In 2007, marking the one-year anniversary of my open-heart surgery, I returned to the hospital where the procedure was performed. Thankful I had come through the surgery successfully, I wanted to visit the Surgical ICU where I had begun my recovery.
During that impromptu visit, a hospital staff person invited me to become a “cardiac volunteer,” visiting patients who had just undergone surgeries similar to mine. I didn’t have to ponder this opportunity for long. I remembered the questions I had lying in a hospital bed, feeling post-surgical pain and soreness, and wondering if this was how it was supposed to be. Medical staff, I discovered, are reluctant to be definitive about how you’ll feel, how quickly you’ll recover, etc.
I also thought of the passage in the Scriptures that talks of “…the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). God had indeed comforted me before and after my surgery, and it seemed only right to make myself available to encourage others, sharing my own story and giving them hope that their current pain would only be temporary.
Over the next five years or so, I visited hundreds of fellow open-heart survivors typically feeling, as I had, like a pickup truck had hit them in the chest – then backed up and hit them again. I don’t recommend the experience if you can avoid it. Nevertheless, I could serve as evidence that better days lie ahead.
During these visits I often shared what I called “the 4 P’s of Recovery”: Patience, Perseverance, Positive attitude, and Prayer. Something simple to leave with them as they began their slow and sometimes painful journey toward renewed health and full strength.
Patience is because after any major surgery, healing takes time; it’s a while before you even begin approaching 100 percent again. No sense becoming impatient when you don’t bounce back as quickly as you’d like. Perseverance because during the process, there are things you must do, such as: Taking medications regularly as prescribed. Following the physicians’ counsel regarding physical activity. Engaging in rehabilitation – exercises and therapy – and in most cases, this will continue for weeks, even months.
There’s the need for a Positive attitude – studies have shown that maintaining a positive, optimistic attitude is a key, intangible ingredient for experiencing full recovery. Reminding ourselves that even in the midst of pain and weakness, better days lie ahead. And finally, Prayer – prayer for yourself, as well as having family, friends and other caring folks praying for you. When I’ve had my surgeries, God impressed upon hundreds of people to keep me in their prayers. You can’t quantify this, but there’s no doubting the value of prayers lifted up to God – and His eagerness to answer them.
It occurred to me that at one time or another, many of us must go through another kind of recovery – spiritual – and these same 4 P’s of Recovery apply just as well to our spiritual well-being and progress.
Patience is listed among the “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23. And the apostle Paul, after describing some of the adversity he had faced as an ardent follower of Jesus Christ, said he was able to endure, “in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love” (2 Corinthians 6:6). As with huge redwoods, spiritual giants are not grown overnight – it takes an entire lifetime.
Perseverance is critical, because anyone can start well. Tragically, comparatively few finish well. And one reason for this is they are unwilling to persevere, to hold fast to their resolve when the inevitable trials, testing and hardships come. This is why Paul wrote, “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). The apostle James seconded the motion, admonishing us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you have trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).
The impact of a Positive attitude cannot be overstated, for both physical and spiritual recovery and maintenance. Rather than focusing on the gathering darkness and chaos around us, we can be “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). To avoid lapsing into negativity and despair, we can heed Paul’s advice: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). “Accentuating the positive,” so to speak, enables us to avoid dwelling on the negative.
Finally, Prayer is simply talking to God – sharing from our hearts, but also taking the time to listen to Him, whether in reading His Word, hearing a strong, Bible-based message, or listening to wise counsel from a trusted friend who also is a believer.
The apostle Paul actually asked people to pray for him, can you believe it? “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should” (Ephesians 6:19-20).
We are not asked, but commanded, to uphold one another in prayer: “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
In the final hours before His kangaroo court trial and crucifixion, even Jesus wanted others to pray with Him. Confronting His sleepy disciples after going off to pray alone, Jesus said to Peter, “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?... Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Matthew 26:40-41).
There you have it – if you want to experience healing and growth, both physically and spiritually, be patient, persevere, remain positive, and pray. These are key ingredients in God’s recipe for an abundant, fruitful life.