Saturday, June 20, 2009

More on Health and Faith

(photo from John Armstrong's blog)

Longtime readers of this blog know what a fan I am of John H. Armstrong and his Act 3 Ministries. I follow his blogs and receive his weekly newletters after a friend of mine (who has since left our evangelical church to return to his Catholic roots) recommended him.

Last night I read a blog post in which John discussed the medical establishment's rather slow response to medical treatment outside of hard "science" such as chiropractic, etc. You may read his blog post here: The New Medicine Meets the New Physics, Part II.

I spent quite a bit of time last evening drafting a comment, and his response to my comment almost moved me to tears. Here is someone who understands how difficult some of the medical and evangelical response to my illness has been. I'm posting both my comment and John's response below:

My Comment:

In my own experience as a chronically-ill person, I have found emotional and spiritual release in prayer, but not physical release. I currently see a doctor of chiropractic and an osteopath (full MD) who practice "blended" medicine. Both are Christians, and both work together on my case.

I have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue symdrome, and fibromyalgia. I was bedridden for months and wheelchair-bound for several years. I was diagnosed at age 36 and am now 43, the homeschooling mother of four children ages 9 to 17.

I have prayed to get well. I have been anointed by a group pf elders twice and by an Anglican priest on a weekly basis for five years. But somehow it is not God's plan for me to be healed, although through blended medicine I have improved to only using a cane most of the time. I rely on strong narcotic pain relievers (8 methadone pills daily, to be precise) in order to function at all.

My HMO's answer was that "it was all in my head" and sent me to a psychologist because "they have more drugs available." Only through a blended approach have I been able to get out of bed and function at about 50% of normal.

My osteopath refers to the medical establishment as "the dinosaurs" as they are unwilling to change their ways of thinking in order to improve patient care. Blended medicine seems to be the way to go, in my book anyway. We need both traditional and natural healing available for patients, no matter their diagnoses. It's all about balance.

I won't get into the "name it and claim it" evangelicals who have told me that I obviously have no faith since I have not been healed. As much as I would LOVE to live pain-free, God's sovereignty trumps all. If He uses my illness for His glory, "He also provides a way for me to stand up under it."

I also wrote about chronic illness this week on my blog if anyone is interested:

2 Cor 4:16-18

Posted by: Susanne Barrett June 20, 2009 at 02:00 AM

John's Response:

Susanne's comments are courageous, Christ-centered and a wonderful reflection of my own experience. I have not had symptoms as severe as Susanne's but I have experienced the same trials and entered the same valley of struggle and darkness that she writes about. I have sought not to talk about all of this for a number of reasons but Susanne has demonstrated the Christ-centered way of writing about her own trials. Her confidence in God's sovereignty is mine too though she seems to be head and shoulders ahead of me in this area. Thank you for using what strength you have to minister to all who will read your words Susanne. May the God of all grace grant you strength and blessing.

As for the medical part of this comment I also agree with Susanne. Her names illnesses here are all resistant to traditional medical answers, generally speaking. Complimentary medicine is not the "cure all" that many think but it does offer more "tools" for wise doctors who want to see the whole playing field more broadly and truly help their patients with similar "untreatable" illnesses. When the medical profession says, "This is in your head and you need more pills" there is a significant problem. (One reason for this problem is the cost of medicine and the need to see many patients in an hour. The modern family physician often does not have the time to practice the healing arts in the way we knew when I was a child in the 1950s. This is an issue that should be at the heart of health reform but there is not enough concern to address it.)

From me, I simply cannot see why so many Christians are so unwilling to adopt the perspective that Susanne clearly holds. She, and I, are clearly not promoting New Age ideas. How anyone could read her comments and associate this with her comments would be beyond my ability to honestly understand.

Thus Susanne's comment plainly articulates MY essential point(s) in these two posts. I will follow these up with another post (next week), regarding my general perspective on complimentary medicine.

Posted by: John H. Armstrong June 20, 2009 at 09:15 AM
I am looking forward very much to John's follow-up post next week on this topic. I'll post it here as soon as I can because, although I write comparitively little about my health issues on this blog because there are far more intriguing issues to write about, I have several followers of this blog who also struggle with similar health issues, and I post with them in mind and with prayers for their peace and wellness spiritually and emotionally while they await physical healing.

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