Monday, April 12, 2010

Pastoral Care Under the Cross - God in the Midst of Suffering by Richard C. Eyer

O My Soul:

Spiritual Care is not much of a topic in our postmodern culture, even in the church.

Reverend Richard Eyer introduces a spiritual care deeply rooted in Christianity. It is his relection on 20+ year hospital chaplaincy while, at that time, the director of pastoral care at Columbia Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In the preface of Pastoral Care under the cross: God in the midst of suffering Rev. Eyer states his starting point for spiritual care this way:

The theme throughout this book is what Martin Luther called the "theology of the cross." He identifies these words as conveying the substance of God's way of caring for us, and Luther encourages pastors to follow this example. "He deserves to be called a theologian," he writes, "who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God through suffering and the cross" and stresses that "God wished to be recognized in suffering." Throughout this book, either explicitly or implicitly, I have drawn my understanding of pastoral care from these words, the theology of the cross.

In part 1, The Context of Pastoral Care Today, Eyer's brings the reader to a greater understanding of the theology of the cross and why it is a needed foundation for true spiritual care for souls in the here and now. He states, The goal of pastoral care under the cross is not to try to eliminate suffering but to point the parishoner to God in the midst of suffering.

A few pertinent quotes are found in chapter 2: Pastor as Cross Bearer. First, he must accept his own weaknesses before he supports others in bearing theirs. This begins with the theology of the cross, the Good News that God works through weakness...Second, he must give attention to his own growth in faith and to his psychological growth. As he becomes more aware of his strengths and weaknesses and gains insight into his own motives, he will realize more than ever that God works through him by grace. What a relief to learn this! God calls the pastor, not to be successful in what he does but to be faithful, regardless of results....This too is the theology of the cross.

In part 2, The Cross in Action: Practical Pastoral Care in Specific Circumstances, Eyer's foucses on the following topics:

Crossing the Years: The Elderly

With the Aid of the Cross: Aids

On the Cross: Dying

At the Foot of the Cross: Mourners

Crossing the Line: Mental Illness

Feeling Crossed Out: Depression

At the Crossroads: Medical Ethics

The rest of this post will focus on chapter 10: Feeling Crossed Out: Depression.

A distinction is made between faith and feeling. The Christian faith does not prevent depression. Here is another quote:

The pastor needs to understand the distinction between feelings and faith. They are not the same thing...The presence of Christ is fulfilled - dramatically for the depressed - in physical form by Christ's body and blood in the bread and wine of Communion and also in the presence of the pastor who gathers with the depressed person in Christ's name. Psychiatry may "sweep and put the house in order" (Luke 11:24-26); but to make it a home, an empty house needs the new furniture of hope which Christ offers and a family of support where two or three gather together in His name.

Rev. Eyer warns the pastor not to play psychiatrist among parishoners but does give some insight into the kinds of depression before he says:

Severely depressed people cannot be talked or counselled out of depression....The severely depressed must be directed to get help, since they will not do so on their own. Someone must take charge, preferably a family member, who orders the depressed against all protests to see a doctor. Directed care is necessary; empathy is counter-productive. Depression should be seen as a problem within a limited time frame, with beginning and end, within which the pastor walks with the person through the emptiness to help him visualize God's presence. The pastor does well to do this while the person is also under the psychiatrist's care.

Rev. Richard Eyer's provides a solid foundation for the theory and practice of pastoral care. I recommend this book not only to pastors but also to parishoners who, in the midst of suffering of any kind and afraid God has forsaken them, need true comfort and care for their souls.

Hope in Christ &
God bless your soul


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