Millions suffer sickness and infirmities because they fail to apply natural laws! You need to know and use these valuable principles of good health.
The health of the average citizen of one of our industrialized Western countries is in a sorry state!
And more and more are continually adding themselves to the ranks of the “walking wounded” of our modern society.
Yet there is a cause for every effect. Health and happiness result from cooperating with natural health laws, while disharmony with those laws produces sickness.
Last month we examined the poor state of health in the affluent Western nations. We discovered that the vast sums of money annually spent for medical purposes have not resulted in better health for people in general. We explored the areas of diet and exercise as they relate to good health.
In addition to diet and exercise, your health is affected by your emotional condition, your mental attitude and psychological stress. Let’s take a closer look at these important areas.
Emotions and your health
Psychosomatic illness — the term conjures up visions of fleeting aches and pains the doctor can’t diagnose.
But contrary to this popular image, psychosomatic illness is not “all in your head.” In fact, you can die from a psychosomatic illness as well as from any other kind. And, as research shows, in reality, the “other kind” of illness may actually be rare.
Psychosomatic (or, as one author termed it, “emotionally induced” ) illness probably accounts for more than 50 percent of all cases doctors see — and some estimate that as much as 90 percent of all illness is precipitated by unhealthy emotions.
So, far from being a figment of some hypochondriac’s imagination, emotionally induced illness is something we all suffer from at one time or another.
Thousands of years ago, King Solomon wrote, “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). The Bible recognizes the link between what goes on in our heads and the condition of our bodies.
Stress and health
But how can what we think make us sick or healthy? Doesn’t a person get sick because he comes into contact with a germ when he is injured or fatigued or his resistance is low?
Yes, in part. But what makes a person’s resistance low? What weakens his body to such an extent that germs can mount a successful attack?
Research scientists have discovered that stress, defined as wear and tear on the body produced by any activity, can be produced by strong feelings and emotions.
How does this happen? Experiments have shown that every emotion automatically produces certain physical changes in our bodies.
One dramatic example of this was a man who, following an accident, had a surgical opening made in his stomach. This made it possible for doctors to observe the changes that occurred under different circumstances. Mortimer Feinberg writes that when this man was upset, “His stomach became red and engorged, and soon the folds were thick and turgid. Acid production accelerated sharply and vigorous contractions began. ”
How do such dramatic changes come about? Here is how scientists explain it, according to Mr. Feinberg: “Whenever you are in a situation of threat, your body prepares to flee or to fight. In moments of peril everything gets into the act.
“First, messages from your eyes or ears get carried to the pituitary gland located at the base of the brain. [It] secretes a substance known as ACTH into the bloodstream. ACTH triggers the adrenal glands, located above the kidneys, which further secrete … cortisone.
“Then everything within the body pops. The heart beats rapidly. Muscles of the stomach and intestines contract, forcing the blood to circulate faster. Breathing speeds up. You are ready for the enemy.”
After being battered by enough negative emotions, the body breaks down at its weakest point and illness results.
The list of diseases directly brought on by emotions is seemingly endless. Everything from colds to cancer has been attributed to mentally induced stress. And in between in seriousness are such maladies as arthritis, asthma, fatigue, hay fever, headaches, high cholesterol, heart attacks and circulatory disorders, hypertension, hives, insomnia and ulcers.
Your mind can make you ill. But the reverse is also true. As Solomon wrote, “A merry heart does good, like medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). And, “A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh” (Proverbs 14:30, Revised Standard Version).
Just as negative emotions can wear the body down, positive feelings can build it up.
Life, liberty and longevity
How can we translate this knowledge into practical ways to prolong life and avoid illness?
The book of Proverbs shows that a positive mental attitude can go a long way toward making one’s life long and pleasant (see the box above).
Dr. Hans Selye, one of the world’s foremost authorities on stress, states: “There exists a close relationship between work, stress and aging. Aging results from the sum of all the stresses to which the body has been exposed during a lifetime.
“Each period of stress — especially if it derives from frustrating, unsuccessful struggles — leaves some irreversible chemical scars, which accumulate to constitute the signs of tissue aging. But successful activity, no matter how intense, leaves you with comparatively few such scars. On the contrary, it provides you with the exhilarating feeling of youthful strength, even at a very advanced age.”
“Work wears you out mainly through the frustration of failure. Many of the eminent among the hard workers in almost any field have lived a long life.., well into their 70s, 80s or even late 90s. They lived… always doing what they like to do.”
Notice how Dr. Selye’s words parallel the command in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart…. Let your garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil. Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life… for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10).
But few of us, it seems, find ourselves doing something we really enjoy “with our might.” Dr. Selye agrees and adds “Few people belong to this group of the creative elite; admittedly, their success in meeting the challenge of stress cannot serve as a basis for a general code of behavior. But you can live long and happily by working hard along more modest lines if you have found the proper job and are reasonably successful at it.”
Health and hope
Occupying one’s life with enjoyable activities is important, but in order to do so one has to be in control of his life. If he isn’t, trouble is ahead in the form of depression and resulting disease.
Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman stated: “I believe that depression, the common cold of psychopathology, is really the belief in one’s own helplessness. In psychological postmortems of 26 sudden, unexpected deaths among Eastman Kodak employees, depression was the dominant state of mind. When these depressed persons became anxious or angry, they had heart attacks.”
Here is where belief — faith and hope — enters the picture. If a person can make scriptures like Romans 8:28-3 1 (“We know that all things work together for good to those who love God…. If God is for us, who can be against us?”) a part of his life, he will be much less likely to become depressed or ill, or to die from the effects of hopelessness.
The Bible is filled with information on how to develop and maintain a hopeful, happy, tranquil state of mind. But one of the best summaries is found in Paul’s encouraging letter to the Philippians:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!… Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:4-8).
Biblical health laws — still ahead of their time
There is a Creator God. He made the human race. And He wrote an instruction book that goes along with His product, telling how the human body and mind best function.
Just as an automobile manufacturer sends an instruction book along with each new automobile, so God gave us an instruction book — the Bible — which tells us how to live, and even gives guidelines on how to have robust health and vitality.
If battered by negative emotions, the body can break down and illness can result. But, just as negative emotions can wear the body down, positive feelings can build it up.
The Bible is the foundation of all knowledge, and includes many commonsense principles of good health. Here are some of them:
Sanitation and hygiene
The Old Testament contains many injunctions relating to health. If these laws had been put into practice, the world’s disease toll would have been drastically cut. Until the close of the 17th century, however, hygienic conditions in cities were generally deplorable. Excrement and filth were often dumped into the streets. Flies and other vermin, breeding in the filth, spread and carried disease to millions.
The principle of burying excrement and filth was given by the Scriptures more than 1,400 years before Christ (Deuteronomy 23:12-13).
Says medical historian Arturo Castiglioni: “The regulations in Deuteronomy as to how soldiers should prevent the danger of infection… from… excrement by covering it with earth constitute a most important document of sanitary legislation.”
Mr. Castiglioni continues: “Study of biblical texts appears to have demonstrated that the ancient Semitic peoples, in agreement with the most modern tenets of epidemiology, attributed more importance to… transmitters of disease like the rat and the fly, than to the contagious individual.”
Three thousand years later, when the bubonic plague devastated Europe, this knowledge had generally been lost. Some blamed noxious fumes in the air; some thought it was caused by a conjunction of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn; yet others blamed the Jews; many blamed God.
Generally, the world did not wake up to the importance of hygiene and cleanliness until about the end of the 18th century. Yet vital principles of sanitation and cleanliness were expounded by God to Moses almost 3,500 years ago.
The biblical laws of cleanliness, washings and purification were not all merely customs or rituals. They protected the camp of Israel from the dangers of contagious diseases and deadly plagues.
States Dr. D. T. Atkinson: “In the Bible greater stress was placed upon prevention of disease than was given to the treatment of bodily ailments, and in this no race of people, before or since, has left us such a wealth of laws relative to hygiene and sanitation as the Hebrews: These important laws, coming down through the ages, are still used to a marked degree in every country in the world sufficiently enlightened to observe them.
“One has but to read the book of Leviticus carefully and thoughtfully to conclude that the admonitions of Moses contained therein are, in fact, the groundwork of most of today’s sanitary laws. As one closes the book, he must, regardless of his spiritual leanings, feel that the wisdom therein expressed regarding the rules to protect health are superior to any which then existed in the world and that to this day they have been little improved upon.”
Unfortunately, even in our modern world we sometimes ignore the vital importance of sanitation and hygiene in combating and preventing illness and contagion. Our modern cities are becoming increasingly congested, polluted, filthy and dirty. Garbage strikes pose serious health problems. Our air is becoming unfit to breathe because of pollution, and our water is becoming increasingly contaminated.
Bible dietary laws
Proper diet is important in the prevention of disease. Leviticus 11 enumerates dietary laws God gave ancient Israel. Among other things, He forbade them to eat the flesh of pigs (swine), rabbits or shellfish (Leviticus 11:6-12).
Dr. Louis Lasagna writes: “Many of these make good medical sense…. The prohibition of hare and swine as sources of food certainly must have diminished the incidence of disease, in view of the capacity of these animals to transmit tularemia and trichinosis, respectively.
“The transmission of gastrointestinal infections (including typhoid fever) via polluted shellfish or water also testifies to the apparent wisdom of the Hebrews in warning against such seafood and impure water.”
Another Old Testament law forbids the eating of animal fat. This also has proven a valuable health practice.
Dr. Paul Dudley White, a heart specialist who treated U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, once quoted Leviticus 7:23: “You shall not eat any fat, of ox or sheep or goat.”
Animal fats are high in cholesterol, a fatty, waxy material that the body needs in limited amounts. The body’s inability to properly metabolize cholesterol in some cases, however, may be a contributing factor in some forms of heart disease.
Therefore, Dr. White asserts: “It is conceivable that a few years from now we medical men may repeat to the citizens of the United States of America the advice that Moses was asked by God to present to the children of Israel 3,000 years ago.”
If you would like more information on this subject, write for our free article “Is All Animal Flesh Good Food?” It explores the application of these dietary laws to our present generation.
The Bible vs. sexual diseases
Among the fastest-spreading contagious diseases in the Western world today are sexual diseases. In the United States, for instance, someone contracts venereal disease every 15 seconds. Herpes grabs headlines and causes suffering for thousands. Among homosexuals, especially, acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is rampant.
Medical authorities know that sexual diseases are spread through sexual contact. As long as there is promiscuity and free sex, there is bound to be venereal disease.
But the solution to this terrible worldwide curse is as simple as it is ancient: “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (I Corinthians 6:18).
The growing incidence of sexual diseases speaks eloquently of the need for prevention. Thousands of years ago, biblical standards of morality safeguarded against this plague that can blight the lives of yet unborn generations. There is no safe, reliable cure for sexual disease except prevention.
When God created mankind, He said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). If this one basic scriptural principle of faithful heterosexual monogamy were followed today, the world would see the end of sexual diseases.
Laws of quarantine
During the 14th century, bubonic plague struck Asia and spread to Russia, Persia, Turkey, North Africa and Europe. Perhaps one third of the population of Europe died in those tragic years.
Relentlessly, the plague invaded every city, hamlet or village. Millions lost their lives to the “grim reaper.” Panic and confusion were rampant. Death was everywhere. The toll was so great that bodies were thrown into huge pits, mass graves.
The Jewish physician Balavignus lived in those times and saw that miserable sanitation was a major factor in the spread of the disease. He instituted a cleanup movement among the Jews.
The rats, consequently, left the Jewish ghettos and moved into the gentile sectors of the city. As a result the Jews’ mortality rate from the plague was only 5 percent of what it was among their non-Jewish neighbors.
The general population soon saw the difference, but instead of emulating the Jewish hygienic measures, the people began accusing the Jews of causing the plague and poisoning wells!
A general massacre was launched. Balavignus himself, persecuted and tortured, was finally compelled to say that he and others were responsible for the disease.
Another plague that prevailed in medieval Europe was leprosy. England, Sweden, Iceland and Norway showed alarming gains in the numbers of leprosy cases in the 15th and 16th centuries. But when the authorities began to institute the segregation of leprosy cases, the plague was again brought under control.
In Norway, rigid national quarantine was introduced in 1856 because of the widespread severity of leprosy. “Ninety years later the health authorities were able to report that Norway had only five percent of the number of lepers that were there before segregation. Similarly favorable reports come to us from Finland and Sweden, where enforced segregation of lepers had also been instituted,” writes Dr. Atkinson.
Where did these quarantine laws come from?
This same author tells us: “It is most singular that a description of leprosy, as found in the 13th chapter of Leviticus, could have been written so long before our time. It is to be noticed that such an accurate description of this dread malady as it appears in the biblical narrative is not to be found in the literature of any nation for the next 1,700 years.”
Speaking of the biblical laws regarding leprosy, Dr. Atkinson states: “The laws of health Laid down in Leviticus are the basis of modern sanitary science. Moses ordered that cases of leprosy should be segregated, that dwellings from which infected Jews had gone should be inspected before again being occupied and that persons recovering from contagious disease were not to be allowed to go abroad until examined The modern quarantine harks back to these sanitary regulations of the Old Testament.”
Similarly, Arturo Castiglioni tells us, “The laws against leprosy in Leviticus 13 may be regarded as the first model of a sanitary legislation. ”
These examples show the effectiveness of the principles God gave millennia ago.
Strictly speaking, of course, the Bible is not a health textbook or medical manual. But it does reveal many health laws that mankind has required thousands of years to rediscover.
Study these laws! Search your Bible and apply the laws of God as revealed. These laws are the basis of a happy, healthy life.
Occupying one’s life with enjoyable activities is important, but to do, so one has to be in control of his or her life. If not, trouble is ahead in the form of depression and resulting disease.
The Worldwide Church of God publishes an abundance of free literature on personal living and biblical topics. For more information on health-related subjects, read our free booklets The Seven Laws Of Success and The Plain Truth About Healing, and our free reprints “Is Drinking a Sin?” and “The Western World’s Growing Tragedy – Growing Old Before Our Time.”
This two-part article was researched and compiled by the Editorial Services Department.
Proverbs and Psychosomatics
The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about the connection between emotions and health. Below are excerpts from Proverbs on this subject, quoted from the Revised Standard Version.
“Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:7, 8).
“A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself [Authorized Version: “troubleth his own flesh”]” (Proverbs 11:17).
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18).
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad” (Proverbs 12:25).
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).
“A tranquil mind gives life to the flesh, but passion [AV: “envy”] makes the bones rot” (Proverbs 14:30).
“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it”(Proverbs 15:17).
“The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones” (Proverbs 15:30).
“Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24).
“Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife” (Proverbs 17:1).
“A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
“A man’s spirit will endure sickness; but a broken spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14).
“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).
Herbert W Armstrong Good News Magazine May 1984