April 5, 2018—My book, Blessed at the Broken Places: Reclaiming Faith and Purpose with the Beatitudes, shows how the Beatitudes of Jesus validate the faith of people in emotional pain. It addresses people whose suffering arises from normal losses and conflicts or from physical or mental illness.
Stigma against emotional suffering seeps into our religious perspective. We feel that depression or anxiety reflects a lack of faith. Yet, the turning points in spiritual maturing emerge so often in just such dark episodes. Christ meets us there, the Christ who died on a cross after crying, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”
Much earlier, Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes, blessings upon the poor in spirit, the grieving, the muted, the hungry and the thirsty. The Hebrew word for blessing, ashre, also means, “on the right track.” In the kingdom, those who face their suffering faithfully are on the right track.
Spiritual director and psychiatrist, Gerald May, wrote, “What may seem to us a severe weakness or incapacity may turn out to be a great strength when all the spiritual data are in. One would do well to remember the beatitudes in this regard.”[i]
On July 26-29, 2018, I will lead a spiritual formation class/retreat on the Beatitudes with Blessed at the Broken Places as the text. Participants will get plenty of my point of view from the reading, so I will make the experience highly interactive. While I will offer some fresh thinking on movements of the spiritual life implied in the Beatitudes, I will prompt reflective journaling and conversation with each other.
The Beatitudes are lovely and lyrical, like Jesus’ teachings on the lilies of the field and birds of the air. Yet, like those teachings, they demand a surrendered life. So this class/retreat will invite participants to deep engagement with themselves and God as they look closely at their experiences of suffering and how Christ meets them there and calls them.
The late Ben Campbell Johnson helped me develop the focus for Blessed at the Broken Places as I completed the Spirituality Certificate Program at Columbia Theological Seminary. He designed Columbia’s spirituality program to blend intellectual learning, spiritual sharing, and silent prayer. I am humbled and honored to offer this class/retreat this summer in a spirituality program that brought me so much love, healing, and spiritual growth.
It is my intention and prayer to give back. Come join us.
About the author: J. Marshall Jenkins, PhD is a writer, counseling psychologist, and spiritual director. Since 1987, he has served as Director of Counseling at Berry College. He has completed the Certificate in Spiritual Formation at Columbia Theological Seminary and the Spiritual Guidance program through Shalem Institute. This course is based on his book, Blessed at the Broken Places: Reclaiming Faith & Purpose with the Beatitudes (Skylight Paths, 2016).
The Center for Lifelong Learning presents
Blessed at the Broken Places: Reclaiming Faith & Purpose with the Beatitudes
July 26 – July 29, 2018
[i] Gerald G. May, Care of Mind/Care of Spirit: Psychiatric Dimensions of Spiritual Direction. (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1982), p. 52.