Sepsis of the heart

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali recently died of septic shock, a blood infection that sweeps through the body with relentless destruction. Made increasingly more vulnerable to the infection by his Parkinson’s disease, the great fighter was left with no immune resources for winning the final fight of his life.

I know something about this. My own AML (Leukemia) weakened my own immune system to the point I contracted sepsis in the hospital last fall. As the infection spread quickly through my body, my breathing was compromised, my pulse skyrocketed and my blood pressure dropped to life threatening levels. A couple of days in ICU with strong antibiotics and a massive intravenous fluid replacement schedule righted the situation and slowly I started the road to something that  started to look like recovery.

With sepsis, what begins as a seeming less innocuous bug bite, sinus infection, or blood infection, quickly progresses through out the body like an F5 hurricane that leads to pneumonia, organ failure, and eventually the entire collapse of the body’s ability to sustain itself. More than a quarter million people die of sepsis every year in the USA (the most common cause of deaths in hospitals) and thousands more are left with debilitating effects of the condition. Even the greatest fighter of all time cannot withstand the crushing blows of this opponent.

It’s frightening to say the least, particularly amongst those with compromised immune systems.

It seems to me there is also a type of “spiritual sepsis” that threatens dire circumstances for even those whose physical health is “ship-shape.” What are the symptoms of spiritual sepsis? It starts as a minor condition. It begins with a sort of spiritual malaise, nothing serious, just a general dissatisfaction and lack of inclination to pray or even think about God. Often, it’s treated with an inoculation of busy activities. Keeping busy seems to take one’s mind off the woes of the heart. When that doesn’t work one might turn to other substances for relief – food, or the lack of eating, drinking or pain killers that numb us to the pain inside.

But unless sepsis is treated both immediately and intensely it quickly grows to consume one’s entire life. Before long, nothing spiritually related seems appealing, not church, not bible reading, not prayer, and certainly not accountable relationships with other believers. Isolation only further complicates the problem. Loneliness quickly leads to despair and hope slips away like the shadows of a setting sun.

Left unattended, the condition leads us to actually become enemies of the cross. “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.”  (Philippine 3:19) “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…” (Romans 1:24) Like physical sepsis, spiritual sepsis starts to tame on the robe of hopelessness and despair, buttoned up with the emotional pain of a meaningless and unsatisfied life.

But there IS hope. There is one who can revive us from sepsis shock of the spirit. It’s not found in a pill or intravenous solutions, not in busy activities or accomplishments, and certainly not in running away from God, hiding our head under the sofa cushions like a two-year old who thinks their parent cannot see them. Your hope for revival, and mine, comes only from the continual infusion of the hope and joy of Jesus flowing through our veins and every single aspect of our lives.

Are you feeling more and more sleepy? Do things of God seem to drain you of your daily energy?

“Wake up sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you.”  (Ephesians 5:14)

Even if it seems your life is slipping away from a septic infection, with Jesus you can say,” I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness is laid up for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but to all who crave His appearing.…” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)


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