Re: well-being

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Posted by Doug Showalter on January 05, 1998 at 05:21:24:

In Reply to: well-being posted by Jenny on January 04, 1998 at 14:46:12:

Dear Jenny,

Your question is one that has long been studied and debated. Our Western civilization has been heavily influenced by ancient Greek philosophy which tended to make a sharp distinction between body and spirit. In contrast, the ancient Hebrew culture of which Jesus was a part, tended to view human beings as psycho-physical unities whose various components are intimately intertwined. In our modern day, there is, I believe, an increasing awareness that our bodies and our minds and spirits are connected in important ways, though the precise nature of these connections in different situations is still often difficult to understand or even to prove.

As a minister, I strongly believe in the value of religious chaplains being part of the healing team in hospitals, along with doctors and nurses. I say this because I believe that one's emotional, mental, and spiritual being can be an important component in various situations which involve one's healing and well-being. Can I prove this absolutely beyond all doubt? No, I can't, but I believe it. Neither can I prove beyond all doubt that prayer can bring healing. But I certainly believe it can often help.

From time to time in my ministry, I have seen doctors surprised by older patients whose will to live seems to have extended their lives, and by others who seemingly died prematurely, after appearing to lose that same will (i.e. soon after their spouse of many years died). At times, I have also seen people under extreme stress, who later developed some kind of unexpected illness. All these things have caused me to wonder about the connection between our bodies and our minds.

You ask specifically about autoimmune diseases. I am neither a medical doctor nor a medical researcher. What I would suggest is that you check a reputable source of medical information, like The Merck Manual, which can be found online at I would suggest, in that publication, that you do searches for "autoimmune diseases" and "psychosomatic medicine." Some of the language is technical, but I think you will get the gist of it.

One thing I would mention. It seems that the origin of a disease can often be a very complex matter, which involves several different factors (i.e. a person's genetics, body chemistry, environment, etc.) Mind/spirit/emotions may play some kind of role in the development of some diseases. But even if a person thinks that might be true in their situation, they should be careful about falling into this trap: they should not rush to assume that they are at fault for having their disease. That would not be fair to themselves. It would also be a "double whammy." In other words, in addition to having the illness they would also be blaming themselves for having it.

A similar trap faces people who assume that God will surely heal them, if only they will pray hard enough and long enough. If healing doesn't come then, such people often blame themselves for still being ill. I don't believe that is right. That's a misunderstanding of our Christian faith. It also underestimates the very complex nature of illness and healing.

Best wishes,
Doug Showalter

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