Art for Healing

Using art for healing and as a form of handy therapeutic relief is far more common than you may have realized. Have you ever come to the end of yourself and longed to find solutions and God’s presence to change your circumstances? If you've lived long enough, you've encountered the powerful forces of oppression that threaten your faith, and your very walk with God. In some seasons it feels as if you are pounded with trials and no end seems in sight.

Gathering Manna, Oil on Canvas, Sara Joseph

Gathering Manna
Sara Joseph
Oil on Canvas

As Christians, we know where to turn. The Word of God is always near us. Most of us own many Bibles and may have memorized precious verses that bring comfort, and calm our spirits. We've also been trained to quickly pray and turn our troubles over to God.

We reach out to Him to handle challenges that are simply beyond our human capabilities. Peace usually follows. Sometimes, however, using art for healing is another way to lift our spirits.

Scientists have measured the brain wave activity of people who engaged in the creation of art, when they were experiencing stress. They noticed surprising changes in the wave pattern. The intense activity of creating art seemed to cause the body to fall into an attitude of deep relaxation, much like the effect of calming music. There is, therefore, much to explore when employing art for healing.

There is an oppression of spirit that can be lifted, when you turn to art. You don’t have to be a skilled Christian artist to use this wonderful tool in breaking through.

Saul found listening to David’s music similarly calming. There is something about engaging in creative nonverbal activity that brings about healing, understanding and even peace.

When I sit down to paint or sculpt, and I have something that I am grappling with, here is how I use art for healing. I find the verse in Scripture that I must hold fast to. When I have meditated on it and prayerfully talked to my Father about the situation, I settle down to play with my art supplies.

Most often, by then I have already found my peace, but sometimes there is a part of me that stubbornly remains restless. A part of me that is plagued by doubts. The various 'What if..?' scenarios would play out in my mind, if I allowed them to. But I force myself to refrain. Instead, I apply myself to the creative process. My work then becomes a conversation with God.

To my surprise, in my anxious conversations with God, He brings healing through the process of creating art.

I remember a deep concern that I had during a brief, but trying, season with one of my sons that resulted in the polymer clay sculpture shown here. It is called 'Release', because I knew that it was what I ought to do. Yet as I worked, it appeared as if my concerns and worries needed to be worked into the clay, before any sort of release could be attempted. So I doggedly expressed all my worries about him to God.

Release, Polymer Clay Relief Sculpture, Sara Joseph

Polymer Clay Relief Sculpture

Sara Joseph

Initially I felt as if I were releasing this precious, fragile human being into a world full of danger and evil. My worry was so vast that I was unable to visualize anything but trouble. But as I worked, God gently redirected my anxious thoughts. He gave me the calming knowledge that this release I was striving for was from my limited (fretful and fussy care) to the limitless wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit. There was simply no reason to worry. The hours spent working on the sculpture became a time of sweet fellowship and communion with the Father. God was also faithful to protect and keep that which I entrusted to His care. Years later I can honestly testify to that!

When employing art for healing, here are a few suggestions to help you. These are questions that I mull over as I work and talk to the Lord. Although seemingly simple, I must confess I don't always ask these, and as a result often miss out on truths and peace that God may have for me!

• What do you want me to do?

• How do I feel right now?

• Where are you, Lord?

• What do you want me to know from my time spent with you creating?

• What colors best indicate how and what I feel at this moment?

• What shapes, lines, forms...?

• I welcome you Lord, would you please show me your way as I work?

Try it and you will be astonished at the ideas that will flow. Accept some and reject others. Most of all let your non-verbal creative side take over. God’s presence will surely be felt in a tangible way.

There is joy in creating; no matter how feeble or inept your results may seem to you. In fact it is crucial that you avoid critiquing your work while you are making art. You wouldn’t correct your prayers as you were praying, would you?

Children are wonderfully unselfconscious, becoming engrossed in the art making process. If you ignore the critical voices in your head and persist, you too will find yourself becoming childlike, replacing stress and fear, with creativity and innovation.

Upon completion of your work, you will most likely have felt the release of your concerns, or gained new insight.

If not, set the work aside and only review it after some time has passed.

When I look at the work sometimes years later, it becomes even more meaningful to me - a tangible reminder of a season in my life, my conversation with God and His unfailing faithfulness.

When you use art for healing in this way, maybe all your questions and concerns will not be answered, but somehow that will no longer matter.

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