Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Jeff VanVonderen, Dale Ryan, & Juanita Ryan's new book, Soul Repair: Rebuilding Your Spiritual Life, (InterVarsity Press, 2008). 

Are you afraid that God doesn’t really love you? Do you work hard trying to earn His love, even though you know He’s promised to love you unconditionally? If so, your soul is broken, impairing your ability to receive the love and grace God wants to give you.

The good news is that you can repair your soul and start enjoying God’s love and grace to the fullest. Here’s how:

See the potential for blessing in your brokenness. Ask God to give you His perspective on your spiritual brokenness, so you can see that even your deepest moments of brokenness are opportunities for Him to bless you. Realize that God won’t reject you because of your brokenness; He will come to you as you are and lovingly help you heal.

Deal with abusive spirituality. Consider whether you may be affected by abusive spirituality. Do you think of God as a kind of bogeyman who expects you to perform perfectly in life in order to merit His love and is quick to punish you when you do something wrong? Do you tend to hide or suppress your sins rather than admitting and confessing them? Do you lose track of the fact that God loves you no matter what? Do you need to rely on anything other than God’s love to be okay in your relationship with Him? Would it feel catastrophic if you made a mistake? Are you unwilling to give up control over other people’s behavior? Do you feel compelled to pretend that you don’t struggle or have problems? Are you judgmental toward others, negatively assessing their spiritual standing compared to your own? Do you have a need to get things absolutely right in your relationship with God? 

Deal with anorexic spirituality. Consider whether you may be affected by anorexic spirituality. Would you prefer not to have any needs for attention, support, help, or love from God or other people? Do you have difficulty receiving nurture from God or others? Do you experience despair that relates to your spiritual longings? Have you lost the capacity to experience spiritual longings or spiritual hopes? Are you trying to give away to others what you haven’t received yourself? Do you share the love of God with others but secretly doubt that God loves you? Are you accumulating resentments about the amount of energy you expend on giving to others and how little you’re getting back? Do you experience fear when you think about being close to God, even as part of you longs to be close to God? Do you have rigid boundaries around your spiritual self in order to protect yourself from what you fear will be coercive or intrusive assaults by God or one of God’s followers? Are you driven in your quest for spiritual perfection and unable to rest in receiving God’s love? 

Deal with addictive spirituality. Consider whether you may be affected by addictive spirituality. Do you use religious practices like a drug addict uses a drug – to achieve a certain feeling? Do you believe that God accepts you only because you do the right thing, feel the right thing, or think the right thing? How comfortable are you when you abstain from a certain spiritual practice? Do you find yourself unusually irritable, restless, and depressed when you abstain from it? Do you find yourself acting out in other ways? Do you begin to mentally obsess about the thing you’ve quit? Are you able to quit for as long as you promised? Or do you find yourself coming up with an excuse for returning to the behavior before the period of time is over? Are other people telling you that your spiritual practices have done harm to your relationship? Has anyone ever said that you’re too spiritually minded to be of any earthly good? Have you ever engaged in spiritual practices more than you intended? Has your commitment to spiritual practices ever gotten in the way of other important responsibilities? Over time, have you found it necessary to gradually increase the frequency or intensity of your spiritual practices in order to feel less anxious about your relationship with God? Do you continue certain spiritual practices even thought they leave you feeling depressed, anxious, and frustrated? Does the very idea of taking a close look at your spiritual practices make you angry or resentful?