Hebrews 12:12-13 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
I have taught Medical English at Nagasaki Rehabilitation College for over 38 years now, and it has never hit me that this is a description of physical therapy! At the same time, the section ahead of this makes it clear that this is a physical metaphor for a spiritual reality. I’d call it ST for Spiritual Therapy, except that we already use that for Speech Therapy. In any case, vast numbers of people are spiritual invalids, limping along or even bedridden, spiritually speaking. The task of the minister is not to point fingers, but rather to enable recovery. At the same time, just as with physical therapy, there needs to be cooperation on the part of the “patient.” A major, and vital, part of any program of therapy is getting the person’s wholehearted participation in the process. That frankly can be difficult, because therapy can be painful, whether it’s the physical kind or the spiritual kind. The verse just ahead of this is very true and instructive: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11) Just as in physical therapy, the goal is not pain, but sometimes pain is an unavoidable part of what is necessary to reach eventual healing. Physically and otherwise, pain can be a vital indicator of what is wrong, what needs to be healed. However, we must be careful that our “ministry” doesn’t disable those already in trouble, but rather heals them. There are limits to how much pain, physical or emotional, a person can tolerate at one time. Especially when pain is unavoidable, we need the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit to minister correctly.
This is a truth I should understand very well, and not just because of my long association with the school. Cathy’s father had a stroke, and his right side was affected. It was over an hour each way to the hospital where physical therapy was available, so when he was discharged they gave him exercises he could do at home for therapy. The problem was, things like squeezing a sponge ball were painful for him, and without a therapist there to encourage him, he quit very quickly, not realizing that his failure to follow through put extra stress on his wife, because he became less and less able to do things for himself. That phenomenon is evident in therapy patients of all sorts, spiritual as well as physical. I am to “teach and admonish with all wisdom,” (Colossians 3:16) not condemning but encouraging, so that the people in my care may be brought to full spiritual health, actively participating in the Body of Christ and fulfilling God’s purposes for them, for His glory.
Father, thank You for making this clear connection that I indeed understand very well. Help me also not draw back from the discipline that doesn’t seem fun at the moment, but is necessary for my growth. May I be Your agent on every level, for true health in the Body of Christ, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!