It is healthful for us to cultivate the spirit of thankfulness and good cheer. for "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine." It sends a benediction to every cell of the body. A merry heart makes not only a cheerful countenance, but also a cheerful stomach and a cheerful liver. On the other hand, mental depression influences every organ of the body and may become a provoking cause for serious bodily conditions.
The relation which exists between the mind and the body is such that it is impossible for one to suffer and the other not be affected. Derangements of the body due to infections or wrong habits of living may be responsible for a wrong mental condition. Improvement in such cases cannot be expected until physical conditions are remedied and wrong habits are corrected. On the other hand, mental influences may be responsible for physical ills which cannot be cured by diet or treatment alone.
Obstinate digestive disturbances may be wholly or in part due to a wrong mental state. In such cases the cure for the body must be preceded by curing the mind. A physician friend once told me of a man who came to him for treatment because of a digestive disorder. The prescribed treatment was unsuccessful. Then the doctor learned that the patient had defrauded his brother and was worried because of it. He advised his patient to repay the brother. The man did this and made a rapid recovery. Should the simple prescription given in James 5 :16 be carried out, there would be more marked cases of healing. "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed."
"Be of good cheer." needs to be spoken again and again to the sick, for the healing of bodily ailments. Job said, "The thing which I greatly feared is come upon me." Many diseases are wholly due to, or aggravated by, fear. When an animal has a rheumatic pain in a joint it does not worry about it, but when a man has a pain in one of the smaller joints, he begins to look forward to the time when it may extend to other parts of the body, until he sees himself a hopeless invalid. Fear lowers vitality and undermines health, and thus tends to bring to pass that which we fear.
The sick are inclined to think too much of self ; if they could be induced to think of others and minister to their needs, their annoyances and grievances would frequently be lessened or would disappear. A joy and satisfaction would be theirs which would tend to bring healing to both mind and body.
The prophet Isaiah, addressing his people, who offered selfish prayers, said, "Deal thy bread to the hungry, . . . bring the poor that are cast out to thy house, . . . when thou seest the naked, . . . cover him." Isa. 58:7. Those who carried out this instruction received the assurance; "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily. . . . Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer. . . . Thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not." Verses 8-u. The greatest joy Heaven can bestow is found in service to others.
One Case of Mental Healing
Sometimes the mind plays queer tricks. I recall a man who had lost his speech. He had been to the most noted specialists in Europe and America and had come back a disappointed man. As a last resort he came to the sanitarium. One of the physicians came rushing into my office one day and said, "Kress, come quickly, my patient is dying !" The man appeared to be at the point of death. I felt his pulse and found it quite normal. It somehow dawned upon me that we had before us a pronounced case of hysteria ; so I patted him on the cheek and said in a commanding voice, "Stop that!"
He opened his eyes partially and mumbled something. Then the other doctor caught on, and said to him, again in a commanding voice, "Say one." He said "One." The doctor continued, "Say two," and he said "Two." That man began to talk and was able to talk from that time on. He was cured. The sanitarium received considerable glory, for many influential people had known of this man's condition. . Such cases of healing are sometimes spoken of as miracles, but they are cases of mental healing.
Much of the healing in answer to prayer today is mental and not miraculous healing. Mental healing should be associated with God's work, but in itself it is not dependable evidence that such healing is of divine origin. It may be of God, or it may not be.
It was said of Simon the sorcerer, "This man is the great power of God." Acts 8:to. But he had "bewitched the people, . . . giving out that himself was some great one." We are told that they all gave heed to him "from the least to the greatest." Verses 9, to. Results were witnessed in his work of healing, or be would never have secured such a following. Peter recognized that this man was the servant of Satan, and said to him, "Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee." Acts 8:22. From that day to the present, men have arisen here and there, claiming to possess power to heal. And the people have flocked to them as they did to Simon the sorcerer. But one after another, these professional healers have disappeared and have been forgotten.
The Mind in Sickness
Years ago I had under my care a case that illustrated the part the mind may play in sickness. The patient was a prominent businessman, a man of intelligence. He was extremely nervous. His mind was so disturbed that I feared, as did his friends, that he would end in the insane asylum. He could not sleep. The treatments and diet we prescribed failed to help him. In sheer desperation, and in order to satisfy myself of the part his mind played in the illness, I prepared a mixture of simple sirup and table salt. I told the patient that I had instructed his nurse to give him a teaspoonful of medicine to make him sleep. Should he awaken later, the dose could be repeated, but not more than two doses should 'be given. The patient slept all night.
My conscience troubled me because of the deception I had practiced; so the next morning I ,instructed the nurse to destroy the remainder of the mixture. When the patient learned of this, he came into my office and begged me to let him continue the compound. He said, "Doctor, I have taken a great many medicines, but this is the best one I have ever taken." I then informed him of the deception I had practiced and told him that much of his trouble was mental. To my surprise, he was not pleased to get this information.
Another interesting case was that of a prominent judge. He, too, was in a sad condition and was troubled with sleeplessness. All the remedies we employed failed. One morning he came to my office, and after our usual talk, rose to leave. After he had gone out, he again opened the door and said, "The fault is not with you or your treatments. I am a bad man."
"Come in, judge," I said, "and take a seat." After he was seated, I said: "This is the most hopeful symptom I have observed in your case. There is help for you." I quoted the promise, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I then repeated the scripture: "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed." After a short conversation, in which I assured him that he could claim the promise, we knelt in prayer. The judge was able to sleep that night, and his health began to improve.
Several years ago while in Australia, I gave a lecture on the subject of cheerfulness, emphasizing the influence of the mind over the body. At the close, a man with whom I had previously been associated in America said: "I can testify to all that has been said. Some years ago, when I was occupying a position as editor, my health failed. One morning I was so ill I felt that I must stay at home. But the thought of the work piling up on my desk urged me to start for the office. A friend met me, and after the customary greetings, unfortunately added, 'You are not looking well this morning.'
"'No, I am not feeling well,' I said. But I went on my way. Another friend met me and said, 'You look ill.' By that time, I felt so sick that I had to turn back and go to bed. The next morning I felt no improvement. I said to myself : 'This will never do. I must go to work.' So I started again. Instead of improving as I walked, I apparently became worse, but fortunately, just when I was on the point of turning back again, another friend met me and said in a cheerful way : 'Good morning ! This is a delightful morning.'
"We carried on a short conversation, and he said, 'You are looking fine this morning !' This gave me the mental boost I needed. Instead of turning back, I went to the office. Soon I was lost in my work ; I forgot about my symptoms and went home in the evening feeling about as well as I have ever felt." Then, to my surprise, he added, "The friend who met and encouraged me that morning was the speaker of today." This seemed a small thing for me to do. I had been unaware of the influence the few cheering words had upon my friend. In fact, I was unable to recall the incident at all. But to my friend it had meant much. His condition was not wholly mental. He had been weakened from overwork, but he needed mental uplift. There are many of this class of people who need a word of good cheer. In fact, we all need such a mental stimulus day by day as we associate together.
Nothing tends more to promote health of mind and of body than does the spirit of good cheer. When feelings of depression come, as they will sometimes, it is not wise to give expression to them. They may be permitted in order to remind us that we are human, and to create a feeling of pity and compassion for others who are undoubtedly passing through similar experiences. Therefore the command is given, "In everything give thanks : for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."