Last month, I went to see my doctor for my yearly physical exam. I thought I was doing better with my health than the year before, having lost a few pounds and maintaining more consistency in my exercise routine. However, even though these things were true, my bloodwork found an upward trend continuing in my LDL cholesterol. Nothing too scary at the moment, but something that definitely calls for action. Starting as soon as I left the office, I started to see my diet and physical lifestyle differently, and it has been very helpful in making some necessary changes.
It was a little bit disappointing and not entirely pleasant to be told that I need to be aware of a potential problem and make some changes. But, since this issue was there anyway, I’m extremely glad for the yearly routine of getting checked out.
One another note, when I was in high school, I vividly remember sitting in Environmental Science class and overhearing a girl in the class talking about her car beginning to smoke while heading down the road. After she pulled over, and someone examined the cause of her dire situation, it turned out that she had literally no engine oil in the car. Ever since, whenever my “maintenance required” light turns on, it doesn’t take me long before I’m booking an appointment with my mechanic to make sure I never encounter a similar fate.
Not everyone is faithful to carry out these types of “preventive maintenance” (and, if I’m honest, neither am I, as there are a few things around the house that my wife would attest should have been dealt with long ago). However, no one thinks poorly of me for tending to these things before the problem comes. They don’t see me going to the doctor and say, “Wow, what a failure.” They don’t look at me visiting the auto mechanic and say “Couldn’t he just diagnose and fix that problem himself?”. Of course not! Instead, they say things like, “That’s great” or even, “Yeah, I really need to get in there myself.”
Yet in the spiritual realm, this kind of preventive maintenance practice is all-too-often neglected, especially when it comes to things that we can’t do by ourselves.
And indeed, Christians, for whatever reason, seem to have the idea that we should basically be able to do everything themselves. we should know how to interpret every passage; we should be able to work through and solve all of our relational problems on our own; we should be able to get out of a sticky rut of sin; all without having to get anyone else to help us. And if we find that we can’t do this, we’d rather leave it unresolved than do that dreaded thing that has such a horrible stigma: go get help from someone else.
Through self-sufficiency, independence, pride, or just not wanting to be a bother, we don’t like to ask other people for help. And maybe this is because it’s particularly difficult to expose one’s own weakness to the gaze of others in areas that aren’t really about skill but rather about morality. We’re ashamed to be doing something sinful, so we shy away from getting help.
Yet this is exactly the opposite path from what we should take.
The body of Christ exists to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:1-2). The church is given God’s word for every dimension of godly exhortation (2 Timothy 3:17). The church has leaders for the sake of watching over our souls (Heb. 13:17). When we place ourselves in the care of others who love us and know God’s word, we give ourselves the best chance at finding and addressing the spiritual problems that would otherwise continue to plague us.
If your soul care is all private and self-sufficient, there’s a decent chance that there’s an undetected issue growing, or perhaps a “spiritual oil leak” that won’t be noticed until something is on fire. It would be much better to go ahead and catch it now, rather than spend the next however-many-years struggling through it on your own.
Additionally, in many cases, no matter how much you may be able to change from the point when something finally does come to a head or get exposed, and it has to be dealt with, there is so much damage already done that all the problems that could have been prevented if addressed earlier can’t necessarily be fixed. When we reap what we sow spiritually (Gal. 6:7-9), an ounce of prevention is worth even more than a pound of cure.
So what should you do? My recommendation is this: Don’t just have a steady devotional life or do all your maintenance alone. Don’t just get the best information you can from the internet. Don’t be a self-taught, self-diagnosing, self-reliant spiritual guru for your own soul.
Instead, take advantage of the local body of Christ you’re a part of, and talk to your pastors and other spiritually-mature Christians on a regular basis to get help with your areas of weakness. In fact, much like getting bloodwork or a scan of some kind, which catch what might go undetected in your day-to-day life, these other people may be able to see things you can’t see despite your best efforts. Ask these people what they perceive to be your areas of spiritual weakness. Demand answers from the Scriptures and subject yourself to the Bible’s authority on every point you find, making the changes you need to make.
True shame doesn’t come from humbling yourself and seeking help (Gal. 6:2, Isa. 66:2) but from hardening your heart, even unknowingly, in patterns of sin and immaturity (Rom. 6:21). So get your maintenance appointment on the schedule, and keep things running well and growing in your spiritual life.