There are no sufficient answers to the problem of suffering that anyone would find comfort in. when going through suffering, the emotional turmoil is at times enough to throw us off balance. For most Christians, the struggle is not only to make meaning of the situation but also to see God and his power in their lives. Therefore responses such as; falling off from faith, discouragement, and becoming nonaligned in religious matters are common while non-coping to others is common. The reason for such occurrences is the failure to look back and see how God has worked out difficult situations in our lives over the past. An integrative therapeutic tool titled ‘spiritual life map’ can serve to bring out a comprehensive analysis of significant events in our lives helping while pointing to solutions that worked in the past.
A Spiritual life map also illustrates an account of individuals’ relationship with God over time. It helps to show us where we have come from, where we are now, and where we are going. It may give focus to events from birth through to the present incorporates life stages, important events, responses, lessons learned.
To use the spiritual map one needs a clean sheet of paper to map out chronologically significant events in their lives from the past to the present. Significant events can be mapped out from various years by including the various aspects: event details such as year, people, place, outcome, etc., the impact of the event, significant resources used in the problem situation and lessons learned, God’s intervention such as miracles, supernatural revelation, God’s servants (priests, prophets, etc.).
Other objects to incorporate, can include some symbols and pictures to give added meaning to the story as experienced. Common symbols used include; rain, various colors, clouds, lighting, etc. The symbols are not obsolete in themselves and do not limit anyone’s liberty in relieving their events. Individuals should use as many symbols as they can get to bring out a pictorial reality in their story. A comprehensive expression in this map can help individuals to have a better view of their life journey and cultivate interest to learn and improve on their weak areas in problem situations.
Distinctive advantages that accompany the use of life maps when going through suffering:
- Explore the significance of religion in their lives- their understanding of the problem for religious beliefs and values and the view about God.
- Ability to express yourself through the negative events- more often than not when we take refuge from others their opinions can be biased, or hurtful. Reflecting on the events on your own can increase the ability to cultivate self -awareness express your emotions effectively without fear of judgment.
- The ability to reflect on tangible events in life- a spiritual life map will help one to see the problem situation. This can create an opportunity to understand the effects and impact on the person and possible steps they may need to access help.
- Opportunity to review their strength-looking in the past triumphs can help one evaluate their personal strengths and limitations as well as provide a source of encouragement to press on
- Create room to reflect on various lessons learned in the past –which can turn out to be solutions or places of hope in the present and doors for the future.
- Help one to evaluate ways of problem-solving- can be an opportunity of growth for self in creating new ways for problem-solving and also evaluation of previous forms of problem-solving.
- Become an eye-opener to dysfunctional patterns in problem situations- this can create room for growth and change due to increased awareness on pointers to the source of problems.
A common theme from the scriptures when dealing with the problem of suffering is taking a look at the events in history. In the book of Deuteronomy 4; 9 Moses warns, “And watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live, teach them to your children and their children after them.” Looking back was important for them as it is to us today.” The supernatural actions of God to us are personal because they create an experiential relationship with God that helps us know how God works in our individual lives. The memories of the Israelites were special because they pointed to their unique relationship with God as his chosen nation. As a Christian, your special story with God is best when realized because it can become an indicator of who God is, what he can do in your life even during difficult situations.
Deuteronomy 7:17–19 “You may say to yourselves, “These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out?” 18 But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt. 19 You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the Lord your God brought you out. The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear.” In this scripture once again, the Israelites were reminded of their position in the lord. It was important for them to remember what God had done for them so that when they faced new challenges they may worship, and wait on him.
Exodus 14:10–14. The children of Israel so quickly forgot God’s powerful interventions on their behalf whenever they were in difficult situations because they took their focus from him. Vivid recalling, as one done with a spiritual life map, can help you when going through a rough path to look up to God whilst remembering all that he has done for you in the past. The book of Hebrews 13:8: reminds us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and tomorrow so what he did in the past he can do, again and again, therefore, he is trustworthy we can depend on him.
Psalm 103:1-3 is a call to always remember to bless the name of the Lord and forget not all the benefits we get from him which is a futuristic aspect. Looking to the future the benefits that we get from God cannot be overlooked in their righteousness and love; the spiritual truths can keep one from falling off their faith as they wait for God’s help. You can read the entire chapter of this psalm to see all the eternal benefits told about for you as a child of God.
3 principles to take home
- Reflection on difficult challenges should focus on our spiritual response. The book of, 2Corinthians 10:4 reminds us that the weapons we fight with are supernatural and have the power to break strongholds. As you begin to put your focus on God and worship; you will realize the grip of the devil becomes weak and you start to overcome your challenges.
- Reflection on God’s righteousness- I agree it is difficult to see the attributes of God such as; good, loving, sovereign, and faithfulness when going through trials. However, the revelation given to Job in his discussion with God during his deepest agony should remind us that His righteousness does not change with our situations because it is eternal and everlasting. Holding on to righteousness as his child will translate to the only power you need to worship him as his child.
- When going through a rough patch you can realize greater strengths about your life which you may have never known before therefore, it is an opportunity to grow. When the suffering comes to an end take the lessons learned they are real to you and true, to make a personal bank of resources; they can be personal and also used to help others with similar problems.