‘Those who are well have no need of a physician.’ But, of course, as anyone looking at America’s dismal health stats (while we spend more per capita than any other country and have undoubtedly the world’s finest hospitals and doctors, when compared to other industrialized countries, we die younger, live fatter, survive childbirth less often, and have by far the highest rates of many preventable illnesses like heart disease, sexually transmitted disease, etc etc), it’s clear that many of us are sick and don’t know it, or at least don’t acknowledge it enough to go to the doctor. Matthew, who wasn’t a physician but was an accountant, would certainly tell us that this isn’t a wise investment strategy: we’re not playing the odds wisely.
Same with our souls, friends. We tend to think that, as long as things are sailing along like normal, we’re fine. But the spiritual life, like medical health, requires some work so that, when things aren’t normal, we’re still fine–and so that, even when things are normal, our lives are richer and fuller. Patience doesn’t just happen. Empathy isn’t automatic. Forgiveness requires real effort over extended time to perfect. The spiritual life, an exercise in modeling our souls on Christ, takes effort: healthy eating (what are you listening to, reading, watching?) and disciplined exercise (are you letting your anger have free rein, sitting around bemoaning your challenges instead of practicing gratitude, remaking Jesus in your own image instead of remaking yourself in His?). You need someone you trust to do regular check-ups so you can get tips on how to do things differently, or better. And this process, like medical health, can be tiring, and boring, and hit plateaux, just like exercise and diet. It’s easier to fill our spiritual plates with junk food, with happy-happy joy-joy thoughts and platitudes, to fill our days with couch-potato prayers that assume Jesus is some kind of Santa Claus Who somehow owes us what we want if only we want it hard enough, to tailor-make our own designer list of supplements and fervent wishes that someone on-line assures us work wonders, but for which the evidence over time is, sadly, hard to document.
Sometimes, friends, we’re sicker than we know. And the time to get working on spiritual health is yesterday, with a good doctor on your team. So go find one–they don’t need a collar, they just need to know the difference between spiritual health and spiritual self-delusion–and get busy building up a healthier soul. Because those who are well have no need of a physician.