Have you ever heard the statement, “There are no atheists in a foxhole”? I recently came across this statement, and it really brought to mind the idea that although most of us aren’t actually hunkered down in a war zone foxhole, figuratively many of us feel that we are as we fight for health. It can actually feel like a combat zone for anyone who has a serious health condition, addiction, emotional stress, or other crises. And in these situations, people are more inclined to seek a higher power for help.
What this means to me is that people are not actually accepting the illness and inharmony, but instead are claiming their right to health by turning to God. Early health researcher Mary Baker Eddy helped many understand their spiritual nature and right to experience permanent health, and in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she encourages people to: “Realize the presence of health and the fact of harmonious being, until the body corresponds with the normal conditions of health and harmony.”
Not only are people realizing their spiritual communion to God is linked to harmonious being, but doctors are also realizing that this spiritual relationship is important to their patients’ health. Judy Ann Bigby, M.D. reports that she asks her patients if they have any spiritual relationships and how these relationships might aid them in working through their health challenges. But she also encourages patients who have a spiritual relationship to cultivate that relationship at all times, not just when they are having a health challenge. In this way, well-being is encouraged. “Being healthy is not just the absence of illness,” says Dr. Bigby. “For many people, being at peace and having a spiritual connection affects their overall well-being and feelings about their health.”
This realization by doctors that a connection to a higher power is health-giving is also now being backed by studies, which show that religious commitment, including worship attendance and prayer, is valuable to health. Specifically, spiritual or religious practice has been shown to enhance prevention and treatment of mental disorders and addictions, reduce pain and disability, and prolong survival. In addition, spiritual treatment has been shown to enhance recovery.
Regardless of what doctors or scientists think, many people believe that the condition of their spirit affects their health. People know the importance a loving act can have on another’s spirit – and on their own spirit. That’s why the benefits of spiritual health are being more widely accepted and promoted. As people realize the presence of health from a spiritual perspective, as Eddy encouraged, they will start seeing a richer, fuller, healthier life outside of that foxhole.
Photo © GLOW IMAGES. Model used for illustrative purposes.
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