A few months ago I developed a tightness in my right Achilles tendon when squatting. When I would hit the bottom of a squat, I would feel a burning sensation where the tendon attaches to my heel. Realizing it was not correct, I stopped achieving full range of motion, and began to treat my leg in a protective fashion.
Conventional wisdom and most physical therapists or trainers would have attacked the problem by having me stretch the painful joint and perform ankle exercises to strengthen the muscles in my right leg. It makes sense, there was something wrong with it.
The Root Cause
But thanks to God’s providence I work with a group of physical therapists who analyze problems more proficiently than this through Muscle Activation Technique. What my therapist was able to observe clinically was an astounding level of weakness in my left foot, with much less dysfunction in the right. This runs completely counter to the symptoms I noticed. My brain, quite frankly, had no active idea that my left foot was so dysfunctional.
But my neurological system was aware that the left side was weak, which is exactly why I had been unknowingly compensating for that by over-using my right foot, triggering the injury to the right side. It all made sense now. My left side had become objectively weaker. My brain knew this subconsciously and shifted weight to the right. Little by little, one step after another I put more pressure on the right foot until an acute injury occurred. But this information was not available to me through normal means, such as pain or discomfort. I actually didn’t feel or sense the problems in my left foot.
The Method & Solution
Ultimately, what was required was an objective observation of my feet by an expert in the system. But my subjective feelings were very important to diagnosing the problem because they pointed in the right direction.
But I needed someone who knew how to look where I wasn’t sensing a problem to help me. I needed someone who was willing to remain objective while I could do little more than focus on the pain.
Then I needed to follow their advice. My pain directed an outside observer to the root cause of my problems.
The Spiritual Dilemma
Often, in our spiritual lives we experience a similar phenomenon during our Christian sanctification. Suddenly, something starts to hurt. It may be marital discord which appears out of nowhere. Maybe a child, who was usually obedient and respectful, is acting in quite the opposite manner. Sometimes, it seems that even the things that are my strengths are failing. It could be anything at all that we struggle with in the flesh that suddenly really hurts.
Our first instinct may be to work harder on that aspect of our Christian life. If communication in your marriage is breaking down, maybe you’ll try the Love Dare or talking more to your spouse.
Maybe you’re a preacher and the preaching isn’t at the level you think it once was, so you spend more time studying. Or maybe you are normally kind or patient, and you find yourself running low on those virtues. You don’t know what to do.
Whatever it is, our inclination may be to focus harder on the pain, because, after all, that is what is hurting. Or at least that is where we perceive the problem.
But maybe thinking about our Christian sanctification as I described above would be beneficial. Maybe a lack of awareness of our weaknesses, and thus, a lack of effort in working on those virtues has caused you to rely on your apparent strengths to the point that they are breaking down, like my right Achilles tendon.
Maybe your problem isn’t lack of communication with your spouse; maybe your problem is you rely too much on your spouse rather than the Lord Jesus Christ. In this case the root of the problem is idolatry and faithlessness, not communication.
Maybe you are proud of your child’s obedience and the real issue in your life is pride. Maybe you have come to the point where you find your identity in being a preacher/blogger/whatever instead of as a redeemed, adopted child of the most high God! You need to adjust your focus on the God we preach and ensure preaching is not an end unto itself for you.
Ultimately, your efforts to focus harder on what seems broken may miss the point. Maybe you have drifted into ungodliness in some area of life that to you seems unrelated to where you’re experiencing pain. You haven’t been as diligent in protecting yourself from lust or maybe you’ve allowed your prayer life to be diminished. God may have ordained that another part of your life becomes unmanageable as the result. A pastor, biblical counselor or friend who is willing to listen to you and then investigate your whole life is a valuable asset at these times — someone who not only understands the system, but can see the connections you are not able to see in your distress. We all likely have blind spots.
What we all need to have in our Christian life is someone who is willing to look at us objectively, particularly when we describe our pain, and help us to find the root cause of any problem (Proverbs 27:17). We need someone who can look at our life, who uses biblical wisdom to help diagnose the problem. They will need to know enough about you to be able to sift through your subjective feelings and get you on the road to recovery (Philippians 2:4).
I know, I know. Sometimes stuff just hurts, and it isn’t because there’s a sin issue. Like a guy who gets hit by a shopping cart from behind. He may have Achilles tendon pain, but it’s due to trauma from outside circumstances, not a weak left foot. I realize that can happen in our spiritual lives as well. People can hurt us. But what I am talking about here is the likelihood that, more often than not, we still have growing to do in the Lord (Philippians 2:12). That requires help from another one of God’s children, humility on our part, and a consistent focus on acquiring biblical wisdom so that we have access to it at times such a this (1 Peter 3:8, James 1:5-6).