. The Hebrew word for ‘heart’ refers to the whole of ones inner disposition… a disposition formed by feelings and affections and will.

However, emotions are a dynamic part of the hearts disposition.

Emotions are a reflection of the longings we seek to fulfill… and the symptom of that process.

When a baby cries or smiles…it reflects the pursuit of it’s nature.

The crying or smiling is a sign or symptom of that nature. As we develop we cultivate different ways of relating to that inner disposition expressed through our feelings.

There are symptoms of what is pleasant and symptoms of what is not pleasant… love and hate… joy and sorrow. So naturally we are a bit conflicted about them. We spend a lot of unconscious energy trying to suppress them… deny them… and then at times wanting to express them.

What we must understand… is that they are neither our enemy nor our savior… they are simply a symptom of our inner disposition. To deny the disposition within us is simply to divide ourselves… and the result is often an idealized self and a real self.

That is why Jesus calls the religious leaders hypocrites. The word hypocrite comes from the word which refers to the actor. They have learned how to act outwardly to the public… portraying a life centered in God…but inwardly their dispositions are not connected to God…nor flowing from God. So ultimately they will not reflect God because rightness flows from the inside out.

Illustration: If I have the measles… but say that I have the mumps… perhaps even believe I have the mumps. What will come out of me… what will I spread? The measles !

Jesus reminds us that there is a potential for a form of spirituality that tries to separate the outward from the inward… but that we can become masters of it.

Our spiritual behavior can become detached from the real life within us.

This may or may be intended…but it happens.

This is what Peter Scazzero calls emotionally unhealthy spirituality.

Here are some of the patterns he challenges us to consider:

Ten Top Symptoms of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality

1. Using God to run from God

Just as we use various drugs or activities to avoid the painful or problematic parts of reality… we can use God to do the same. Or we can pay dues, and like a good tax payer, earn our rights. God can’t ask too much of me, or probe too deeply.

2. Ignoring the emotions of anger, sadness and fear

Since we are called to love and joy and courage… we can unconsciously repress anger, sadness, and fear… and such denial simply hides the symptom from the one who can help us.

3. Dying to the wrong things – the healthy pleasures of life that God gives you

(e.g. denying emotionally helpful gifts of friendships, joy, music, beauty, laughter, nature) We can deem all natural pleasures as ‘worldly pleasure’ and try to avoid such pleasure… cutting ourselves off from the joys God has given. We may be on only half the emotional oxygen we were meant to be breathing. [2]

4. Denying the past’s impact on the present – family of origin issues

We can assume that in finding God… in giving Him our lives…we are free from the past. Certainly there is freedom. But while we are free from the ultimate control and consequences of the past… the formation of the new life in us… is a matter of working out the old patterns. And there are a lot of patterns from our families and formative years that need to be seen for what they are so we can really face them… and be re-formed.

5. Dividing life into ‘secular’ and ‘sacred’ compartments (separating God from work)

We have mastered the strange separation between worship and work…. Sunday and Monday. If we were asked about our spiritual life we would naturally think about our patterns of attending church, worship, reading the Bible…and be a little thrown off when asked about spiritual formation at work… play… recreation. Everything is spiritual! Our financial choices are spiritual. Our entertainment choices are spiritual. Our emotional life is spiritual. All areas. Period.

6. Doing for God instead of being with God

Perhaps one of the most common challenges shared by people and pastors… evaluating my spirituality based on how much I am doing for God.

7. Spiritualizing away conflict (avoiding helpful truth to keep peace)

We can justify our lack of being direct and honest as a commitment peace when in truth it is often a fear of conflict.

8. Covering over brokenness, weakness and failure

Not being free to be honest with ourselves and others about our weaknesses, failures and mistakes.

9. Living without limits – not accepting the limits of time and energy that God has set for life.

When we are not comfortable with our human limitations… we have difficulty keeping boundaries with people…and the parameters of life. We can confuse being sacrificial with being super-human… which we were never meant to be.

10. Judging others out of our own insecurity and unhealthy needs for validation, control, etc.

Jesus spoke about our tendency to see the speck in someone’s eye while ignoring the log in our own.

These are just some of the symptoms of our need to tend to life beneath the surface.

Before were done I want to gain a few insights from an example in the Scriptures… from Saul who reigned as the first King of Israel.

When the people wanted a king… God set apart Saul… he was a man with great potential… and even a man whom God appointed. Yet he proved to a man who failed to tend to life beneath the surface.

We're going to pick up the story in 1 Samuel chapter 15.

At this point, God had called out a people to know him… and through whom he would redeem the world. They must take possession of the land that would become the center of developing them as a nation and witness… that Promised Land.

Saul is now the King. He is given a command by God to muster the armies of Israel, hundreds of thousands of troops, and to go up against the Amalekites.. The prophet Samuel brings Saul this message from God to go and be obedient and to do this thing. And Saul does go. He musters the armies of Israel, and out he goes on the mission. But he compromises.

“But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs--everything that was good.” (15:9)

God speaks to the prophet Samuel about the problem reflected in Saul’s leadership. And Samuel goes to confront Saul.

[May note here: this passage refers to God’s call for a devastating war…. Difficult on many levels… that I think can only be understood in the largest scale of what is on the line….but I want us to set that apart to focus on Saul’s process.]

Include and read

1 Samuel 15:12-17, 19-24 (NIV)

Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, "Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal." 13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, "The LORD bless you! I have carried out the LORD's instructions." 14 But Samuel said, "What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?"

Notice that Saul seems unaware of any problem. When Samuel comes to him… Saul blesses him…. and claims how right he completed everything.

But Samuel’s response declares that what’s beneath the surface is breaking through. ‘You may be telling me that you destroyed everything… and tool nothing…but "What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?"

I wonder if God hasn’t been in a position to ask many of us:

• You say you love this person…but I hear the words you speak.

• You say you trust me…but I see how much you hold onto things.

• You say you are following what I have said… but I hear the hurt you haven’t sought to reconcile.

Still not showing much self-awareness… Saul goes on to explain…

15 Saul answered, "The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the LORD your God, but we totally destroyed the rest." 16 "Stop!" Samuel said to Saul. "Let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night." "Tell me," Saul replied. 17 Samuel said, "Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The LORD anointed you king over Israel.

19 Why did you not obey the LORD? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the LORD?" 20 "But I did obey the LORD," Saul said. "I went on the mission the LORD assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the LORD your God at Gilgal."

Do you notice what Saul is doing here? He is claiming that what he did, he did for God…. By keeping the best they were able to offer God great sacrifices.

22 But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king." 24 Then Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned. I violated the LORD's command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them.

Here we see a leader who had great potential. On the surface Saul looks like he is serving God – praying, listening prophetic words, going to church, doing some of God’s will.

Samuel said, Do you think all GOD wants are sacrifices— empty rituals just for show? He wants you to listen to him! Plain listening is the thing, not staging a lavish religious production.

The problem is that Saul had refused to be honest with Samuel… with God… and with himself.

He came to a crossroads… and instead of facing the issues of his inner life…they drove him into a false obedience… that set him apart from the God who called him.

What can we learn about…

Why we fear what’s beneath the surface…and what is required to restore our inner lives.

Three problems and the potential that calls out to us as we launch on our journey.

First thing that stands out….is where he finally recognizes his underlying issue…

v.24 “I was afraid of the people”

We can learn a bit from Saul.

Underneath – he wants/needs approval (so deep even in repenting v.30)

– unaware of his own fears (v.24 “I was afraid of the people”)

This reflects one of the first things that can cut us off from life beneath the deck… from the inner life God seeks.

Emotionally unhealthy spirituality is controlled by what others think of us.

Saul had God to live life out to…. But he had those who seemed to need him to meet their needs….. and they were likely very persistent…and immediate… so he became more responsive to them.

It is such a subtle choice… a response to others that bypasses God… and suddenly there is a separation inside. There are two worlds. We learn to master the separation.

Saul receives God’s call… and even the Spirit is upon him…but when he allows the power of the outer world to become his audience…. He becomes a false self... a politically correct version of the true self.

This is what Jesus spoke of when he spoke of hypocrites. It means actors.

Few of us intend to be hypocrites…but at some level every one of us is.

This is the dynamic at work when we are…

When we’re jealous about the favor someone is getting in your office or school.

When we come and outwardly worship without dealing with the anger we have with God or others.

When we are singing of the love of God… but making decisions based on fear

When we’re pushing our children out of personal fears

When we’re making decisions about work and careers out of fear of how other people will perceive us

When we give our body away sexually out of fear… fear that we might lose a relationship

When we avoid being honest because we’re afraid of conflict and rejection.

Emotionally healthy spirituality calls us to overcome our focus on the approval of others by centering our lives in relationship to God.

We need to give greatest focus on the internal approval of God our Creator that matters more than any other.

What we find is that by not facing this fear…it ended up consuming his life.

If your familiar with what unfolds after this incident… you may recall that Saul becomes increasingly jealous. Doesn’t want others be more popular than him. When God begin to raise up David as the next King… Saul’s life devolves as David becomes popular.

Ch.18-20 – filled with details of Saul’s 6 attempts to murder David.

But the whole time he’s totally unaware of all the stuff going on inside of him, and he's just acting it out. In the middle of all this, he continues to believe he's doing God's will. That's the killer! And if you're in a small group with him, he's probably leading the small group, and he thinks he's doing wonderfully.

Second problem…

Notice that Saul has gone to create a monument in his honor… and Samuel reminds him that he came from humble beginnings.

2. Emotionally unhealthy spirituality avoids our human limits and weakness.

We may not set up monuments to ourselves…but when we focus on what we believe to be our own merits… we are in trouble…because we will serve them. And we will begin to avoid that which reflects our human losses and limits.

This can include a fear of what can be painful.

There are things that have happened in our lives that we want to avoid facing and feeling. The truth is that when we avoid them directly… they control us all the more.

Emotionally healthy spirituality calls us into the healthy humility that honors God’s strength by embracing our human limitations.

We need the healthy humility that honors God’s strength by embracing our human limitations.

God “…delights in a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17) not because he wants us to be broken but because we are broken and He has the grace and power to restore us.

Finally, we might be able to identify with how focused Saul was on all that he had done…

Saul declares that he DID go on a mission… and DID offer sacrifices… but what he is faced with, is that he did not slow down and listen and heed what God had said… and what the Spirit was saying.

3. Emotionally unhealthy spirituality becomes defined by activity… too busy doing life above the surface to deal with life beneath the surface.

Saul does not have a hidden life in God.

When he is confronted… we see his lack of reflection…. He really lays out how everything he DID was a great performance. But as Samuel presses deeper…finally Saul faces reality….. and becomes aware of what had really been at work… of the fear of his soldiers.

> Saul had not been taking time to reflect and connect with what was within him…his inner life.

You can’t be in touch with God if not in touch with yourself. Saul wasn’t in touch with himself. Many times we don’t even present the real me to God because even to God we’re subconsciously trying to present ourselves in way God will like us or be proud of us.

I need silence/solitude to be in touch with me! – to know what I am thinking and feeling – the motives, feelings, thoughts, attitudes on the inside. It takes silence and solitude to quiet the false self.

The pressure to live superficially and conform is so great on us.

Or instead of really looking at this stuff, we just say, “That’s how I roll and people are gonna have to deal with it.” I have a better idea. How about WE deal with what’s inside of us, rather than just expecting everybody else to deal with it?

It takes space to reflect and keep our inner life in honest relationship with God.

Here we see the great contrast with David. David would also serve as King…but he would succeed in ways in which Saul failed.

You will never see Saul, like David spending time in silence and solitude, or writing like David – Pouring out conflicted inner world to God with such passion.

Contemplation is cultivating not merely our ideas and thoughts…but our hearts… our affections… our love for God and others.

Emotionally healthy spirituality needs time to reflect and connect with God.

We need time to reflect and connect with God.


I want to invite you to spend the next ten weeks exploring life beneath the deck.

This series will not do it for you. It is simply a structure that can serve that choice. The choice itself is ours. We are each the captain of our ships.

Every week there will be a process that will guide you.

• There will be a message on the weekend.

• There is the book “EHS’ to read from.

• There are workbook questions to help you apply the truths to your own life… and to prepare for exploring in a small group.

Over the past three months we went through this as a pastoral staff. We know the value of the time involved… and how vital it was to have a small group to be sharing in that commitment.

It is so vital to first gain some understanding but then to APPLY it personally. You just can't read through this and say "Oh yeah, I get it!" It really does require talking about it.

• And there is a daily prayer guide… the Daily Office.

Let me close with what was concluded about the tragedy of the Titanic.

“The conclusion of the British Inquiry into the sinking was ‘that the loss of the said ship was due to collision with an iceberg, brought about by the excessive speed at which the ship was being navigated’.” (Wikipedia Citing Lawrence Beesley, (1912)

God is calling us to slow down from the excessive speed by which our ships are being navigated.

There were other ships in those waters at the time.

That Sunday at 1:45 PM, a message from the steamer Amerika warned that large icebergs lay in Titanic's path, but because wireless radio operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride were paid primarily to relay messages to and from the passengers, they were not focused on relaying "non-essential" ice messages to the bridge. Later that evening, another report of numerous large icebergs, this time from Mesaba, also failed to reach the bridge.

The Californian, which was nearby and stopped for the night because of ice….Just before the Californian's wireless operator had gone off-duty at around 11:00 PM, he attempted to warn Titanic that there was ice ahead, but he was cut off by an annoyed Jack Phillips. Occupied with sending backlogged passenger messages, Phillips fired back an angry response, "Shut up, shut up, I am busy; I am working.

Lets not make the same mistake.

Resources: Peter Scazzero, Marc Alan Schelske (blog on emotions with some thoughts on Scazzero), David Flowers (SC sermon based closely on EHS transcript)


1. Regarding the Titanic - From Wikipedia - RMS Titanic was a passenger liner that struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City, and sank on 15 April 1912, resulting in the deaths of 1,517 people in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history.

The largest passenger steamship in the world at the time, the Olympic-class Royal Mail Ship RMS Titanic was owned by the White Star Line and constructed at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, Ireland, UK. After setting sail for New York City on 10 April 1912 with 2,223 people on board, she hit an iceberg four days into the crossing, at 11:40 pm on 14 April 1912, and sank at 2:20 am on the morning of 15 April. The high casualty rate resulting from the sinking was due in part to the fact that, although complying with the regulations of the time, the ship carried lifeboats for only 1,178 people.

On the night of Sunday, 14 April 1912, the moon was not visible in the clear sky (being two days before new moon), the temperature had dropped to near freezing, and the ocean was flat calm. Captain Smith, in response to iceberg warnings received via wireless over the preceding few days, had drawn up a new course which took the ship slightly further southward. That Sunday at 1:45 PM, a message from the steamer Amerika warned that large icebergs lay in Titanic's path, but because wireless radio operators Jack Phillips and Harold Bride were employed by Marconi, and paid primarily to relay messages to and from the passengers, they were not focused on relaying "non-essential" ice messages to the bridge. Later that evening, another report of numerous large icebergs, this time from Mesaba, also failed to reach the bridge.

At 11:40 PM, while sailing about 400 miles (640 km) south of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, lookouts Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee spotted a large iceberg directly ahead of the ship. Sounding the ship's bell three times, Fleet telephoned Sixth Officer James Moody on the bridge exclaiming, "Iceberg, right ahead!". First Officer Murdoch, hearing Moody repeat the message, gave the helmsman, Robert Hichens, the order "hard-a-starboard", using the traditional tiller order for an abrupt turn to port (left). Moody, stationed behind the helmsman, confirmed to Murdoch that his order had been carried out correctly. Murdoch adjusted the engines (ordering through the telegraph for either "full reverse" or "stop" of the engines; survivor testimony on this conflicts).

The ship made its fatal collision at an estimated 37 seconds after Fleet sighted the berg. The iceberg scraped the ship's starboard (right) side, buckling the hull in several places and popping out rivets below the waterline over a length of 299 feet (90 m). This opened the first six compartments (the forward peak tank, the three forward holds and Boiler Rooms Nos. 5 & 6) to the sea; the ship was only designed to remain afloat with just the first four compartments flooded. The entire impact had lasted approximately 10 seconds.

Californian, which was nearby and stopped for the night because of ice, also saw lights in the distance, but its wireless was turned off for the night. Just before the Californian's wireless operator had gone off-duty at around 11:00 PM, he attempted to warn Titanic that there was ice ahead, but he was cut off by an annoyed Jack Phillips. Occupied with sending backlogged passenger messages, Phillips fired back an angry response, "Shut up, shut up, I am busy; I am working [the Newfoundland wireless station] Cape Race". When Californian's officers first saw the ship, they tried signalling her with their Morse lamp, but never received a response. Later, they noticed Titanic's distress rockets in the sky above the ship's lights, and informed Captain Stanley Lord. Even though there was much discussion about the mysterious ship, which to the officers on duty appeared to be moving away, the master of Californian did not wake the ship's wireless operator until morning.

The conclusion of the British Inquiry into the sinking was “that the loss of the said ship was due to collision with an iceberg, brought about by the excessive speed at which the ship was being navigated”. (This final statement cites - Beesley, Lawrence (1912). The Loss of the S.S. Titanic. London: Heinemann.

2. We are to die to the sinful parts of who we are…not to joy and enjoyment itself. We can equate that God is only satisfied with our hard work for him… and never our play or pleasure. God knows that the pleasures of this world can never be freely enjoyed when we worship them as the highest goal in themselves… nor when we ignore them. The pleasures of this life are God’s gifts.