Monday, September 10, 2012

God Attachment

...and the Peace He brings.

            Many researchers direct attention to understanding the grief experience through attachment theory, but often overlooked is how attachment to God affects the grief experience and how such experiences may draw from religion for coping and a sense of meaning in life. Similar to Bowlby’s attachment theory, which suggests we are inclined to seek security, closeness, and comfort from attachment figures, Kirkpatrick proposes that a personal relationship with God is central to one’s religious experience and beliefs. As an infant would seek close proximity to his mother, Christians tend to seek closeness to the Lord. An infant learns to trust and rely on the availability of his mother; similarly, we seek to understand God’s omnipresence in our lives. In one study, researchers Kelley and Chan[1] found that secure attachment to God and meaning were central to predicting lower grief and depression in people who had experienced a recent significant loss. It is likely that those who are securely attached to God see Him as compassionate, available, and responsive—this God acts as the secure base and likely provides meaning or purpose to situations. Therefore, looking to Him can be associated with lower depression and grief in experiencing a recent and significant death.

            For Christians, it may be easy to identify the comfort we receive from the Lord during difficult times. In times of loss, we may be more likely to seek the Lord or we may even push Him away. Clinton and Straub suggest that our relational beliefs will affect the way we view and relate to God and others. The premise of their research and the research summary mentioned above is based upon the idea that stress often leads us to seek closeness to those with whom we feel safe. Remembering that the goal is connection, in terms of our relationship with the Lord, we have to be vulnerable and seek comfort from Him—this only occurs through building trust in that relationship. Dr. Todd Hall notes that many college students specifically at Christian colleges often are securely attached to the Lord but possibly lack practicing spirituality in terms of neglecting intentionality and continual transformation through the renewing of the mind. Dr. Hall seems to be implying that unpracticed spirituality—neglecting spiritual disciplines—can leave us struggling to feel God’s presence and to benefit from the closeness He offers.

            I would say most Christians have probably heard of the poem entitled “Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson. The poem is about God walking with us in life and even carrying us along the way at times. I’ve included the main takeaway from the poem:

“You promised me Lord, 
that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”

We may feel abandoned in times of grief and stress, and research suggests this thought could be heavily influenced by our attachment style, but the Lord does not leave us. I am not suggesting that we should not grieve. We will all experience grief at points in our lives. We will grieve, but we do not have to grieve as though we have no hope. We can experience the peace of God like a river because He knows we will pass through waters and rivers and the fire, but He exhorts us not to fear for He is with us. That is the comfort—that is the peace—we can receive as believers. According to Beth Moore, to have such a peace is to find “security and tranquility of heart and mind while meeting many bumps and unexpected turns on life’s journey through change.” I believe that type of peace can only come from walking closely with Jesus—the Prince of Peace, for He himself is our peace.

May the peace of Christ rule in your heart today.

Recommended reading: 
Isaiah 43:1-7, 48:17-18

Blessings and peace to you,

Joelle Forbes 

[1] Kelley, M. M., & Chan, K. T. (2012). Assessing the role of attachment to God, meaning,
and religious coping as mediators in the grief experience. Death Studies, 36(3), 199-227.

1 comment:

  1. The footprints in the sand poem is always a nice little encouragement. God is indeed our greatest source for comfort and the only true place of comfort. We must rely on Him in order to bring us peace and joy in the midst of suffering hardships.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.