Saturday, July 5, 2014


A couple of months ago I found out that I have arthritis in my left knee. There being no cure, and my being unwilling to immediately ask for a new knee, I was told to go for a few weeks of physical therapy to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee, and thus take some of the strain off of the arthritic joint. So off I went to JAG Physical Therapy for three sessions a week for the past month. It has definitely helped.

This morning I started reflecting on what I've been learning through this experience. People who know me won't be surprised to hear that the first thing I did was to look up the Greek word therapeia which I knew was the word used for Jesus' "curing" and "healing" people. The following reflections were helped a lot by that excursion into the Greek lexicon where I found some interesting new things about the word therapeia


The first meaning of the word therapeia is "care, attention;" and the related verb therapeuo primarily means not "to cure" but "to serve." In Acts 17:25 Paul tells the Athenians that God "does not dwell in temples made by man nor is he served (therapeuo) by the hands of men." In Luke 12:42 we read "Who is the faithful and prudent servant whom the master will place over his servants (therapoi)..."

This is interesting. My therapy takes place in a huge room filled with exercise equipment of all sorts and several physical therapists and their assistants. I've been assigned eight different exercises to strenghten my leg and my knee, so as soon as I finish one exercise someone comes along and checks that one off the list and gives me the next exercise. Sometimes the person will correct the way I'm doing an exercise, or encourage me with a word or two, but mostly they are like the "therapists" in the New Testament: they give care and attention, they "serve."

The real work (therapy) is done by ME! This is true of the dozen other patients in the room working on various stretches, lifts, balancing excercises and so on. I reported to the physical therapy place on the first day with a script from the orthopedist that said I need therapy to strengthen my arthritic knee. I'm saying to the PT person, "Heal me!" (that's what therapeia means in the gospels, right?) But the physical therapist draws up a list for me and says, "Okay, do these eight exercises." I'm the one that has to do the therapy. Interesting.


Sometimes I pray "Lord, heal me!" (For example make me more patient or less judgmental.) And the Lord acts like a physical therapist and says, "Okay, do these exercises. Every day, faithfully. Even when you don't feel like it." The exercises are almost always based on the New Testament, and are pretty basic.Here are just a few that come to mind.

-- "Say only the good things people need to hear." That's a good exercise.
-- "Remind yourself daily that some day you are going to die." At least once a day.
-- Spend five minutes each day praying in front of the crucifix and thinking about how much Jesus loves you.
-- Remind yourself three times a day that you are not God: therefore you don't need to be perfect and you are not in charge of controlling everybody and everything in the world.


I've learned  few things from physical therapy that seem to apply in the spiritual realm.

First, some of the exercises seemed impossible at first, and I figured I'd never be able to do them. But over time they became not only possible but even easy.

Second, the results of physical therapy are not instantaneous, so you have to be persistent and patient with yourself.

Third, the progress, besides being slow, is not always in a straight line. Some days the step-up exercise is easy, and I figure that I've got that one down; but the next time it's very uncomfortable, the way it was a week ago. That's where the therapist helps, by encouraging and explaining and not letting me get discouraged.


A final lesson from the New Testament word: In Luke 9:1 Jesus sends out the twelve on a mission to preach the good news and to "heal" (therapeuo) people. That's our calling as followers of Christ: preaching the good news to people and giving to those around us "care and attention" - the first meaning of therapeia.


  1. This post was a very big help for me as I struggle with anxiety. I am using the exercises you wrote about, especially with reminding myself that I am not God and am not expected to be perfect or control the world. Rather I turn in prayer to God a these times to help me with what I am so worried about and I place my concerns in God's hands. Thank you for giving a chronic worrier some peace. I will continue my exercises so that anxiety will not consume me.

    1. I'm so glad to know that You profitted from my therapy. Keep it up!

  2. Eat Bing Cherries they help. My Final Oblation was accepted in July. :-) Catherine M. J. Mary Evans