Who Is Your Spiritual Support?

“Spiritual accountability” might sound ominous or even oppressive, but it may be the missing support piece to your desire to grow as a Christian. Amaryllis Sánchez Wohlever, MD, physician, coach, speaker, author of Recapturing Joy in Medicine, and 4word mentor, shares what spiritual accountability has meant to her and why she thinks it is vitally important to anyone looking for sustained growth as a Christian.

Tell us a little about yourself!

I am happily married to my best friend, a pilot-turned-preacher! I love my husband, our children, and the life we have built together. My life centers around my faith and my relationship with God in Christ.

As a physician, I strive to care for the soul and minister to the spirit while treating the body. Although being a physician is harder than ever, it is a sacred and noble profession worth saving. For this reason, I collaborate and serve with a variety of organizations at the state and national level as an expert in wellness, burnout prevention, life-work integration, leadership, and advocacy. I write extensively on these topics, and I am a national keynote speaker. Here is my latest article published this week in a peer-reviewed journal; the title is “‘Burnout’ in the Workplace: Strategies, Omissions, and Lessons From Wounded Healers.” It’s about humanizing the workplace — a timely message during a pandemic!

As a certified coach, I support physicians on a journey toward greater personal wellness and professional fulfillment. Serving as a mentor for 4word was the catalyst for me to pursue training and certification as a coach. I find mentoring and coaching deeply rewarding, and I believe everyone can benefit from both.

I love to write, so I’m thrilled my dream to write and publish books has come true! I have published four books so far, including:

What has spiritual accountability looked like in your life?

I felt close to God from a very young age. I have sought retreats throughout my life as opportunities to grow as a Christian and deepen my faith, and I now design and lead retreats as well. Yet I have found one-on-one accountability and discipleship to play an invaluable role in the most significant growth I’ve experienced as a Christian.

While in high school, one of my teachers became a spiritual mentor. She is still in my life! In college and medical school, although I continued to attend church services, I did not have a consistent accountability partner, and it showed. I went through a lonely time after losing my mother; I wrote about it here. In retrospect, I wish I’d reached out to someone for support, counsel, and prayer; I’m sure it would have made a significant difference.

After completing residency in family medicine, my life was transformed after a heartfelt prayer on my knees. I asked God to reveal Himself in the midst of a very difficult time, and He did, and life has never been the same again. Shortly after that prayer, I attended a life-changing retreat (cursillo) where I experienced Christ’s love like never before. Then I joined a prayer and accountability group that met weekly for several years. I had never experienced such consistent and meaningful discipleship and accountability as through that trusted small group, and that remains the time when I’ve grown most as a Christian. Reading the Bible became an essential part of life, and my husband and I were blessed through the impact of a healthy, mature, and vibrant Christian community. Twenty years later, they are still in my life as well; they are family.

One person in particular, Carol, has been deeply influential in my growth as a Christian. My life would not be the same without her; she helped me grow as a mother, wife, and in every way. I love her dearly and reach out to her often. Over the years, I’ve also been blessed to work with mature, committed Christian physicians, and we have been accountability partners for each other as we strive to serve people from the heart. 

Beyond all these wonderful friends and role models, I certainly consider both my husband and our children accountability partners. One of the richest blessings of my life has been to raise children who know and follow Jesus, and who both bless me through their faith and challenge me as a Christian to walk the talk. They are a tremendous blessing.

Can you grow spiritually without having some kind of accountability?

I think it’s very difficult to move forward spiritually in significant ways without accountability. We all have blind spots in our lives, and we typically identify what they are by being in relationship with others. It is vital to both mentor others and be mentored, and accountability is part of both. I can’t imagine trying to live the Christian life and virtues without others who will speak the truth in love when needed, call me higher, and love me as unconditionally as humans are able to love. 

Accountability also comes from God’s Word. As Paul teaches in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of Godmay be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” So we want to stay in close relationship with God through His Word, which He uses faithfully in all these ways as long as we seek and meet Him there.

What are some tips you could share to help make spiritual accountability easy but effective? 

Anything else you’d like to share?

During this pandemic, we are all grieving and constantly adapting to circumstances we did not choose. Yet none of what is happening surprises God, who doesn’t change. He is still our Creator, the One who loves us, and remains in control. Can you think of a better time to befriend this all-knowing, all-powerful God who creates, gives, loves, offers mercy, forgiveness, grace, comfort, wisdom, peace, community, and the riches of His presence at all times? 

Now more than ever, I find that I can’t stop pondering and talking about God, and this is good, for we have no greater need in life than to know, love, and serve God every day. This is my prayer for each of us, that we may know Him and give ourselves to Him, thus finding rest for our souls, joy, peace, meaning, and the abundant life we crave.

Dr. Amaryllis Sánchez Wohlever is a Board-certified family physician who served as chief resident and as president of the Florida Association of Family Medicine Residents. She earned her medical degree from Penn State University College of Medicine, where she received the Psychiatry Clinical Excellence & Research Award and the Achieving Women of Penn State Award. She is also a certified coach specializing in wellness, burnout prevention, leadership development, and life-work integration. A national expert in physician wellness, she writes and speaks extensively about these topics throughout the country.

In 2008, she was honored to help start Grace Medical Home, a comprehensive clinic for the uninsured in central Florida that has gained national attention. She advocates for high standards of care from the exam room all the way to the U.S. Capitol. She is a keynote speaker for diverse groups, including national and state medical conferences, faith-based organizations, college campuses, and more. Some of her topics include cultivating a servant heart, recapturing joy in medicine, from burnout to thriving, and the power of testimony. 

She is the author of four books as well as senior writer and editor for FACTS. Her latest book, Recapturing Joy in Medicine, inspires physicians to reclaim their collective voice and recapture a sense of meaning and purpose in medicine and in life. Her unique devotional, Walking with Jesus in Healthcare, inspires medical professionals and caregivers to stay close to God while caring for people. She designs and leads retreats based on her books, including The 3 Y’s of Faith and Recapturing Joy in Medicine. She also wrote a practical, fun, and popular book for girls, The Ultimate Girls’ Body Book.

A heartfelt prayer on her knees transformed her life and work as a physician years ago. Since then, she strives to care for the soul and minister to the spirit while treating the body. She is married to a pilot-turned-preacher and they have three wonderful children. Her husband has served their community faithfully as a pastor and hospital chaplain for thirteen years. They feel blessed to support and encourage one another in the meaningful work of caring for souls.

Her website: www.faithfulMD.com  

Her blogs: www.DrMarisFaithStop.com and www.faithfulMD.com  

For God’s gift and his call are irrevocable. Romans 11:29