Spiritual Physiotherapy

Spiritual Physiotherapy

So, I’m back home after my visit to Hitchin to talk on the last of the recent series on cultivating a healthy mind/body/soul. We looked at how turning your soul to God is the only way to find true fulfilment, and the answer to that big question ‘what’s the point?’ (Want to recap?).

Turning your soul to God is also something the Bible tells us to do if we want to get the best out of life. Deuteronomy 30 promises that if we get this right we will ‘enjoy an all-around good life.’ (thats from verse 9 in the msg), but there’s a catch… ‘only if you listen obediently to God, your God… nothing halfhearted here; you must return to God, your God, totally, heart and soul, holding nothing back.’ (v10, The message).

Thing is, I’m back at my desk in France, and you’ll be back to your everyday life now too. So I wonder, how do we take decisions we make on a Sunday into our working week and our everyday life? Because that’s biblical too – Romans 12:1 callings us to ‘Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering’ (also from the message). How exactly do you turn your soul to God on an everyday basis?

Spiritual Physiotherapy

Did you ever injure yourself somehow and need physiotherapy? Physio involves teaching people simple exercises that they repeat several times a day. Repeated over time, those small movements build up strength in muscles and gradually get things back to working the way they’re supposed to.

Learning to turn to God to meet all your needs is similar – its about building small steps into your days. Gradually those changes alter the instinct of your soul so that you turn to God instead of other things whatever your need.

Take a break

The challenge with choosing to focus on God is that there are a whole load of other things that can distract us from him. The bible puts it like this: ‘where your treasure is your heart is also’ (Luke 12:34 NIV). What this means is that our heart tends to follow whatever we value the most – the things that feel most important to us are the things we tend to prioritise. So the risk is that in our fast paced 24 hour society, the things we will follow are the things that shout loudest and feel the most important – our work, our social lives, money, stuff… These things are much more demanding than God – they’re much more ‘in your face’ demanding that we spend time on them. But they are not as important. To turn to God you might have to turn FROM something else.

Ask yourself, what do you turn to to energise you, to make you feel good or to inspire you? The bible tells us not to get drunk on wine – and the meaning here is one of intoxication – of giving over control to something else. Instead we’re called to only lose control to God (Isaiah 29:9, Ephesians 5:18). What do you find controls you – what calls you to use it to try to feed your soul? Is it TV, food, drink, caffeine, Facebook, something else…?

Do you need to give something up for a season in order to make sure you learn to turn to God? You might need to accept that in spite of how it feels, that something else is never going to be where you find fulfilment. As it says in Ezekiel 14:6 (Msg), you might need to ‘…turn your backs on your no-god idols’ (Msg). At the root of it that is what fasting is about – by giving something up as an act of spiritual obedience, we make a conscious decision to turn instead to God. Fasting isn’t forever, and it doesn’t have to be about food. It is about retraining and refocusing yourself. Know something is at risk of distracting you from God? Why not cut back on it for a month and see what difference it makes in your focus on God.

Worship

I can’t talk about turning your soul to God without talking about worship. Worship is key to where your soul is turned. It is all about making God the focus of your life – of everything you do. It is so much more than singing – it is why you do everything you do.

Having said that, we can learn an awful lot from our times of sung worship – of what it means to worship God and to go on a journey of learning to do that more completely. When we sing in worship we practice turning our focus to God – and we lose ourselves in His praise. John 4:23-24 puts it pretty clearly: ‘That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.’

Worship like this doesn’t just happen, it takes practice. You can sing, and worship with your mind – but still not be 100% tuned in to God with your ‘core being’.

We’re all different – and how we worship is likely to be different. Don’t get too hung up on what kind of songs or music you like or how other people worship. Worship isn’t a contest. We’re all on a journey and none of us will ever experience the awesomeness of what worship will be like one day when we’re with God. But its good to challenge ourselves to be moving forward in how we worship God. And our aim has to be to be 100% turned to and focused on God – because we know that when we do this, God can do amazing things. Acts 3:19 says ‘Turn to face God so he can wipe away your sins, pour out showers of blessing to refresh you… Through worship we can experience God in a powerful way.

Enjoy the journey

So, we started off here talking about how to learn to turn your soul to God. Its easy to think of something you do as a one off event, you’ve done it and that’s the job finished, sorted, for the rest of your life. Of course it isn’t like that at all. Turning to God to supply your needs is a daily decision, and it is part of a journey of learning more about God and getting to know God better, and gradually becoming more like Jesus. Its a journey we’re all one. And like any journey there will be good bits, where you’re steaming on, making good progress and really getting somewhere… then there are the ‘other’ bits, where you are stuck in a traffic jam, or take a wrong turn and spend ages trying to find your way again.

Don’t lose heart if you’re in one of those one way street bits of your journey – if you know you need to turn round and retrace your steps, or get back on the path you should be on. It is always good to stop and think about how you can better rely on God. That’s why the rhythm of religious calendars exists – so that you have a regular encouragement to consider these kind of things every year, always coming back to the same questions and reconsidering them, thinking about where you are at that moment.

Many of the Bible’s big stories happen on a journey. We need to realise that our own big stories are also likely to happen on the journey rather than when we get… wherever it is we are trying to go. So as you seek to learn to turn to God for all those things we need as humans – fulfilment, security, comfort, energy, strength – enjoy the process of learning rather than becoming too worries about whether you are ‘there’ or not.

Bon voyage.

Need a routine?

Three simple exercises to practice as soul physio:

(1) Make a daily (and nightly) decision to turn to God

In Psalm 16:8 David (who wrote the psalm) shares his secret for how he keeps himself focused on God. He says ‘I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord.’ (verse 7-8, in the NIV). David is talking about a decision he has made to seek God regularly. This is a decision that has penetrated to the core of his being – it is his number 1 priority. If you want to turn your soul to God it is vital that you spend time every day connecting with Him. Be flexible and find out what works for you – it doesn’t have to be the same every day. The key is in the regular nature of this time with God.

(2) Get into the Bible

The Bible is the word of God – His message for His people. What better way to learn more about Him? You might want to work through a good Christian book of teaching, reading a bit each day, get hold of some daily study notes that guide your reading or choose a particular book or section of the bible to read through. You can do this on your own but if you know you find that hard why not find a friend and read the same stuff – and meet up to chat about it from time to time? Don’t forget that these days getting into the bible isn’t just about reading. You can listen to some great stuff too. Most bigger churches now offer a free downloadable podcast of teaching meaning you can get hold of some great stuff for free, and if reading isn’t your thing you can listen to the bible online instead.

(3) Make time to talk and listen to God

My son is 2 in a month, and I can pick him out of any crowd of equally noisy boys almost without looking. Why? Because I recognise his voice and I instinctively turn to him much as he instinctively runs to me when he needs something.

The bible compares us as followers of Jesus to sheep following a shepherd: ‘The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognise his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice …’ (John 10:3-5 The message).

Make sure you recognise God’s voice – spend time with Him. Practice just sitting in the presence of God. How? You don’t have to do anything fancy. Grab some time where you won’t be disturbed, grab a friend too if you can (the bible promises that where 2 or 3 come together in God’s name, he will be there too – Matthew 18:20) and start by praying that you will be open to the presence of the spirit of God. Invite God to be with you. Then sit – perhaps in silence, perhaps listening to some worship music but nothing that fills your mind too much – you want to make space for God not fill it. Next? Just wait. Enjoy the moment of spending that time with God. Don’t expect things to happen, don’t worry if they don’t. Learning to recognise God takes time and that is what this is about.

Forest

Need inspiration?

Great links to check out…

Reading

Listening

Prayer

Worship

  • Psalm 8 is a song of worship written when the psalmist had been filled with worship by time contemplating the stars at night. He writes: ‘When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?’ (Psalm 8:3-4, NIV). The awesomeness of creation around us cannot fail to call our hearts to focus on God. Why not get out there – go for a walk up Deacon hill, take some time to ponder the night sky or pay a visit to Whipsnade zoo. Let your awe and wonder at what God made lift your soul to Him and spend some time pondering how amazing God is.

Assistant Pastor at HCC, Kate is a psychologist with a medical background, and a passion for applying psychology and faith to real life. One of the HCC elders, she speaks across the UK on a variety of topics, has authored several books, and is one of the leaders of Mind And Soul. Follow @communik8ion on twitter.

3 Comments

  1. Ada Marini 4 years ago

    Dear Kate just read your article about Spiritual-physiotherapy. It’s really good and posted it to other Christians I believe would benefit from it too. Thanks for your insight and teaching. Love ada

  2. Author
    Kate Middleton 3 years ago

    Thanks Ada! Watch this space for more articles and so on … and hope to catch you on one of my visits to HCC in next few weeks 🙂

  3. Margaret Wilding 1 year ago

    Hi Kate, I’m a physiotherapist in Canada and appreciate your analogy. Having a physical or spiritual exercise is better with a Physio or teacher: difficult to figure out where to begin by yourself (log in eye syndrome).
    I am trying to listen for God’s voice, good recommendations from you!!
    Thanks!!
    Sharing this:-)
    Margaret

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