I have gout. All good preachers do. C. H. Spurgeon had it. John Calvin had it. I rest my case.
In all seriousness, a gout attack is one of the more painful things I’ve experienced in life. I had one so bad a few years ago that I finally decided to start doing some research and reach out to some of the folks in our church family for possible remedies. Thankfully, we have a varied church. We have those committed to natural remedies. We have those committed to doctors and medical technology. We have those committed to a more balanced approach. So, I got solid advice from a variety of perspectives!
Personally, I avoid medicine or take it only as a last resort. So, I gravitated to the more natural remedies. And lo and behold, I have discovered the “magic” of tart cherries in fighting gout. And, I have also experienced good success using an essential oil from lemons.
Essential oils are a growing trend. Some of them are to be ingested (like my lemon oil). Some are topical. Some are aromatic. There is little doubt that various essential oils can have very positive effects on our health and well-being. More and more Christians are discovering these benefits. And more and more Christians are starting to sell these products for companies like doTerra.
So, why in the world am I, a small town pastor, bothering to blog about this topic? Well, suffice it to say the range of issues I have to deal with as a small town pastor never cease to amaze me! I am blogging about this because, like so many other trends or fads in our culture, this one also has potential to be spiritually harmful. Let me explain.
First, for decades the essential oil business has been controlled by New Age proponents. The language used in promotional materials and by some representatives is semi-Hindu, much like many proponents of yoga or certain types of massage. So, it is common to hear that essential oils will increase your “chi” or “help you center” or “create a sense of oneness with the universe.” Other phrases such as “life force” or “inner god” or “spiritual breath” or “meditation” may also be employed. I strongly caution followers of Christ to not be sucked in by such unbiblical language and ungodly concepts. The only “life force” you need to tap into is the Risen Lord Jesus. And the only meditation you need to do is on the written words of God in the Bible. So, do not be ignorant of the enemy’s schemes (2 Cor 2:11). The journey away from the absolute truth and authority of the Scripture begins with one, often tiny, step.
Second, avoid creating a dependency on essential oils (or anything else for that matter). Addictions come easy for us fallen idolaters. So, the Christian believer who simply cannot relax or defeat anxiety apart from a pill or an oil or an aroma ought to think very seriously about where his or her faith is. A Christian parent who relies solely and repeatedly on aroma therapy to calm their child ought to also ask serious questions about how this might impact their child spiritually. Lavender may very well have calming effects on children. So does rocking a child while singing “Amazing Grace” softly into his or her ear. Just ask our grandmother’s! A warm bath or a rub down may help a child unwind from a day’s worth of school anxiety. But so does reading and meditating and praying with that child on Psalm 131. And, if the child is just being a selfish rebel, we dare not forget the rod of correction (Prov 22:15).
Do you see the point? Medicine and natural remedies are gifts of God. But they are not God. My physical ailment called gout has been alleviated from time to time by cherries and lemon oils. I am grateful. But what if I were a Christian with gout living in the jungles of Bolivia with no access to anything remotely like our modern medicines and essential oils? Would my life with Christ be weaker or stronger than it is here in the comfort of my American home? I think it might actually be stronger! But the point is nothing is really essential to me except the Lord Jesus Christ. Any substitutes for loving and obeying Christ’s Word must be named for what they are – dangerous idols. And friends, we can make an idol out of almost anything. So, may God help us guard our hearts, from which flow the springs of life (Prov 4:23). May our default response when dealing with any of the pangs of life not be to run to the altar of our medicine cabinets or essential oil bottles. Insetad, may we have the heart of Paul the Apostle:
“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:7-8).