Beta blockers are wonderful things if you have high blood pressure. They block the effects of the hormone epinephrine, which we usually call adrenaline. In doing so they lower both your pulse and your blood pressure and open the blood vessels allowing blood to flow more easily, at least that is what the Mayo Clinic website tells me.
I do not have high blood pressure. I do have narrow angle glaucoma, complicated by severe nanophthalmus and a handful of other things, so I take four eye medications, several of which contain beta blockers to help lower eye pressure. So, because my blood pressure is not high, it is now very low, as is my pulse. High these days is 100/70 and it often runs 90/60 with an accompanying pulse no higher than 60—and that’s when I am excited. It usually runs much lower than that. In my recent bout with kidney stones, the alarm they hooked me up to in the ER kept going off because my pulse kept dropping to 40. Even experienced nurses have difficulty finding my pulse and it often takes two or three tries to get any blood pressure reading. I told Keith a few weeks ago, if I ever pass out, please make sure they call an ambulance instead of the coroner’s van.
Needless to say, I do not have much energy these days. I wear out quickly and my vision begins to fade. Doing anything in the evening when the usual weariness of the day compounds the problem is a major ordeal. But do I mind? Not on your life—I can still see well enough to function, something no one would have predicted 40 years ago. But I do have to fight exhaustion constantly.
Sometimes our spiritual vital signs sound an alarm to the people around us. We may not notice, but they can see the flagging interest and sagging strength. So I wondered what sort of spiritual beta-blockers we ought to be looking out for.
The biggest may be distractions in our lives. It is possible to be too busy—not with sinful things, but completely neutral things, maybe even good things. Work, entertainment, exercise, travel, sports, the hours we spend on social media and keeping our eyes glued to a screen of some sort all rob us of time we could be spending on thoughtful meditation or becoming more familiar with God’s word. Shame on us, we do it to our children too, and often as yet another status symbol. We enroll them in everything possible and rob them of their childhood by running them back and forth and driving them literally to exhaustion—not to mention the pressure on them to succeed in every single one of these activities. Do children even know how to play anymore? I remember having voice students nearly fall asleep standing up!
Failure to communicate with God may be one of the biggest spiritual beta blockers. How can we expect to know Him, to know how to please Him, to know why we should want to please Him, to know the direction He wants us to take when we ignore His Word and never speak to Him except at meals—if He’s lucky! Of course our faith will weaken—our faith is in a Who not a what, and knowing that Who is absolutely necessary to keep from losing it.
This one may sound a little strange, but bear with me. Sometimes our busyness is not a busyness in worldly endeavors, it’s a busyness in good works, and even that busyness can weaken us.
In Twelve Extraordinary Women John MacArthur says, “It is a danger, even for people who love Christ, that we not become so concerned with doing things for Him that we begin to neglect hearing Him and remembering what He has done for us. We must never allow our service for Christ to crowd out our worship of Him. The moment our works become more important than our worship we have turned the true spiritual priorities on their heads…Whenever you elevate good deeds over sound doctrine and true worship, you ruin the works too. Doing good works for the works’ sake has a tendency to exalt self and depreciate the work of Christ. Good deeds, human charity, and acts of kindness are crucial expressions of real faith, but they must flow from a true reliance on God’s redemption and His righteousness…Observe any form of religion where good works are ranked as more important than authentic faith or sound doctrine and you’ll discover a system the denigrates Christ while unduly magnifying self.”
I have seen people literally work themselves to death for others, visiting, carrying food, taking the elderly to the doctor, cleaning houses and doing yard work and then when their lives take a tragic turn, fall completely apart. In all their “doing” they had neglected to shore up their own faith with time for prayer, personal Bible study, and taking a real interest in the studies offered during the usual assembly times or extras on the side. Their lack of theological understanding left them floundering for answers they had never taken the time to look for and learn, and then when they needed them, they had nothing to lean on.
And so in all these cases, the blood pressure plummets and the pulse fades and soon they may be gone. I am sure you can think of other spiritual beta blockers. Today, for your own good, look for them in your life. How long has it been since you gave yourself a good shot of spiritual adrenaline—zeal?
If you suffered a spiritual collapse, should we call an ambulance or a hearse?
…“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Eph 5:14-16