Three sick kids. That was my reality a few weeks ago. It was stressful and tiring—physically and emotionally. To make things worse, I wound up sick too.
But I had my bright moments even in the midst of cranky kids and sniffly noses. My painting table has been my own private oasis of peace.
Whenever I have the physical energy, I grab a few precious minutes each day at my makeshift studio.
Those moments have been rejuvenating mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It is like my battery is recharged and I have a reset button on my emotions, thoughts, and even my faith.
How Art Rejuvenates Us
What is it about painting, writing, playing music, or any other creative activity that is therapeutic and restful?
I think it is a combination of factors.
Initially, when I began painting during the pandemic, it was more to escape the noise and clamour in my overcrowded home.
Painting kept me focused without requiring me to think too much. Even a half-hour with my paints each day was like an oasis of calm and peace. I could retreat to it and shut out all the noise around me.
Beauty is therapeutic because our God wired us to be filled with joy when we behold it.
Those precious half-hours were a balm. They kept me sane. It helped me process and think through my emotions. They were times when I could pray, when I could listen to music, and just relax and unwind. It was my respite from the grind. I was free from worry, free from everything.
Two years later, all that still holds true. I also find myself going a step further. Painting brings me profound joy—in creating and enjoying the beauty of the canvas come to life.
Finding Joy and Healing in Beauty
Beauty is therapeutic because our God wired us to be filled with joy when we behold it. Beauty might lie in the eyes of the beholder but there is a reason the Bible calls us to think about things that are beautiful.
Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Beauty stirs our souls and reminds us of things not of this world. It gives us a glimpse of heaven and puts things in a different perspective.
Most importantly, it takes us out of ourselves. It compels us to stop being the centre of our universe, and instead, focus on something beautiful.
God created us to create, not consume. A life only filled with consumption leads to lethargy and boredom. Creativity, on the other hand, gets our juices flowing by lifting our spirits.
Ultimately it boils down to the self. Constant consumption is selfish. A life focused only on the self is one filled with anxiety and restlessness. There is never any satisfaction or contentment, only a continuous striving.
Creativity is the exact opposite. It is selfless since the basic premise is that one creates something in order to share it with others (whatever form that may take).
When we create something like this, we learn to imitate the selfless love of Christ in some tiny way.
Creativity turns the focus from the self to the creation. It finds joy both in the process of creating as well as the finished product. This is therapeutic and restful.
Of course, as fallen humans, we tend to corrupt even this beautiful experience by expecting perfection each time we create something. Or we are driven by pride and seek constant external validation.
These attitudes are guaranteed to suck the joy out of creating, defeating the purpose. They leave us more anxious and discontented.
Nurturing Our Creative Selves
The more we are in tune with the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more selfless our art becomes. How can we nurture creativity that fosters rest?
Do Not Aim for Perfection, But Progress
Our art, music, writing, and the like. is never going to be therapeutic if we are constantly judging our output and every creative endeavour.
Every time we create, we must give ourselves permission to learn, to make mistakes, and to be courageously vulnerable with our gifts.
Aiming for progress eliminates the pressure to perform. Creating then becomes a liberating channel to give expression to our souls.
But only the gospel can free us from both internal and external pressures to perform.
Enjoy the Process and Play
The process is more important than the finished product. Our culture teaches us to praise the outcome. But with God and everything that he has created, we constantly learn that the process is equally important.
God is working on us, refining us, and he never seems frustrated at our snail’s pace. In fact, he seems to enjoy walking this road with us.
Similarly, creating with no agenda, no deadline, but instead just enjoying the process, is definitely more therapeutic.
More often than not, creativity is sparked through curiosity. Neither complacency nor overconfidence engender creativity as neither offer room for curiosity.
A willingness to learn—to acknowledge one’s lack of knowledge—comes from a place of humility.
Essentially, it comes from a place of not taking oneself too seriously. This is why children are excellent at this. They are curious and hence creative. And we wonder why Jesus said we ought to be like little children.
God created us unique, with different gifts, different interests, and different avenues in which to express them. Employing them is not merely a way to obey God but also a means of communing with him because he is the original Creator.
Ultimately, there is a deep, soul-satisfying work that occurs when we give our creative capacities an outlet.
It is like when a thirsty man, gasping for water, finally drinks long and deep. His parched throat is satisfied and he feels reborn. It is the same with any creative endeavour.
This year, I encourage you to be creative. You will be forever spoilt for the ordinary, I promise you.