What is the difference between regular health care and spiritual health care?

Updated: Oct 15, 2020

But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
- James 1:14-18

Think about the kinds of things that bring people to the doctor.  Diabetes. High blood pressure. Headaches. Back pain. Various joint or limb pains.  Depression. Anxiety. Infections. The doctor listens to the story of how the chronic disease is going or how the injury occurred, or how the patient feels, and prescribes some kind of remedy.  Very often, the remedy helps the patient feel better. Quite often, if the patient has a decent immune system and the right supportive care, he gets better on his own with time. The fractured bone heals, the cold virus is beaten, the backache subsides.  All is well until the next time.

Very often, in my clinic, the plot thickens when the patient is telling her story.  Her diabetes is related to her weight. Her weight started climbing when she was a child, as a coping response to the abuse she endured.  She has never been successful at losing weight despite trying again and again. She was teased and bullied in high school because of her weight.  She thinks about her weight every minute of every day. It has become a major part of her identity and makes her feel ashamed.  

In a regular clinic, most doctors are not allotted enough time to get to know the depth of her pain related to her childhood abuse and bullying.  They would advise the patient to lose weight and perhaps refer her to a weight loss program. This would probably be unsuccessful.  The doctors would write for diabetes meds and have frequent follow up visits until the diabetes numbers were in the right range. If the patient came to appointments and followed the doctor’s instructions, the patient would likely live longer and would have a heart attack or stroke at a much later age than someone who did not receive care.  In reality, many patients take their doctors’ advice sporadically and their outcomes mirror this. I see much of modern medicine as extending a person’s life expectancy.  

In a Christian clinic, we could approach the spiritual needs of the patient while simultaneously addressing her medical needs.  We could offer spiritual counseling, help her work on her true identity as a beautiful creation in the image of God, who is here for a reason and has much to offer the world.  We could pull her into community, helping to make quilts for sick children or make soup for an upcoming meeting or invite her to play volleyball at one of our open gyms. We could get her involved with a Celebrate Recovery group or a Healing Path session, where she could receive prayer and support and actually work on healing the deep spiritual abscesses caused by sins committed against her and by her which led to her physical illness.  She could come to our Forgiveness Center to do the hard work of forgiving her mother for those years of abuse. She could receive prayer for supernatural healing and for forgiveness. If the patient followed the instructions and participated in her care, she would not only receive more years of life for taking the diabetes meds, she could also experience the freedom that comes through Christ Jesus. She could be released from shame, isolation, and bitterness, and those extra years could be lived in fullness of life.  Spirit-filled medicine can extend patients’ lives, both on the x-axis of time and on the y-axis of fullness.

I could tell this kind of story for nearly every patient in my clinic.  A teenager’s broken bone actually happened when he was drunk, which happens more and more often these days… an elderly woman’s depression stems from her son’s gang-related death 10 years ago, and she blames herself…  headaches that started after a new job which comes with a lot of pressure… a teen’s smoldering resentments toward her dad fuelling substance abuse, deceit, and suicidal thoughts… insomnia related to fears about the future.

The secular clinics, do their best.  I think focusing entirely on the physical body does some good.  But wow, what could happen if we opened up the floodgates of God’s grace and mercy on our patients?  What could happen if we invited the Holy Spirit to heal? What could happen if we brought the power of prayer into the exam room?  

Sin leads to death.  Literally. But we have the Balm of Gilead.  I am convinced that physical treatments without spiritual healing is ultimately weak sauce care, which is borne out by economists who look at US healthcare spending.  We spend so much money on health care but Americans are still very sick.  

Remember the first words Jesus spoke to the paralytic who was lowered through the roof?  “Your sins are forgiven.” He healed him spiritually before he healed him physically.  

Let us embrace those who are suffering in sin and death, inviting them to be born again into life through the spirit of truth.  

Thank you for partnering with us to bring the healing power of Jesus to the sick.  We are so excited about the opportunity to allow God to pour out his power and love to the hurting people of San Jose.

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