Ephesians 6:12 is an oft-quoted text, and its spiritual significance is commonplace knowledge : "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness [margin, "wicked spirits"] in high places."
It has occurred to me that here is a special message to the medical missionary, a message that might easily go unnoticed or unappreciated because it is not specifically applied. To whom could we more aptly apply this truth than to those of us whose job it is to combat and "wrestle . . . against" the onslaughts of disease that plague and destroy the "flesh and blood" ?
We know that our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against those powers and forces whose purpose it is to destroy the body in which mankind lives. We know that disease and death are the wages of sin : "There is a divinely appointed connection between sin and disease. No physician can practice for a month without seeing this illustrated."—"Counsels on Health," p. 325. Much of the disease and suffering of man is the direct result of the violation of the laws of nature, which are the laws of God.
Some of the maladies, however, are not the immediate result of sin on the part of the individual sufferer or even of his parents. This the Master taught on one occasion. But in the last analysis, "Sin and disease bear to each other the relationship of cause and effect."—/bid. If there had been no sin, there would be no disease, no suffering, no death. And in the new earth, after the curse has been removed, there will be no more sin, disease, or death. We medical workers will have to find a new job over there.
In our professional training as medical workers, our attention is largely directed to the study of "flesh and blood." And this is proper, because we should not be less qualified for our work than is the ordinary medical worker of the world. "It requires caretaking, deep, earnest taxation of the mind to carry the burden a physician should carry in learning his trade thoroughly."—"Medical Ministry," p. 139.
A working knowledge of the body and its functions in health and in disease is fundamental and essential. We must know the reaction of the body, under varying circumstances, to the treatments which we might apply, constantly keeping alert to the dangers as well as the benefits of each. Such knowledge cannot be acquired in our school training, except in a very basic form. As good medical workers, we should never allow our days of study to end until our work is finished. "Plenty of physicians can be obtained who ceased to be students when they received their diplomas, who are self-inflated, who feel that they know all that is worth knowing, and what they do not know is not worth knowing. But this class are not the ones we want."—Id., p. 139. Our cause wants medical workers who are well trained and yet constant learners—apprentices, as it were, to the Great Physician.
Nor is thorough training and observing experience enough unless we realize that we "wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." It is not enough to be able to search out and find pathology or the physical result of disease, and to have skill in applying the most efficacious treatment after making a correct diagnosis. We must keep the perspective of the patient as a being in relationship to the great controversy between Christ and Satan. He is sick and conies under our care because of this conflict.
"The Saviour in His miracles revealed the power that is continually at work in man's behalf, to sustain and to heal him. Through the agencies of nature, God is working, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, to keep us alive, to build up and restore us. When any part of the body sustains injury, a healing process is at once begun; nature's agencies are set at work to restore soundness. But the power working through these agencies is the power of God. All life-giving power is from Him. When one recovers from disease, it is God who restores him.
"Sickness, suffering, and death are the work of an antagonistic power. Satan is the destroyer ; God is the restorer."—"Ministry of Healing," pp. 1.1-2, 113.
"Satan is the originator of disease; and the physician is warring against his work and power."—"Counsels on Health," p. 324.
Only when we help our patient to adjust himself properly to this conflict, are we rendering the service needed, and in the higher sense expected of us. Not all patients who consult us have physical disease or pathology.
"Sickness of the mind prevails everywhere. Nine tenths of the diseases from which men suffer have their foundation here. Perhaps some living home trouble is, like a canker, eating to the very soul and weakening the life forces."—"Counsels on Health," p. 324.
I recall one patient who consulted me because of sickness. He complained of weakness, nervousness, loss of weight, loss of appetite, fatigue, and inability to sleep. Physical examination revealed a fine tremor of the tongue and fingers. These symptoms suggested two diseases—hyperthyroidism or tuberculosis—but the patient had neither, nor could any other pathology be found to account for his illness. After physical examination and laboratory tests had failed to show the cause of his condition, consultation with the patient revealed that he was very much dissatisfied with his job. He was the youngest employee in a plant, and, consequently, had all the unpleasant tasks assigned to him, and was expected to do for any of the older employees portions of their work which they might not care to do. While some of the older men might and did take advantage of this situation to overstep their rights, this could have been endured if the pay had been adequate to support his family decently.
Other Factors Than Physical Involved
The man had tried to find other employment, and had been entirely unsuccessful. The worry over his lot had made him sick, but he had no organic pathology. No amount of medical treatment or physiotherapy would have been of consequential benefit to him. What he needed was a new job, or aid in adjusting himself to the existing conditions until a change could be made. This was the treatment he got, and the results were gratifying. It is such experiences as this that naturally open the way to point the patient to faith in God, who makes "all things work together for good" to those who love Him. Worry is a form of fear, and the only cure for it is a "faith which worketh by love," for "there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear."
I was called one day to see an elderly woman who had high blood pressure. She had organic hypertensive heart disease and some kidney damage. But she had called me because of an injured knee which she had hurt in a fall. Her condition required that she get up several times each night to empty her bladder. In the darkness, dizziness from high blood pressure had caused her to fall while feeling for the drop light in the center of her bedroom. This had happened several times, but fortunately the knee injury was not severe. Here was a medical problem and an environmental problem as well. The drop light had to be turned on with the turnkey on the side of the socket, but in her kitchen there was a socket that turned on with a pull cord. Her means were very limited, and she had no one to do things for her, but it took only a few minutes to exchange the sockets. Then a string was tied from the pull cord to the head post of the bed, so that the light could be turned on from the bed. This little service made a friend of this patient and paved the way for continued medical care and counsel to the end of her days.
Some patients consult us whose illness is the immediate result of sin or the violation of nature's laws. This class is represented by alcoholics and some who have venereal diseases. The natural tendency is to have little patience with these folk who are getting the just deserts of admitted or evident misconduct. I know many physicians who will not accept them as patients. But have we been set as judges of our fellow men? Rather, is it not our place as followers of the Great Physician not to break the bruised reed or quench the smoking flax? When I find myself tempted to be impatient with these unfortunates, or feel inclined to give them up as hopeless when they again revert to the cause of their difficulty, all I have to do is to recall how long-suffering and patient God has been with me. My besetments are not the same, but I have my failings, even as these have theirs. And I am glad that God has not lost patience with me or given me up as hopeless when He has had ample cause to do so.
Rational Basis Needed in Treatment
When I first started medical practice, nothing worried me quite so much as alcoholic patients. Too many of them wanted opiates to relieve their "jitters" while sobering up, and since most other medicines are not effective, I was at a loss to know how they should be treated. Then an article came out in the Journal of the American Medical Association of August 8, 1936, which gave me a rational basis for the treatment of this condition. This treatment, with a sympathetic attitude and the aid of religion, has been of tremendous help to the alcoholics who have since come under my care.
The patient who has recently acquired gonorrhea or syphilis as a result of promiscuity is frequently a very penitent individual, and is in the mood to be led to Him who is able and willing to forgive sin, as we co-operate in restoring health. The common practice of charging higher rates for the treatment of these patients and of insisting upon cash before care is given is not becoming to the medical missionary. We have treatments that will cure these diseases. We can also point the way to the cure of the underlying sin. Only as we apply both can we bring wholeness to the sufferer and send him forth with the injunction to "sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee."
"For we wrestle not against flesh and -blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Eph. 6:12.
*From a talk to the senior medical students at the College of Medical Evangelists in the Bible class lectures given by members of the Alumni Association.