July 7, 2014

Personal Health

Jesus was in Capernaum, and a large crowd was listening as He “preached the word to them” (Mark 2:2). Then four men with an intentional, caring spirit carried a paralyzed man to Jesus for healing. Because of the many people, however, it was impossible to go through the front door, back door, or window—so they carried the man to the roof. There they made an opening through which to carefully lower the man on his mat down to Jesus. Everything was done in an intentional, caring spirit. When Jesus saw their faith in His healing power, He said to the man, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (verse 5).

Jesus believes in comprehensive health, which means that physical health is closely tied to the spiritual, mental, and social aspects of a person. As Ellen White wrote: “Many of the diseases from which [men and women] suffer are the result of mental depression. Grief, anxiety, discontent, remorse, guilt, distrust, all tend to break down the life forces and to invite decay and death.”1 The man’s remorse for his sins may have been the burden he found overwhelming. When Jesus forgave his sins, it paved the way for his physical recovery.

Notice these familiar words from Ellen White: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’ ”2

Do we show the same intentional, caring spirit to others as Jesus did while reaching out through comprehensive health evangelism?

No One Is an Island

Paul wrote, “None of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone” (Rom. 14:7). In other words, no one is an island. We were created as social beings and cannot live optimally in isolation. Psychologist Abraham Maslow observed that in some circumstances an intentional caring relationship is as essential to the growth of a person as is food.3

A number of studies show the benefits of intentional caring by the touching of newborns. At the Touch Research Institute in Miami, Florida, premature babies given three loving massages daily for 10 days gained weight 31 to 49 percent faster and left the hospital six days sooner than those not massaged. There was also a financial advantage: a savings of $10,000 for each child.4

In the “Ni-Hon-San” study conducted in Nippon (Japan), Honolulu, and San Francisco, scientists examined 11,900 Japanese men who lived in Nippon compared to those who had migrated to Honolulu and San Francisco. The incidence of heart disease was the lowest in Japan, intermediate in Hawaii, and highest in California, giving the impression that the closer immigrants came to the North American mainland, the sicker they became. This could not be explained by differences in diet, blood pressure, or cholesterol levels.

Researchers then classified the Japanese Americans in California according to the degree to which they retained their traditional Japanese culture of caring for one another. Those who maintained their social network, family ties, and community had a heart disease prevalence as low as those living in Japan. In contrast, the group that was most westernized by living an individualistic life had a threefold to fivefold increase in heart disease.5 Having an intentional caring relationship, then, protects against disease and premature death.

Intentional caring is vitally needed today as part of comprehensive health evangelism following Jesus’ method. It not only leads others to Jesus, but yields physical benefits to the receiver as well as the giver.

  1. Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 241.
  2. Ibid., p. 143.
  3. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow’s_hierarchy_of_needs.
  4. T. Field, “Massage Therapy for Infants and Children,” Journal of Developmental and Behavioural Pediatrics 16, no. 2 (1995): 105-111.
  5. M. G. Marmot, S. L. Syme, A. Kagan, H. Kato, J. B. Cohen, and J. Belsky, “Epidemiologic Studies of Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke in Japanese Men Living in Japan, Hawaii, and California: Prevalence of Coronary and Hypertensive Heart Disease and Associated Risk Factors,” American Journal of Epidemiology 102, no. 6 (1975): 514-524.