Spirituality is NOT an Adrenalin Rush

Copyright: bokica / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: bokica / 123RF Stock Photo

Lately, for my daily devotions, I am reading the devotions in my NIV Men’s Devotional Bible (Zondervan 1993). Last Friday’s reading, an excerpt by Archibald Hart, really rang true for me and I just had to share this with the world.

In sum, Hart cautions Christians not to confuse being spiritual with having adrenalin arousal. Here’s an excerpt from the excerpt:

Many expressions of spirituality have become linked to adrenalin arousal, and this can be very harmful. A great many of the true saints of God have found their peak spiritual experiences in quietness and solitude. But many modern “saints” look for it only in exciting challenges or emotional catharsis …

[Many] confuse adrenalin arousal with spiritual growth. If their bodies were stimulated, they felt they were growing spiritually. If they were not stimulated, they felt nothing was happening.

The saddest thing about this kind of confusion is that it actually works against spiritual growth. Why? Because when we confuse adrenalin arousal for spirituality we start to worship our own bodies instead of God! We think we are listening for God’s voice when we are actually waiting for our adrenalin system to be aroused. Unless the body is “revved up” there is no hunger for God. Unless there is physical stimulation, there is no desire for righteousness.

– from “Adrenalin and Stress” by Archibald Hart (Word, 1991), quoted in “Stress-free Living,” NIV Men’s Devotional Bible, (Zondervan 1993) p. 89

AMEN! I think there is a lot of confusion between spirituality and adrenalin rush among Christians lately. Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating that we stick to a stoic, cold, ritualistic style of worship or purely rationalistic spirituality. I think we need to allow for the diversity of spiritual expressions but recognize that it is just that – expressions – not spiritual norms that everyone must fit into.

I have touched on this in previous posts on Cookie-Cutter Spirituality and Is Your Church Extroverted? Every generation and every culture tries to impose one particular style or expression of spirituality as the normative style, as this is what it means to be holy or encounter God, and everything else as falling short of true experiencing of God. In this generation and in this North American culture, it seems that the extroverted, adrenalin arousal, expression is increasingly assumed as THE spiritual experience.

That’s why I think, at this time, those words from Archibald Hart above, is very relevant and need to be taken to heart. Reducing spirituality to an adrenalin rush makes an idol of our own God-given bodies, which is the exact opposite of our intentions for a spiritual experience with God – to love God more and to know God better!

We should not seek out adrenalin arousal conditions, but if they do arrive organically, as they sometimes do (I have experienced them myself in quiet moments of personal prayer) we should not dismiss or prevent those feelings. We need to navigate the extremes of either rejecting emotions and adrenalin rushes or elevating them into the crowning glory of spirituality.

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