Finding God's Image Through Therapy
What does it mean to be human?
For those that come from a Christian worldview, imaging God is integral to being human. In the opening chapter of the Bible, God says He wants to make human beings in His image and likeness to rule over a good creation in His stead. There is nothing else on earth given this designation.
Unfortunately, we very shortly see all of this damaged when mankind chooses to turn away from God. Many ask, if God is good and created everything as good, then why is there so much that is bad? The simple answer? Us. Humans corrupt creation with every poor decision we make. After millennia of this pattern, no wonder things are the way they are.
Though humanity is still in the image of God, we have fallen short of representing what that means. Through therapy, however, one has the opportunity to experience a restored glimpse of what it’s intended to be.
What is the Image of God?
For much of Christian history, the image of God was seen as specific capacities that were unique to humanity and possessed by no other animals. More recently, this view has fallen out of favor.
Modern science has demonstrated many of these capacities are not unique to humans, just more sophisticated. What is especially untenable about this view is its implicit suggestion that people are “less human” if they don’t share in these capacities to the same degree as others.
While there are many views to consider, the most central to any is that we reflect a God who within Himself is a community of perfect love.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist in eternal, joyous, selfless union with one another – and we are called to do the same.
God’s Image and Therapy
We have been offered the privilege to show this beautiful image of what God is like through relationships. Unfortunately for most, relationships are precisely the place where we tend to experience the most suffering. Because many have turned away from God, we often fail to see and show what God is like.
This is where therapy can provide a unique experience. Therapy can offer a concentrated experience of interaction with someone else in a way that amplifies what it means to reflect God.
In a similar way that Christ came into our world and took on our sufferings, so the therapist enters into the world of the patient and suffers with them. In this relationship, the therapist is completely focused on the healing and growth of the patient.
It’s not about the therapist.
And not only is he or she empathetic to the pain but also trained to help - just as Christ is not only a listening ear and sympathetic heart but the great physician that knows how to care for us.
Perhaps Paul exhibited an understanding of some of what has been explored here when he said, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.” While he certainly wasn’t speaking of therapists per se, he is speaking to the core function of what therapists have given their lives to do.
Therapy when done well, while also not a perfect representation, gifts the recipient with a glimpse of the image of God. A God that is loving and committed to their wholeness.