Stretching Faith at Physical Therapy

I am no athlete or risk-taker. I don’t jump off things, overwork my joints or engage in nearly any activity that carries a significant potential for danger.

So when I found myself having knee surgery in August (not an injury, just messed up cartilage and a benign tumor), I knew this was no mere coincidence or consequence. God had a few lessons in store for me. It wasn’t the surgery itself that helped me grow, however. It was months of physical therapy that taught me these five qualities of a mature believer:

1. Encouragement – With a knee twice its normal size and limited mobility, it’s easy to get discouraged. But luckily, I happen to be in the South where it’s perfectly acceptable, even expected, to strike up a conversation with fellow physical therapy patients. As we cheered each other on toward health, I couldn’t help but think of Matthew 9:12 and how the church is a refuge for the sick, not a runway of perfect supermodels. In PT, no one can pretend to be “just fine, thanks!” because we were all there for a reason. We faced weakness and new limitations, but fought together, side by side, to overcome them.

2. Resilience – My physical therapist warned me that even months after surgery there would be good days and bad days. I couldn’t let fear of the bad days keep me from getting off the couch, working my muscles and returning to normal life. If I did, I would find myself in PT – and maybe even surgery – again because I never learned to bounce back. Resilience is part of the Christian life as well. We are guaranteed to face trials and temptations, but we must persevere in seeking God’s healing for our hearts. So at the end of a bad day, we treat it with soul care (e.g. the Word, worship, community, prayer) the way we would ice sore and irritated muscles, then we move on in faith knowing our struggles won’t last forever (Psalm 30:5).

3. Endurance – Closely related to bouncing back is having the endurance to press through the hard times as they occur. When you’re in a PT session, adding weight that would have been laughably small before is depressingly difficult. That’s just the nature of recovery. Through PT, I learned when to respect my limits and when to press through the discomfort into a milestone I couldn’t have reached without determination and discipline.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
            James 1:2-4

4. Patience – Some days I would get tired just walking a short distance, I couldn’t participate in activities and my Ace bandage wouldn’t wrap the correct way. The PT office had an inspirational calendar with the word “patience” on it in a bold font and bright colors. I took that as a word from God for this season. I knew that it would take several months to get back to normal, but in the moment while trying to get through exercises that would have been so simple before, those months seemed really far apart. It’s the same way with prayer: when God says, “wait,” it may be a blink of an eye for Him but can seem like millennia for us. We learn patience by trusting His timing and goodness (James 5:6-8).

5. Trust – At first I doubted whether I had ever been able to move my knee the way the therapist was telling me to move it. The exercises he gave me just seemed so impossible at the time. I learned to trust him over time as I saw his prescribed methods were working. When he coached me I had no reason to doubt his instructions because I had faith that he had the best plan for my healing – much better than I could do on my own. Though I could only see my current circumstances, my physical therapist had a long-term plan. It’s not a hard stretch (no pun intended) to extend this metaphor to God’s plan for our lives. When all I see is my current situation or heartache, I can have faith that He is leading me in the right direction because He sees the bigger picture. Proverbs 16:3 reminds us “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”

My scars are still obvious reminders of the journey I’ve been through, but thanks to these five lessons, I am on the road to healing in more ways than one.


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