Spiritual Object Permanence

Phil Christman

Read: Hebrews 11

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (v. 1)

One of the worst realities of anxiety is that it blocks out my subjective awareness of God. When I’m anxious, I feel singularly responsible for the world. All actual problems are mine alone to fix; all potential threats are mine to monitor—or to imagine, as we’ve also discussed.

At such times, I have to actually practice remembering—to make a conscious, deliberate, effortful choice to remember God’s presence in this moment and all moments. I recently ran across a great metaphor on Twitter from Anglican priest Tyler Wigg-Stevenson: “It takes months for babies to develop object permanence—knowing that things are still there even when they can’t see them . . . But it takes so much longer to develop spiritual object permanence—retaining the reality of God even when you don’t feel God.”

Developing spiritual object permanence is a discipline. It’s an act of the mind, to simply announce, over the internal din of worry and despair, “God is still here, and God is still God, regardless of my feelings.” It’s very much a choice, even if you suffer from a mental health condition that renders that choice harder to make. And I don’t do it because it makes me feel better in the moment; it generally doesn’t. I do it because it’s one way to grow spiritually in an otherwise barren experience. —Phil Christman

As you pray, remember that we are all spiritual babies, and ask God to help you learn to remember his presence.