Ministering to a Sick World

How do we minister to a sick, dark, pessimistic world?

By TAYLOR G. BUNCH, President, Michigan Conference

The clouds of global war darken every zone. As we listen to the roar of battle and witness the destruction of life and property on a scale unparalleled in the history of man, it is difficult to find a place for optimism. Dur­ing an address to a graduating class of an East­ern university a British ambassador to the United States expressed the gloomy forebod­ings of many in these words: "As one looks ahead, there is little light save when dazzling flash on flash writes a great interrogation on the murky background."

The world is sick in more ways than one. One writer speaks of it as a vast lazar house filled with the sick and dying. Medical science has performed marvels in combating and pre­venting disease. Diseases that were once the dreaded scourges of mankind have been con­quered, and others will soon be under control. But still others, old and new, challenge the skill and baffle the efforts of physicians. In spite of all efforts, disease is still rampant and hospitals are crowded to capacity. Millions of others are suffering a variety of physical infirmities in their homes. Doubtless no human being can be said to have perfect physical health.

Millions are sick mentally. Their thinking mechanism has broken under the strain of the complications of modern life, and the insane asylums are crowded with these unfortunate victims. Multitudes of others who are more or less irrational are still a part of modern so­ciety. The chief cause of the many forms of mental disease is the transgression of moral and natural laws, and since no person is entirely free from guilt, no mind is perfectly balanced. None can boast of a life entirely free from warped thinking, foolish talking, and irrational conduct. Jesus Christ alone had a fully bal­anced mind, and therefore He only was free from mistakes in word and conduct.

The Most Effectual Permanent Remedy

The Scriptures declare that in Jesus' mouth was found no guile and that He "did no sin." This was because He had a well-balanced mind. Thomas Carlyle said of Him : "Jesus Christ, our divinest symbol! Higher has the human thought not yet reached." And Johann Herder said, "Jesus Christ is in the noblest, the most perfect sense, the realized ideal of humanity." Heeding the admonition of the apostle Paul would bring revolutionary changes in our world. He said, "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Since it is always true that as a man "thinketh in his heart, so is he," having the mind of Christ will produce thoughts and conduct similar to His. This is the most effectual and permanent remedy for mental illness. This alone will produce mental poise and equilibrium.

The world is also sick morally, and in this realm there is desperate need of skillful and sympathetic ministry. The world today is ex­periencing a moral slump. It is passing through a moral depression such as always follows in the wake of war. War always results in the breakdown of moral fiber and sensitiveness. It has a tendency to lower standards and cause men and women to relax their usual vigilance against the vulgar and impure. Those of us who are older will not soon forget the moral aftermath of the previous World War, and the thought of postwar conditions now makes many dread the coming peace almost as much as the war itself.

The most important contribution that citi­zens can make toward an all-out war effort is to help bring about a moral revival and regen­eration. Such a movement would soon crown our war efforts with success, for it is still true that "righteousness exalteth a nation : but sin is a reproach to any people." Out of the dis­tant past comes the voice of Jehovah declaring that He "ruleth in the kingdom of man, and giveth it to whomsoever He will ;" that "He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth : and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?"

God deals with nations as with individuals. When the national cup of iniquity is filled ta overflowing, a nation is weighed in the bal­ances of divine justice and found wanting, and its destiny is certain and its downfall sure. It must give place to a nation with more vigorous morals that will bring forth the fruits of na­tional righteousness. The Lord says through His prophet Jeremiah :

"At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it ; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what in­stant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it ; if it do evil in My sight, that it obey not My voice, then I will repent of the good, where­with I said I would benefit them." Jer. 18:7-10.

This is still God's program for men and na­tions. It is not an arbitrary decree but an un­alterable, self-acting law that never changes. We are told that the throne of God will con­tinue forever because a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of His kingdom. In the history of men and nations morality has always been synonymous with vitality and stability, and moral degeneracy has been the harbinger of in­dividual and national ruin. Visit the cemetery of the dead nations of the past, and the epitaphs on the tombstones tell of a moral fall which was the cause of decay and death. That the relation between moral vitality and physical health is close and decided no person can suc­cessfully deny. In this respect the fittest al­ways survive.

The world is also very sick spiritually. In fact, this is the most serious of all diseases be­cause of its effects not only on this life but also on the life to come. Its blighting influ­ence affects every inhabitant of the earth to a greater or lesser extent. None have been able to escape fully the deadly virus of the disease of sin. No 'person is spiritually whole. From a spiritual viewpoint all are sick and subnormal, and therefore in need of a revival of genuine religion. Many of our modern leaders—civil, military, and religious—consider a return to religion the most potent of all our individual and national needs.

Though the chief occupation of physicians and nurses is to minister to the physical needs, they must not be unmindful of these other re­lated realms which have such a definite bearing on the physical well-being of the patient. One of the apostles set forth this relationship when he said, "I wish above all things that thou may­est prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." How would we all fare in mate­rial prosperity and physical health if they were apportioned to us on the basis of our spiritual­ity? The three belong together and should never be separated. In a well-balanced life and program they are properly proportioned. If our lives would be full and complete, our spir­itual natures must be nourished and developed on a parallel with the mental and physical. This is essential to the building of a symmetrical character and the making of a successful career.

"A cheerful heart is a good medicine," is an­other scriptural expression whose truthfulness has been abundantly demonstrated by time and experience. In fact, a cheerful spirit is one of the most effectual of all remedies, and takes first place in the healing of certain maladies. Cheer begets cheer, and because of the natural state of sick people, a sunny disposition is essential to success in the medical profession. But gen­uine cheerfulness comes from within, out of the heart, and it cannot therefore be put on for the occasion. One who deals with the sick can­not long hide an ugly and disagreeable nature. As you minister to the irritable and irritating, be sure your disposition will find you out.

A cheerful heart is the offspring of "a con­science void of offense toward God, and toward men." It comes out of mental poise and balance, moral character, and spiritual experience. Only a genuine Christian can "count it all joy" and "rejoice . . . alway" regardless of the outward circumstances, knowing that "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose."

Speaking of the recuperative power of good cheer, a physician has said : "Those who are cheerful and confident, who are free from anxi­eties and fear, make far more satisfactory prog­ress than those who keep themselves in a tur­moil of distress and worry. Once we remove the conflicting emotions and maintain our pa­tients in a peaceful, hopeful, fearless attitude, we have won more than half the battle. We do not know why worry causes an increase of pain in angina, a recurrence of ulcers in har­assed businessmen, an elevation of blood pres­sure in the diabetic. The sincere Christian has no time for nerves. The religious man faces life confident and unafraid, and saves himself from countless ills, the creation of a purposeless and disintegrating personality." Thousands of other physicians and nurses will heartily agree with this statement.

A background of faith and spiritual experi­ence is essential in those who minister the medi­cine of good cheer, courage, confidence, and hopefulness, which are so vital in mental and physical recovery. Life is a complete whole. The body, mind, and soul cannot be treated as entirely separate entities. It is a mistake to think that the body can be handed over to the physician, the mind to the psychiatrist, and the soul to the minister. The close relationship between the physical, mental, and spiritual' realms is being recognized more and more by the medical fraternity, and this is a hopeful sign.

A group of doctors at Johns Hopkins were discussing the percentage of patients whose ill­ness is more mental and spiritual than physical. The psychiatrist of the group declared that forty per cent of the cases that come .to his clinic were mental and spiritual in their origin. The surgeon said that he believed the per­centage to be more nearly sixty.

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By TAYLOR G. BUNCH, President, Michigan Conference

August 1943

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