While the fanatical belief that God will always heal us if we have enough faith is a ditch on one side of the straight and narrow path, an extension of this “ditch” is the fanaticism of presumption which is based on the erroneous idea that God will only work through natural means and miracles but not through the care of the physician. Consider the extreme beliefs of Breatharianism. These individuals believe that one of God’s eight doctors, sunshine, can provide them all that is necessary for life. Breatharians believe that they do not need to eat or drink, but that the sun will sustain them entirely. Of course, the result of acting on this belief is death from dehydration and organ failure. Although this may seem absurd, could we be choosing another of God’s eight doctors in an unbalanced way which is just as fanatical?
Let’s examine the eighth doctor, trust in divine power. While it is true that we need to trust in God’s help, some have believed and taught that if we go to a physician for help with a physical condition, we are showing a lack of faith which will keep God from healing us. As a result, these individuals often refuse to visit the physician. But is this really trust in God? Can we twist God’s arm to heal us? Can we force His hand to do our will?
A woman once told a story of how, after having a home birth, she suffered from post-partum hemorrhage and was in the process of bleeding to death. Instead of calling for an ambulance which would have quickly come and taken her to a nearby hospital and taken immediate measures to stop the bleeding to save her life, she lay on the floor passing in and out of consciousness while her husband performed CPR on her. During her “awake” periods the couple prayed that she would be healed, afraid that if she went for professional help, God would see it as a lack of faith and she would not be healed. I believe it was only out of God’s mercy, despite the couple’s unwise presumption, that the woman is alive today. Jesus himself, as our example, when tempted to presume upon the mercy of God to save His own life stated, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:7).
Some individuals would use herbs in the same way. While God does want us to know which plants have healing properties and how to use them, because of sin, tea and tobacco are good examples that not every plant in nature is for our benefit. Some would refuse the use of any medication from a pharmacist while using a host of herbs from nature, a number of which have similar if not worse harmful side-effects than pharmaceutical medications. If the principle of temperance were employed, and specifically the avoidance of all substances with harmful effects this form of presumption could be avoided.
If you have seen our television show, Practical Living, then you have likely heard us talk of the benefits of natural remedies such as charcoal poultices, hydrotherapy and others. But is there the potential that even the use of natural remedies could be taken to far? Consider the demonstration we observed recently in which a woman with a sore throat was treated with a warm compress. After its application, she was told by the presenter that her sore throat would be gone by the next morning through the power of God. But what if her sore throat wasn’t gone by morning? Would it not be better to say that we will pray over the warm compress and ask God’s blessing and healing, but leave it up to His will to heal? And what if He doesn’t? Should she seek medical attention? Some would say that such an action would be a lack of faith, but consider a real life example.
A young, healthy physical therapist, one who was familiar with the anatomy and physiology of God’s wonderful creation, had a “cold”. He treated himself with home remedy after home remedy for two to three weeks, and though his sore throat persisted, he refused to go see a physician, despite being urged to by family and friends. Finally, at church, he happened to run into an older retired physician who, upon taking one look at the man, told him that he should go immediately to the hospital, because he was septic. At this advice, he did go straight to the hospital, but it was too late. Upon arrival it was determined that he had rheumatic fever with severe endocarditis as a result of a simple streptoccus infection of his throat. Despite intravenous antibiotics and the best that modern medicine had to offer within a few hours, the physical therapist was dead. How sad, and I would propose what a waste. If he had gone to seek medical care earlier this man would probably still be alive today and able to win souls for the kingdom.
Some Christians would sooner rely on power bracelets or magnets or be treated by a practitioner of yoga, spiritualists or magnetic healers than by a medical doctor. The Spirit of Prophecy states, “And there are not a few, even in this Christian age, who go to these healers, instead of trusting in the power of the living God and the skill of well-qualified physicians” (PK:211.1). And we are counseled further on this passage that the utilization of these can allow a satanic power in the life which can seem impossible to break (see remainder of paragraph).
What about surgical procedures? Some would say we are biased since we are both surgeons, so we will not render our own opinion but simply quote the servant of the Lord: “It is our privilege to use every God-appointed means in correspondence with our faith, and then trust in God, when we have urged the promise. If there is need of a surgical operation, and the physician is willing to undertake the case, it is not a denial of faith to have the operation performed” (2SM:284.4).
You might be asking yourself, then what role if any is left for divine intervention? Are we not to pray for God to heal? The scripture states, “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:14-15). In our own personal lives and as physicians we have seen this to be true both with God’s healing of our daughter and our patients. But, the key is, if we truly have faith to trust God, we will accept that sometimes His answer is, as it was to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”
So how shall we proceed? How shall we avoid these two ditches? We need to cooperate with the Master physician by taking an active role in our health. Sometimes the sick are not healed because, the illness is a direct result of the person’s own lifestyle choices, and God knows the individual will continue making the same choices to destroy their own health again, even if they were healed. In contrast, let us, by God’s grace, obey His Word and follow His lifestyle principles to the best of our understanding. All the while wisely applying natural remedies without side-effects, asking God for His blessing on them, and trusting His discretion to do as He sees best. Let us also recognize our own lack of knowledge of physiology and be willing to seek professional medical advice, knowing that to do so is not against God’s plan for our lives, or a lack of faith. And then, most of all let us remember that our greatest desire should be the same as God’s greatest desire, which is to heal our sin sick souls so that we can go home to live eternally with Him, where there will be no more sickness or sadness or death.