By Jamie Shafer
Walking life’s journey can be difficult, especially when we go alone. We all need fellow travelers to join us. When our challenges disrupt the course of our everyday lives, it’s easy to feel lost and hopeless.
Katie Lindner, a Doctoral Psychology Intern at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, helps others know they are not alone no matter what they are facing. “I think that there is a lot of suffering in this world, and one thing we have to offer as believers is hope,” said Katie.
From the experience of her own struggles in life, Katie can identify with those who are wary as they approach the idea of a relationship with God. “Initially I approached Jesus with skepticism and doubt, thinking, Do I really want this? Will this be a good thing?” Learning to embrace God as Father and Friend as a young girl was a big turning point in her life. Later, during a high school retreat held at Milligan College, Katie said she felt God calling her to a career in therapy. She responded.
Now, as an intern working with college students, Katie conducts two therapy groups and has a client base of about 30 people. She also works triage, dealing with anything from students who want to learn more about therapy to calls related to suicide or abuse.
As Katie moves toward graduation this year, she plans to continue to focus on the needs of college students.
“College students are technically adults, but not really yet,” she said with a smile. “The law says you’re independent, but you’re still trying to do life. They are very open to guidance. Sometimes even more than other age groups, college students are open to exploring faith. They are thinking, What do I want out of life?”
Katie also shared, “Being a therapist is an awesome opportunity to walk with someone in the middle of their suffering. A healthy person doesn’t need a doctor, but the sick. It’s the same with therapy. They come in when they are struggling in the middle of something dark. I love to offer them hope and meet them as the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Reaching Bravely for Hope
Katie said that an important theme in her own story is centered on bringing beauty from ashes. “No matter what we’ve been through or done, God can and is making something beautiful from it. He is literally the God of creation and is constantly working and creating and molding. There is space and hope for restoration and redemption to happen through him. That process is, more often than not, one that is messy and a struggle, but it’s worth it on the other side.
“It’s easy to run when things get difficult—to turn our backs, to move away from the potter’s hands—perhaps out of fear that some clay will get shaved off. Just as it’s easy to want to run away from talking about the hard things in therapy, it’s easy to run away when things become difficult in our faith.”
Katie said she believes all followers of Christ are called to be in ministry, though it may not be in vocational ministry or in front of crowds of people. Each day is about looking for the opportunities God provides to make a difference in someone else’s life. She has also learned about the importance of approaching therapy work with humility, even though at moments it could be tempting to take credit for the transformation in a person’s life. “I need to get out of my own way and let him do that.”
She added, “I don’t have it all figured out. God has grace for me, and he will use me as he sees fit. My role is to realize that he is the great counselor and I’m not.
“It takes faith to trust that the plan God has for us is bigger and greater than we can imagine and that there is a reason that he is God and we are not. So even if I don’t know exactly how my work is being used as a ministry or don’t know what seed I’m planting, I can trust that God has a bigger plan for healing. And I can join in and ‘sing out’ my metaphorical therapist harmony in his orchestral song of change and transformation for this world.”
Jamie Shafer is a communications strategist for Fishhook Communications in Indianapolis, Indiana. She and her husband, Eric, have two children.
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