How Spiritual Formation Almost Destroyed My Life

Stephanie Bowers Griffin MSN, RN, PHN, was thriving as an Emergency Room nurse when she came under the influence of the Spiritual Formation movement. Under the guidance of a Spiritual Director, Stephanie became heavily involved in its teachings for nearly nine years, and was well on her way to becoming a Spiritual Director, herself.

However, after nearly three years of training and enrolling in a Master’s in Spiritual Formation Degree, God intervened! After being delivered from the depths of this false revival and its mystical practices, Stephanie now reveals a deep understanding of its dangers and false teachings in Silence No More.

I was raised Seventh-day Adventist since the age of 8.  Like so many others, I was a Bible believing, doctrine believing Seventh-day Adventist.  I was baptized when I was 11 years old, and I graduated from a Seventh-day Adventist Academy and college.  I worked at an Adventist summer camp, in the Emergency Room of one of our biggest hospitals, and even went on mission trips.

Vulnerable

By all appearances, I was the quintessential Seventh-day Adventist.  BUT life happens to us all, and so it did for me, as well.  I was hurt and betrayed by my parents; I was disappointed by extremely cold conservatism and the accompanying judgmental and critical attitudes.

I felt stuck in a nursing career that drained the life out of me, and it all took its toll on me.  Then there was yet another broken relationship, and this is when Spiritual Formation found me. Satan always takes advantage of where we are with the timing of his temptations.

I had never heard of Spiritual Formation.  But for me, it seemed like the life-giving answer to all of the hurts, disappointments, and harshness of life and religion.  Reading my Bible, the Spirit of Prophecy, and spending time in prayer were the foundation of my relationship with God, and Spiritual Formation seemed to be built on all that.  It seemed rooted in the same values I held, and it also appeared to offer beautiful ways of nurturing and enhancing my prayer life.  It was very exciting to have someone come alongside me at a time when I felt so spiritually lonely.  It felt beautiful and welcoming to me.

Prayer was very important to me after not being able to pray for my dying grandfather when he so desperately asked me to.  The heartache of not being able to pray for him drove me back to a relationship with God, and I felt a strong desire to deepen my prayer life so I might never again feel unable to pray for someone in need.  This was my motivation for delving deeply into what I thought was genuine biblical prayer; but in actuality, it was Satan’s perfect opportunity to bring defeat into my life.  He offered me the appearance of something I desired, but that would inevitably stifle my prayer life, grieve the Holy Spirit, and hinder my ability to effectively communicate with and hear from God for many years.  I fell for the seeming beauty, peace, love, and tranquility that Spiritual Formation offered.  I was trapped.

Trapped in Darkness

I embraced almost every practice and experience it has.  I created my own sacred space in my home, complete with my singing bowl, finger labyrinth, flickering candles, poems, art, and any other object I found meaningful at the time. 

I had a Spiritual Director for many years, was myself becoming a Spiritual Director, and had directees whom I was tending.  But after completing two-and-a-half years of a three-year program, something just did not feel right. 

Though I really didn’t understand why, I couldn’t move forward.  I just knew I was unable to do so, no matter how hard I tried.  Little did I understand that God was protecting me, even though I didn’t know it.  He did the same for me when I was briefly enrolled in a master’s degree in Spiritual Formation.  I felt blocked from continuing, but didn’t exactly know why.  I thought it was just timing and that I would eventually finish both the Spiritual Director program and the master’s program when life was a bit more settled.

However, I did continue with silent retreats, Spiritual Formation readings, many exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the practices, and remained in Spiritual Direction myself, sincerely believing that I was following biblical worship in Spiritual Formation. Sadly, I was not.

Even though I had attended our schools, read seminary textbooks, the Spirit of Prophecy, and had some basic working knowledge of the Three Angels’ messages, I was empty.  For many years I didn’t speak of the Three Angels’ messages, didn’t study them, didn’t so much as think about them.  Not because I didn’t believe in them, but because I was distracted by other readings and Spiritual Formation offerings.  I was hurt by extreme conservatism, so I enjoyed these feel-good readings and practices.  I believed I was being spiritually fed by them—and I was; but not by the Word of God, or the correct spirit.  These practices didn't have anything having to do with God—only the appearance of it. 

I enjoyed the ritualistic exercises, especially Walking the Labyrinth and Contemplative Prayer.  I fell in love with the writings of the mystics and relished reading the Spiritual Formation authors, such as Brennan Manning, Thomas Keating, Thomas Merton, Brother Lawrence, and many more.  In fact, one of my graduate school professors referred to me as a modern day mystic.  At the time, it was a great compliment.  For many years, these readings felt very meaningful to me…until one day I noticed they just didn’t.

Contemplative Prayer was for me a place of serenity and calmness, the very opposite of what I was experiencing on a daily basis in the Emergency Room.  The Silence felt very intimate and incredibly sacred.  It was by far the most difficult experience for me to walk away from; in fact, it was the very last thing I relinquished.  I held onto it with a death grip.  It’s addicting.  It was my drug. It was the practice that offered me what I believed was the most peaceful part of my day.  

Waking Up

It took a lot of convincing, but as I read more about Spiritual Formation, its origins in spiritualism and its occult nature were made apparent to me.  When conviction came, there was no turning back.

I remember feeling lost, scared, and even empty.  I wondered what was to take the place of Spiritual Formation in my life.  Would I be giving up a closeness with God I felt I had?  It was like a drug to me, and now there was nowhere to go for a fix, nothing to replicate what I felt during my Contemplative Prayer time.  I remember the doubt that crept in, and how each time I decided to go with the facts, rather than my feelings. 

Freedom

In time, that void was filled with something far greater; something very different, but much greater and tremendously more powerful and effective.  That’s what happens when the Holy Spirit is allowed into our lives.  We receive power from on high—a Power that produces results, instead of working so hard and gaining nothing in return, as was my situation for far too long.

Now it’s shocking to me when I think about what I was involved in for so many years—the stronghold it had on my mind, and the danger of it all.  We all have an influence for good or for evil, and I don’t ever want to influence anyone in the wrong direction again. 

Today, when people share with me how much they appreciate my book, how powerful they found it to be, and how much it opened their eyes to Spiritual Formation, I feel thankful to God for allowing me to be used for good.  I get to give Him all of the glory, once again. 

I can honestly say that my experience now is much richer, more meaningful, and more real than anything Spiritual Formation ever had to offer.  God is answering my prayers, and I am privileged to see and experience the accompanying power of the Holy Spirit in ways I never imagined.  The experience I was seeking in Spiritual Formation was an illusion.  It was empty and powerless! 

However, now that I’ve left Contemplative Prayer behind and have re-engaged in authentic Bible-based prayer and study, I am experiencing God and His power in ways that I never did in Spiritual Formation.  I was re-baptized in January of this year at God’s bidding.  Having my husband unexpectedly join me for his own re-baptism speaks of the blessings that come when we follow God in His way. 

Now, when life happens, I go to Jesus and give Him my hurts, fears, disappointments, joys, and desires.  I lean not on my own understanding and feelings, but on His Holy Word.  He, in turn, gives me the peace and rest for my soul that I need.  Life still happens, but He never fails.

I’m so grateful for my praying family who understood where I was, and knew the only One who could help me.  I am also grateful for God’s Word and the truths contained in it for our guiding light, for the richness of my Seventh-day Adventist heritage, and the boldness and perseverance of our founding fathers. 

I’m grateful for the powerful, eye-opening and inspired writings of Ellen White, and also for Pastor Rick Howard’s books that helped me, once again, to find my way back home.  I am grateful for the courage and legacy of those in the past who speak to me today, as I share my own journey to help re-capture the message once given.  Their words encourage me to be just as bold and unapologetic as they were.  I’m also incredibly grateful for Evangelist Kenneth Cox, who saw the need for such a message and heeded the voice of God by lending his voice to mine in sharing my story.  By doing so, God was placing a hedge of protection around His book and His message.  We never know what God will do when we follow Him, but we can be sure it will be more incredible and amazing than we could ever imagine or accomplish ourselves. When we follow Him, we are never alone.

A dark force has taken our church by storm—a false revival, boldly wrapped in the promise of an intense worship experience. Stephanie was a Bible-believing, Seventh-day Adventist Christian, yet found herself mesmerized by Spiritual Formation for almost nine years. Follow her journey through this powerful, feeling-based movement. Marvel how a loving God brought her out of the darkness; and open your eyes to the telltale signs of this movement that may already be in your church, too!  Stephanie's powerful story is told in the book Silence no More.

Now is not the time to be silent or apologetic about what we know is coming, or especially about warning others.  It’s time to remember who we are as a people called by God, entrusted with a message, and called to live out the powerful heritage we’ve been given.  God helped me to remember, and He is now giving me a voice.  By His grace I stand before you delivered, grounded, and grateful for what God has done for me, and what He can do for you, as well.

 

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Stephanie and her husband Don live in Southern California, with their little dog, Buddy.  She is the author of the book Silence no More and has a ministry to help people avoid the snare of Spiritual Formation.  Stephanie is the Prayer Ministries Coordinator for her church and is incredibly grateful for the privilege of sharing what God has done in her life.