Taken from Mark Finley's 2021 Missionary Book "Hope for Troubled Times". This booklet aims to move the reader from the despair of sickness, to the hope of a Healer. Through Bible stories and recent research, health facts are shared in a compelling fashion.
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Hope for Troubled Times
Staying Healthy in a Sick World
Copyright © 2020 Middle East Publishers, Beirut, Lebanon
Hope for Troubled Times Series
5) Staying Healthy in a Sick World
Authored by Mark A. Finley
Manuscript edited by GC Publishing Department
Translation by Adventist Commons
Cover and Layout Design by Adventist Commons
Cover Image by GC Publishing Department
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Sickness not only is debilitating to the body but also plays havoc with our minds. When we are sick, it is much easier to become discouraged or even depressed. Have you ever been sick for a week? How do you feel at the end of the week? What about two weeks? During the COVID-19 pandemic those infected with the disease reported overwhelming physical symptoms, including a raging fever followed by the chills, intense muscle pain, a persistent cough, shortness of breath, a sore throat, violent headaches, and fatigue. One victim said, “I felt like I was drowning,” and another added, “Nights were horrible. My temperature would rise. My body would burn with fever, and then suddenly I would shake with the chills. But worst of all, I felt so alone in isolation.” One of the great consequences of this pandemic was that the virus was so contagious that individuals often had to suffer through their illness alone. Their loved ones had a very difficult time giving them the care they needed.
Tragically some people even died in lonely hospital rooms, isolated from their families. It is incredibly difficult to suffer in the advanced stages of the coronavirus for two weeks, but what if you were sick for 12 years? What if you were in constant pain, considered an outcast separated from your family year after year? Mark’s Gospel records the story of a woman who suffered for 12 long years.
“Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years” (Mark 5:25). She hemorrhaged continually. Her clothes were stained with this continual stream of blood. She was tired, worn out, emaciated, and weak. But worst of all, she could no longer experience the warm embrace of others. She could no longer enjoy a child’s hug or one jumping up on her lap. She was discouraged, depressed, and desperate. She wanted to be well. She longed for healing. She searched for a cure, but nothing seemed to work.
Mark’s Gospel continues her story in these sorrowful words: “[She] had suffered many things from many physicians” (verse 26). The very ones who were supposed to help had only caused more harm. She had “suffered many things from many physicians.” The cures they had offered had only made her worse. She had spent her hard-earned savings on their quack cures.
She was not only desperate but hopeless. She was not only discouraged but in total despair. Darkness filled her soul. She had spent her money on these so-called physicians, only to be worse off. Then she met the Master Physician, Jesus. A huge crowd surrounded the Savior. As He slowly made His way along the narrow, rocky roadway, the crowd pressed Him on every side. This poor woman wondered if she would ever get near enough to beg for healing. He had healed others. Would He heal her? Mark’s Gospel reveals her desperation in these words: “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well” (verse 28).
The Gospel of Luke also records this story and is even more precise. Luke was a physician and reveals some fascinating details in his Gospel. In Luke 8:43 he tells the story of this poor suffering woman, and he says, “[She] could not be healed by any” of the physicians. The word for healed used in this Bible passage has as its root the word “therapy.” No therapy could be found for her. Nothing that she had tried had worked. Jesus was her last and only hope for help. If He could not help her, she was doomed to a life of constant pain and continual sickness. She pressed her way through the crowd, believing if she could only touch the hem of Christ’s garment, she would be healed. She wanted something, anything, that would cure her disease. She had searched for it and spent her life savings to find that magic cure. Her response is the typical response of many a person today when they face some debilitating disease. They are desperate to find something, anything, that will cure the disease.
Every patient wants something to cure their illness, anything that will bring relief. They are desperate for a cure, whether it is a pill or some other type of medication to solve the problem. Modern medicine focuses on diagnosing and healing disease, but Jesus focuses on something more—much more. Finally she was able to stretch her hand between two people crowding around Jesus and briefly touch just the hem of His garment. In that touch was concentrated the faith of her life. The Master can distinguish the touch of faith from the press of the crowd. Healing power flowed into her body. The disease was gone. She was miraculously healed.
Then Jesus made a remarkable statement to this woman: “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well” (verse 48). She is not some nameless face in the crowd. Not some human statistic. She is a child of God. Jesus calls her daughter. He encourages her with the words “Be of good cheer; your faith has made you well” (verse 48).
This word for “well” is used more than 100 times in the New Testament, and most of those times it is translated “salvation.” Jesus declared this woman was whole again. Her faith grasped the reality of His divinity. In His loving mercy He revealed His grace to this desperate, hopeless woman and made her well again. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually she was made well. This is the work of Jesus. Our total health matters to Jesus because we matter to Jesus. He longs for us to live life to the fullest in this world of sickness, suffering, and death.
Restoration: The Goal of Jesus’ Life
Jesus’ goal is to restore, through the gospel, His image in humanity. This restoration includes physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing. In John 10:10 Jesus reveals His plan for each one of us: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” The devil wants to destroy our health, and Jesus wants to restore our health. The devil wants to discourage us, but Jesus wants to encourage us. The devil wants to tear us down, but Jesus wants to build us up. The devil wants us to be sick; Jesus wants us to be healthy. Jesus is interested in the whole person. He longs for us to be physically healthy, mentally alert, emotionally stable, and spiritually well. This is especially true in the light of His soon return. This world is facing an enormous crisis. Jesus’ own predictions in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 foretell catastrophic conditions on the earth just before His return. These events will break upon this world as an overwhelming surprise for those who are unprepared. The apostle Paul underscores the necessity of total health in the light of eternity in these words: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The word “spirit” here has to do with our attitude or emotions. Sometimes even today we might say, “She has a gentle spirit” or “He has an angry spirit.” What are we talking about? The attitude or the emotional part of the person. The word “soul” in this passage is speaking about the spiritual nature. The part of our being that longs for God and eternity. The “body” in this passage is obviously our physical nature. Jesus longs for every aspect of our nature to be sanctified, or made holy, through the power of His Spirit. The apostle Paul emphasizes this thought again in his epistle to the Romans. “With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give him your bodies, as a living sacrifice, consecrated to him and acceptable by him. Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-make you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed. Thus you will prove in practice that the will of God’s good, acceptable to him and perfect” (Romans 12:1, 2, Phillips; emphasis added). Did you notice the apostle’s emphasis on the whole person? He speaks of our worship, our bodies, and our minds. Caring for our bodies is an act of intelligent worship. After all our Creator has made us, and as we care for our bodies, we are giving honor to our Creator.
At Creation God surrounded Adam and Eve with all the elements necessary for optimum health. Clear babbling brooks and flowing streams provided them with pure water. Fruits, nuts, grains, and some types of vegetables grew in abundance. The natural diet God provided was packed with wholesome nutrients. As our first parents exercised in the sunshine and fresh air, their bodies maintained the health God created them with. Evenings brought a refreshing mist, and each day they rested in His love and care. On the seventh day, Sabbath, they entered into an experience of deeper trust as they worshipped their Creator on the special day that He had sanctified, or set apart, for worship.
Our first parents lived in a world free of stress, anxiety, and disease. Peace and happiness walked through the land together. Their hearts were filled with love for God and for one another. It is God’s intent that we discover principles from Eden to guide our lives today. Creation was not simply an act of God millenniums ago. It was a model for us in how to live today. God is not interested only in our spiritual health. He is interested in our physical and emotional health as well. There is a close relationship between our physical and spiritual well-being. The apostle John states it succinctly: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2).
Science Confirms We Are Whole Human Beings
During the past 25 years there has been a significant resurgence in the concept of whole person care. The World Health Organization that since 1948 had defined health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being has now recognized the need for a fourth component, spirituality, to be considered as an important element of health. Since 2010 there have been more than 2,000 studies on the impact of religion and health. A growing body of scientific evidence confirms the accuracy of the Bible’s teaching on health. Degenerative diseases, as the result of faulty living habits, are rapidly rising. Heart disease, strokes, and cancer top the list of killer diseases taking the lives of people prematurely. What do the majority of these scientific studies on health indicate? Where does the research point? Here are three specific areas where faith can make a dramatic difference in your health.
1) Faith leads people to make better health choices.
Fewer people who are religious and have a deep commitment to God smoke, abuse alcohol, or use harmful drugs. They exercise more, eat more healthfully, and guard their rest. When people believe that they were created by God and their bodies are the temple of His Spirit, their health choices are more positive. They are guided by the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” People of faith become more conscious of their health and choose to live more healthfully.
You may wonder what some of those health choices are and how can you improve your health. Recently Harvard University conducted a massive study to determine what health habits could keep people living longer. This is what they discovered: by maintaining five health habits, you may be able to add as many as 10 years to your life. Here are the simple habits that will increase your life expectancy: eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, keeping a healthy body weight, not drinking too much alcohol, and not smoking. Maintaining these habits during adulthood may add more than a decade to life expectancy, according to a new study led by the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health (Harvard University study, April 2019). Researchers also found that American women and men who maintained the healthiest lifestyles were 82 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and 65 percent less likely to die from cancer when compared with those with the least-healthy lifestyles over the course of the roughly 30-year study period.
Let’s look at these health builders a little more carefully. One of the very critical issues with COVID-19—and all other diseases for that matter—is strengthening our immune systems. The immune system is a complex network of cells and proteins that defends our bodies against infections and disease. If you build a strong immune system, not only do you reduce the risk of getting sick, but if you do get sick, the symptoms will tend to be much less, and the duration of your illness shorter. There is no guarantee that any one of us will not get sick. However, there are certainly ways we can protect ourselves and build our immunity.
a) Eat Healthy: Nutrition is key in any illness both as prevention and assisting in the cure. Fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, reduce inflammation and improve blood vessel function. Plant foods are loaded with health-promoting, protective phytochemicals that neutralize the oxidative stress of infections and other diseases. They reduce inflammation and enhance the health of the blood vessel lining to assure needed blood supply. Animal protein has inflammatory substances that break down the bodies’ immune system. Plant foods, including beans, legumes, salads, and vegetables, provide the building blocks to produce the substances that make blood vessels work well. We also suggest a rainbow of colors on your plate, assuring that all the protective nutrients are included in your diet both as prevention and as adjunct to cure if you do get sick. Of course, avoiding sugar is a must, as sugar impairs white blood cell function, which is vital in fighting off foreign substances in our bodies.
b) Drink Lots of Water: Water protects the body from dehydration, allowing every cell to function and fight at peak performance. Therefore, it is a key element to enhancing our immune system. So drink lots of water! How much? At least eight (eight-ounce) glasses a day. Another way to monitor if you are getting enough is to drink enough so that you have at least one clear urination per day. Make sure to consume adequate water before 6:00 p.m. so that your sleep is not interrupted and vital rest compromised.
c) Get Adequate Fresh Air and Exercise: The issue of exercise is also important, and we recommend that whenever possible it be out in the outdoors. People who walk briskly at least five times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes per day have better health and live longer than those who do not exercise. Exercise is profoundly helpful in warding off disease. Each day, get out in the fresh air, breathe deeply, and walk with your head erect and your shoulders back. If you live in a city environment, look for a park to walk in that has shrubs and trees. It is unhealthful to breathe in the polluted air from the exhaust of vehicles in the traffic-jammed streets of our crowded cities. Trees and plants have life-giving properties that will build your health. Take deep, refreshing breaths in an outdoor natural setting in the sunshine. Sunshine is a natural source of vitamin D. When sunlight is absorbed in moderate amounts, so we do not burn, we are able to boost our immunity to disease by increasing our vitamin D. This can be done with as little as 15 minutes a day in the sunshine.
d) Get Plenty of Rest: One of the God-given principles of good health is rest. When we are ill, our bodies recover best when we rest. Even when we think we have recovered from an illness, it is best to be cautious and be sure to get extra rest for a few days. This is particularly important with COVID-19, because we don’t know for sure when recovery occurs. Genetic material from the virus may be shed from the nostrils for up to four weeks. Rest is an important part of any good health plan. In fact, that’s why once a week God has given us the seventh-day Sabbath as a day of rest from the stresses of life.
e) Avoid Tobacco, Alcohol, Harmful Drugs, and Stimulants: Cigarette smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the world. It contributes to hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. It is a major risk factor for heart disease, lung cancer, type 2 diabetes, and a host of other lifestyle diseases. It weakens the immune system, contributes to gum disease, heightens the risk of infertility, and is a cause of blood clots. Alcohol is a major contributor to premature death. It is a cause of some types of cancer, heart disease, and liver damage. Along with tobacco it is dangerously addictive. Excessive drinking leads to depression and numerous unintentional injuries, including car accidents. The conclusions of a recent British study, published in the renowned medical journal The Lancet, are “clear and unambiguous: alcohol is a colossal global health issue.” The chief medical officer of the UK found that there is “no safe level of alcohol consumption.”
One of the major problems with alcohol is that it affects the frontal lobes of the brain, where conscience, reason, and judgment are located. This impacts our decision-making process. The Holy Spirit communicates with our frontal lobes, leading us to make positive lifestyle decisions, to understand God’s Word more fully, and to follow His truth more completely. Alcohol hinders that process and makes us less sensitive to God’s revealed will.
Although we may not be able to avoid getting sick, we can put our immune systems in the best possible position to fight disease. We can strengthen our immune systems to combat illness.
2) Faith also leads people to be more optimistic and positive.
This positive attitude helps them to reduce stress and hypertension. They are more at peace and have calmer dispositions. The University of Rochester’s medical newsletter reports, “The idea of optimism leading to better health has been studied. Researchers have reviewed the results of over 80 studies to look for common findings. They found optimism had a remarkable impact on physical health. The study examined overall longevity, survival from a disease, heart health, immunity, cancer outcomes, pregnancy outcomes, pain tolerance, and other health topics. It seemed that those who had a more optimistic outlook did better and had better results than those who were pessimistic. The message is that having a positive attitude can boost your physical health, no matter what might be ailing you.”
Faith leads to a deep trust in God, and trust in God leads you to be much more optimistic and positive about life because you know God cares for you and is always seeking your best. This sense of God’s presence in your life is both physically and emotionally healing.
3) Faith leads people to attend church more. They have a greater support system and sense of community that contributes to greater well-being.
The University of California, Berkeley, reported in 2002 the results of a 31-year study of more than 6,500 adults in Alameda, California. The comprehensive report noted, “People who attend religious services have significantly lower risks of death compared with those who never attend or attend less frequently even if you adjust for age, health behaviors, and other risk factors.”
Churchgoers live up to seven years longer than nonattendees, a University of Texas study has found. Researchers found that life expectancy rose when the number of church services attended increased. Those who attended every week had a life expectancy of 82 years. This dropped to 79 years for those who attended less than once a week, and for nonattendees it dropped to about 75 years (The Sunday Mail, September 26, 1999, p. 55). God’s Word reinforces the information in these studies. In Hebrews 10:23-25 the Bible shares this positive benefit of church attendance. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Let’s briefly analyze this divine counsel and compare it to the research we have been investigating. Our Bible passage encourages Christians to “assemble together” and
1) “Consider one another.” In other words, attempt to understand the life circumstances of one another. Enter into one another’s feelings. As the apostle Paul puts it in Galatians: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). Someone has said, “Anyone wrapped up in themselves is a very small package.” And it is true. A community of faith enables us to relate on a level of unselfish concern for one another. This attitude of consideration for one another is healthful for the one who shares his life with another and for the one who receives the selfless sharing.
2) “Stir up love.” Or motivate, inspire, lift one another up. Meeting together in worship, studying God’s Word together, and praying together provides an opportunity to motivate one another and lift one another up.
3) “Encourage one another.” There is nothing like an encouraging word to lift someone’s spirits. Church above all should be a place of encouragement and hope. How do you feel when someone compliments you? It cheers you up and brings joy to your life. These positive healthy thoughts are life-giving.
How to Make Positive Changes
You may be wondering, How can I make positive changes in my life? Where can I find the strength to put into practice good health practices? I have tried before and failed. The key to change is uniting our weak wills with Christ’s all-powerful strength. We may be weak, but He is strong. We may be frail, but He is almighty. On our own we cannot, but with Him we can. It all begins with our personal choice. All change begins with choice. The more we make excuses for our behavior, the more we will create a barrier to success. A remarkable experiment done by a marine biologist illustrates this point. During a research experiment a marine biologist placed a shark into a large holding tank, and then released several small bait fish into the tank. As you would expect, the shark quickly swam around the tank, and attacked and ate the smaller fish.
The marine biologist then inserted a strong piece of clear fiberglass into the tank, creating two separate partitions. She then put the shark on one side of the fiberglass and a new set of bait fish on the other.
Again, the shark quickly attacked. This time, however, the shark slammed into the fiberglass divider and bounced off. Undeterred, the shark kept repeating this behavior every few minutes, to no avail. Meanwhile, the bait fish swam around unharmed in the second partition. Eventually, about an hour into the experiment the shark gave up. This experiment was repeated several dozen times over the next few weeks. Each time the shark got less aggressive and made fewer attempts to attack the bait fish, until eventually the shark got tired of hitting the fiberglass divider and simply stopped attacking altogether.
The marine biologist then removed the fiberglass divider, but the shark didn’t attack. The shark was trained to believe a barrier existed between it and the bait fish, so the bait fish swam wherever they wished, free from harm. Many of us, after experiencing setbacks and failures, emotionally give up and stop trying. Like the shark in the story, we believe that because we were unsuccessful in the past, we will always be unsuccessful. In other words, we continue to see a barrier in our heads, even when no “real” barrier exists between where we are and where we want to go.
When we make a choice to change, Christ immediately comes to our aid to break down the barriers and give us the strength we need. Our excuses keep us from receiving His power. At times we erect barriers in our minds. We think of all the reasons change is so difficult. We see the impossibilities, but God is the God of possibilities. He is the God who can make a way when we see no way. He is the God of the impossible making the impossible possible. The apostle Paul prays this prayer in Ephesians 3:20, 21: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” What can God do? He can do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”
We may not understand how change takes place, but this we know: God is able.
Our minds may not be able to comprehend how He can make us into a new person, but this we know: God is able.
Our hearts may not be able to grasp how He can strengthen our weak wills, but this we know: God is able.
It may not seem possible, but God is able.
It may not seem logical, but God is able.
It may not seem likely, but God is able.
When under the promptings of the Holy Spirit we choose to make choices to live in harmony with the Creator’s laws and give glory to Him in our lifestyle, He gives us the power to accomplish our desires. Our Creator creates within us the new life we have chosen to live as we commit ourselves to Him.
Have you ever been sick for a week? What about two weeks? Or even longer? Despair and hopelessness can quickly take over one’s life.
Through Bible stories and recent research learn health principles that can have a lifelong impact on your ability to live a healthy life. You can thrive, not simply survive.
5. Staying Healthy in a Sick World
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