Last May, a week before Memorial Day, Kathy and I went to play tennis with the Sunday afternoon doubles group. It was the first time since Kathy’s back surgery that she felt she would be able to play. We walked on the court and before we got our racquets out of our bags, I picked up a ball to toss to someone on the far court. As I did, I felt my shoulder pop and I couldn’t raise my arm over my head! So, Kathy and I just hit, with my playing only with my left arm. Bummer! On Memorial Day, we went back to just rally with each other, again with my playing left handed since my right shoulder had not improved. I ended up tripping and awkwardly falling on the court, smashing my glasses, cutting my knee and—ending up on my right shoulder! If it didn’t hurt before, it did then!
I made an appointment to see the doctor who surmised that I had a torn rotator cuff. I had the mandatory X-Ray (for insurance purposes) and then had an MRI and a visit with the surgeon who said that the MRI showed a significant tear in my rotator cuff. It would require surgery to repair it and several months to heal. I had surgery on July 3rd, and then had to be in a sling (with a pillow) for eight weeks! (I did sneak it off a few times!) Then my physical therapy started twice a week. Now, when you’ve been in a sling for eight weeks, there are lots of parts—muscles, tendons, nerves—that have not been operating and are weak and need to figure out what to do again, and the process by which that happens is quite painful at times! With their training and experience, the physical therapists know just which motions and exercises to work on to get back your range of motion and then to strengthen the muscles that have become weak. “No pain, no gain” definitely comes into play! Although I don’t look forward to the therapy sessions because of knowing each will be rather painful, at the same time I very much appreciate the therapists’ expertise and compassion. They are not there to see you suffer, but to help you recover and regain health and strength. They have a genuine concern for their patients and get excited to see the improvements we make.
I can’t help but think of the comparison between physical therapy and our need for spiritual therapy. When we have been physically broken—like a torn rotator cuff—we need to have surgery to fix what is torn or broken, but then we need to have therapy to regain motion and strength of that body member. Similarly, we are all spiritually “broken,” and need surgery first to fix what is broken. That is, we are all born sinners and separated from fellowship with our Creator God. David said, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin, my mother conceived me” (Psa. 51:5). David was acknowledging that life begins at conception and that we have a sinful nature from that moment. The Apostle Paul wrote the familiar passage in His letter to the church in Rome: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Ro. 3:23). The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” (Isa. 53:6a). In other words, we are all broken and need surgery to be repaired. In His amazing plan, God provided a Divine Surgeon, His Son, Jesus Christ. God the Son came to this earth and took on human form, being born of a virgin, and thus without the sinful nature, lived a perfect life without sin, so that He could pay the penalty of sin, dying in our place, and rising from the dead to prove that God the Father was satisfied with His sacrifice on our behalf. “…But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isa. 53:6b). “He (God the Father) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21). “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you are healed (spiritually)” (I Pet. 2:24).
When you are broken you need first to have surgery to be repaired and then you need therapy to be restored to health and usefulness. Many people, not acknowledging their broken (sinful) condition, think they can be restored just through their own efforts and works, through church attendance, baptism, communion, tithing, etc., but the Bible makes it very clear that “we have been saved through faith; and not that of ourselves, it is the gift of God (God’s grace); not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9). As Jesus told the religious leader of the Jews, Nicodemus, we must be “born again” (Jn. 3:3), that is, we must acknowledge our sinfulness (that we are broken) to God, and that only Jesus’ death in our place and His resurrection can heal us, can restore our fallen condition and make us right with God again so we can fellowship with Him and have eternal life (Jn. 5:24).
Once we have done that, and are spiritually healed from our broken condition, we need spiritual therapy to become restored to health and usefulness as an “Ambassador for Christ” (II Cor. 5:20). We need to become involved in a good Bible-teaching fellowship where we can be challenged by the Word of God to work on our areas of weakness. It will be painful at times, for the Holy Spirit will convict us of sin. Besides church attendance, we need to have our own personal time in the Word, allowing God to continue working on us, molding us into the image of Christ (Ro. 8: 29). (In between my physical therapy sessions, I am given homework to make even further progress. I regain my range of motion and strength much faster if I do my homework! The same is true for my spiritual therapy. I can’t depend solely on my time in church if I really want to be useful to God.)
So, first of all, have you come to our Divine Surgeon to fix your sinful, broken condition? If not, I urge you to consider doing so. If you have, are you involved in spiritual therapy both at church and at home? It will involve some pain, but it is so worth it. The author of Hebrews wrote: “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful (painful!), yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Heb. 12:11). The Marines have a saying: “Pain is just weakness leaving the body!” To grow strong physically or spiritually involves some pain—but the results are well worth it!