You know the routine… arrive at the doctor’s office and wait a while… only to be shuttled back to another room to wait awhile longer. Finally the door opens and your hopefulness is met by the realization that it is only someone who wants to take your blood pressure. There it is again… more waiting. Finally, the double tap on the door and in walks the doctor – the purpose for all of your waiting. You recap the symptoms you’ve already described to one of his assistants and then he makes a recommendation and writes you a prescription (for which you will wait and wait and wait for at the pharmacy). The real goal of this interaction is to not merely treat a runny nose or cough, but that the underlying cause of the symptoms will be discovered and treated appropriately.
This is our normal routine at the doctor’s office, but we abandon all of that simple logic when we begin working through emotional, relational, and spiritual issues. The person (man or woman) addicted to pornography is too often told that the solution solely resides in having a great accountability partner and internet filter. The person struggling with anxiety and/or depression is too often told that the solution is merely in seeing the right doctor and taking the right medications. The husband who struggles with anger in his marriage is too often told that he merely needs to learn how to better communicate with his wife.
YES! ABSOLUTELY! This is one aspect of the journey toward healing, yet I would say it is only a small part of that journey. We do need to treat the symptoms, but if we treat the symptoms at the exclusion of the deeper causes then we will live our lives always treating these same symptoms.
I found myself in a season a couple years ago where my blood pressure was extremely elevated. I was very active, exercising daily, and eating in a nutritionally acceptable manner. I came to a place where I had to take some medication because it needed to be treated. This symptom amidst a handful of others was caused by my mismanagement of stress. But that wasn’t the end of it… that stress was facilitated by a sin issue with which I was struggling (and will probably continue to battle).
As a driven person who desires to excel… I am a 120% or nothing kind of guy… I was looking for confidence in my own performance over my faithfulness and trust in God. You could say it was idolatry. I could have continued taking the medications indefinitely to function, thus hiding from the root cause of the issue all together. However, through much prayer and conversations with trusted friends and mentors I became convicted of the sin which was the root of my symptoms. Being aware of it and battling it intentionally has brought freedom from merely treating symptoms toward walking deeper in gospel transformation.
You have to understand that realizing this does not make it go away forever. Rather, it identifies the target at which I am to aim my spiritual battles as a sinner who is fighting to follow Jesus faithfully every day of my life. This is just one example of many I have experienced in my own journey. I believe that many of us are walking through our lives bound by our sin because we are merely treating the symptoms rather than doing the difficult work of digging deep into the causes of our symptoms.
Gospel transformation is life-giving. Gospel transformation is exhilarating and incredibly joyful. However, transformation can only occur in our lives when we welcome the gospel into root issues with which we struggle. Merely treating the symptoms (or sin management) leaves us exasperated in a cycle of habitual sin which feels defeating and hopeless.
What is it that you feel keeps us continuing to treat the symptoms instead of digging deep into the causes of those symptoms? Has there been a chapter in your story that you would be willing to share with us that might bring encouragement to someone else reading this today?