I enrolled as a student at Trinity International University-Florida in 2008, during a time in which I struggled to know my purpose in this world. I was attending my third different college after graduating from high school in 2001, so my only goal was to finally graduate. I chose psychology as my major because I had enough credits to finish that program faster than anything else that was offered at the time.
Psychology and the Spirit
During my very first class, I fell in love with the subject and the potential for a career in counseling after one of my professors explained that counselors have the privilege to bring the broken-hearted “to the feet of Christ.” Just four years later, I blazed through the undergraduate and graduate programs and started on a path of teaching, counseling and mentoring, which I have continued to do for the past 10 years.
Separation of church and business
One of my previous stops before joining the TIU-Florida family, was at a small Bible school in Iowa. While I thoroughly enjoyed studying theology and learning how to teach the Scriptures, I felt that there was a large disconnect with what I was believed is “gospel work” and what I was learning. It became evident to me that running church as a business wasn’t something I wanted to be involved with, and that realization didn’t make sense until I heard those words by my professor.
Voiceless in the wilderness
In Isaiah 40:3 one will read, “A voice cries out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of ADONAI, Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’” This passage is later used to describe the ministry of John the Baptist in three of the four Gospels. The contextual concept of this passage is that a messenger who was in the service of a king, would announce the coming of the king so that those who lived along the road would prepare it for the king’s arrival. They would fix potholes and complete other tasks such as removing dung and debris, to make the road suitable for a king to travel upon.
In a figurative way, this passage was applied to John’s ministry. The road that needed work symbolized the people that Jesus, the King, was going to be walking amongst. These people were broken and in need of some serious maintenance before their King visited them. John’s baptism offered an opportunity for repentance and attendance with the Anointed One.
Somewhere between then and now, the church focused on building roads and some neglected the need for maintaining them. There are many who travel these roads only to break down. Instead of finding ways to bring healing to these people, they are often blamed for their problems and forced off the road. These people are marginalized as their concerns and their pain goes unheard. They become the Voiceless in the Wilderness.
Proclaiming Good News
There have been numerous debates and writings about the place of psychology in Christianity. While the debate can be intriguing and helpful, now isn’t the time to go into it. My position is that aspects of psychology can be integrated into the faith and vice-versa. A simple philosophy that “all truth is God’s truth” allows one to sift through psychology for those nuggets of truth that can be helpfully applied to Christianity. I have found psychology to provide insights into helping the members of the community find their voice, their meaning, their passions and most importantly the walk with the King they’ve been looking for.
Earlier I mentioned the disconnect I had with studying theology and my idea of “gospel work.” That disconnect was, in part, bridged by psychology. The field, through guidance provided by the Spirit of God, allowed me to understand how the gospel can truly be Good News.
Skills such as active listening, empathy and being willing to have a non-judgmental posture towards those in pain, help to begin this process of healing. I have not only learned these skills but have taught them to others so they can help those in need. Ultimately, it is the Spirit of God who binds and heals the wounds of the broken and grants wisdom, knowledge and ability to those who are in the position of counselor. Some believers feel these aspects of the gospel are only meant for the next world and beyond. However, I take the position that Jesus was the first to fulfill this mission, and He tasked His community with fulfilling the same mission until His return.
This mindset is the same one I take into my classrooms and into any appointment the Father gives me with people in this world. My faith does so much more than just apply to my vocation; it defines it. At the same time, my vocation has helped to focus my faith. My vocation even enabled me to fine-tune my faith so that my life can be an expression of God’s healing in both word and deed. There is no longer any disconnect between what I do and who I am. Simply explained, I am His son and His servant, bringing the broken-hearted to the feet of Jesus.
Reggie Thayil is an Adjunct Professor at Trinity International University, Florida. Visit tiu.edu/florida
Read another article by TIU regarding faith and mental health at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/mental-health-faith-and-counseling/