A few months ago a dear friend of mine called me to process some yucky stuff she’s been going through. In short, she had recently had a few panic attacks and was fearful that she may have more. After talking through what had possibly been leading up to these and personality tendencies that might be contributing to the panic attacks, do you want to know what I suggested may help her? An essential oil.
However, after our conversation, I found myself questioning my initial advice. With 14 active years in ministry, a background in counseling and countless years encouraging people to address issues of the heart rather than the behavior, I suggested an essential oil to help panic attacks.
I hate to admit it but I had gotten off course.
I have known this all along, but had forgotten that while essential oils do have their benefits, they cannot penetrate nor heal the deeper issues of the heart.
Allow me to unpack that a bit.
On the positive side, oils really do have the ability to affect our moods (source 1, source 2). No one would argue that our sensory of scent is a powerful one. It connects to parts of the brain that ultimately does affect moods. So yes, oils do have the potential to help you relax, lift a mood, and stress a little less, etc. I diffuse oils in my home every day. So don’t hear me say I don’t think oils work. They do. However, they have their limitations.
As an essential oil advocate (more on that here), I think myself and other advocates overprescribe essential oils to address symptoms rather than encouraging people to address the deeper issues rooted in the heart that are causing the symptoms. Unfortunately, essential oils can be just one more way to distract us from dealing with the deeper issues going on.
I say this because I know I have personally fallen into the pattern. Not only with telling my anxious friend to try an oil but in my own life too. Often times when I find myself short-tempered, quick to anger or stressed, my first reaction is to reach for Lavender or other mood oils. It’s humbling to admit that but it’s true.
Why this tendency? Because it’s much easier to address the symptom then it is to address the sin in my heart at the moment. It’s much easier to believe that a drop of lavender will make me feel better than taking my troubled heart to the Lord and asking for help.
I think we also reach for the oils because it gives us a sense of control. It’s appealing to an anxious-driven person to rely on a drop of my Calming Blend rather than doing the hard soul-searching work of figuring out what causes the anxiety.
I do love using essential oils. They have become almost part of our daily lives and I happily advocate using them. What I don’t want to happen is for me to give people just another distraction from dealing with deep heart issues reigning and wreaking havoc on their emotions.
So yes, use lavender to help relax. Diffuse frankincense to lift your moood but don’t rely on them to deconstruct the long-held idols of your heart that might be causing the storms in your life. Dig deeper. Get counseling. Cry out to God for clarity of what is going on in your heart. Ask people in your life what they really see. Don’t stop at oils. They can help but simply cannot heal your heart.
If you’re totally tracking with this post, I’d encourage you to check out either of these fabulous books:
Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Have you ever seen a Buddhist temple or walked through a museum exhibit filled with statues of gods? We tend to think of idols as something outside us. They’re something foreign, something we take pictures of in far-off temples of museums, something we wonder at.
But God’s Word tells us that idolatry is something more than temples, incense, and food offerings. idolatry has to do with love—our love for God, our love for others, and our love for the world. When we look at idolatry in these ways, we understand that we’re not so different from those people we observe in temples so far away…
Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller
Success, true love, and the life you’ve always wanted. Many of us placed our faith in these things, believing they held the key to happiness, but with a sneaking suspicion they might not deliver. The recent economic meltdown has cast a harsh new light on these pursuits. In a matter of months, fortunes, marriages, careers, and a secure retirement have disappeared for millions of people. No wonder so many of us feel lost, alone, disenchanted, and resentful.
But the truth is that we made lesser gods of these good things -gods that can’t give us what we really need. There is only one God who can wholly satisfy our cravings- and now is the perfect time to meet him again, or for the first time…