The Art for this week is a photograph I took with my iPhone last Saturday from the window of my 7th floor hospital room at Southdale Fairview Hospital. Several hospital staff who came into my room thought I had the best view of any in the hospital. I couldn’t argue. When I return to the garage with my Oil paints, I look forward to capturing this in Oil. I may even do an Acrylic before then. So, you may see it in a future blog.
Is there such a thing as ‘spiritual stroke’? I believe it’s a reality. In fact, I believe spiritual strokes occur more often than we recognize. Exactly what am I saying?
I believe a similar condition may take place in our spiritual life as in our physical life that physicians call a stroke. How is that possible? First, look at the condition defined as a physical stroke and the consequences.
Condition: Most strokes are caused by an abrupt blockage of blood vessels leading to the brain. Consequences: Depends on the area of the brain affected and what part of the body it controls. Stroke consequences may include trouble walking, speaking, and understanding, as well as paralysis or numbness of the face, arm, or leg.
The key cause of such physical consequences of a stroke is blockage of life sustaining blood flow. So, what do I see as a parallel in our spiritual life?
Followers of Jesus are spiritual lives living within a host—our physical bodies. Our role is to allow the power of the Holy Spirit, in us, to freely flow through our gifts, talents and experiences to continue the good work Jesus began in this world.
When free flow of the Holy Spirit’s power, that sustains spiritual life, is blocked, a spiritual stroke takes place. I see Paul describing this in two of his letters to churches. In Ephesians 4:30 Paul instructs followers of Jesus: “Do not grieve [block] the Holy Spirit of God.” To those at Thessalonica Paul writes, using a different metaphor, in 1 Thessalonians 5:19: “Do not put out [block] the Spirit’s fire.”
In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul describes examples of ‘clots’ that will block the life sustaining Holy Spirit power through the follower of Jesus in his/her sphere of influence: “…unwholesome talk, bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.’ What is the treatment protocol?
For physical strokes, treatment tends to focus on restoring an adequate flow of blood to the brain. This may include immediate action to deal with the current ‘clot’ as well as a blood thinning agent to reduce the risk of future strokes.
For spiritual strokes, it may include first identifying the ‘clot’ that caused the spiritual stroke. Was it caused by my unfaithful action or by life circumstances? If it was my action (it often is) apply 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,” If it was my reaction to an unpleasant life circumstance, the answer God gave Paul in his request for the removal of a ‘thorn in my flesh” may apply in our case. The Lord said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
In Physical stroke patients, to minimize the risk of future strokes will probably result in some lifestyle changes. The least of which may include taking new medications and regular checkups
In Spiritual stroke patients, In Ephesians 4, Paul lists several lifestyle changes: “[speak] only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may be beneficial to those who listen.” And “…Be kind and compassionate to one another forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.”
As with physical strokes, spiritual strokes may also need some (PT) Personal or (OT) Occupational therapy to improve the function affected by your blockage. If your speech was affected by your physical stroke, you will need to follow some prescribed plan for improving your speech. If your spiritual stroke, as Paul outlined, wounded relationship with another person, it will probably take some time to restore that relationship to where it needs to be.
My first physical stroke was last February 22 and the second May 7. I am grateful for the many prayers on our behalf and for God’s intervention. The residual damage from the first stroke was a distortion in peripheral vision in my right eye. Otherwise, my vision is normal. The second stroke affected the right side of my face and speech. My speech has already retuned to 90%. My smile on the right side is nearly back to normal.
My prayer for you is that you may be protected from strokes of any kind in the days ahead, as we navigate this current Pandemic.
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your ways to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this; He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”