David looked troubled as I walked into the examining room. He had sparkling blue eyes, blond hair, and a six-foot, three-inch frame that weighed in at 212 pounds. I had had the privilege of helping him lower his risk of developing cardiovascular disease. His family had a history of heart attacks at an early age, and David had struggled with high blood pressure since he was 22. He had made important changes and great progress in caring for his body during the past eight years. I was proud of him. Originally on five medications for hypertension, he was now on two. He exercised six days a week and ate well.
However, he told me that his health insurance would not cover one of his medications, and this was adding US$104 a month to his already tight budget. To make matters worse, the chaotic economy was forcing David’s employer to look for ways to cut expenses, and his job was in jeopardy. “Doc,” he said, “is there another treatment that can lower my blood pressure so that I don’t have to purchase this expensive medication?”
I’m a physician. I practice medicine. I appreciate the contribution that modern medicine can make in the treatment of acute health problems. If I had a heart attack, I’d want a stent. If my heart was beating too slowly, I’d want a pacemaker. If I were bleeding, I’d want a blood transfusion. If I had appendicitis, I’d want a good surgeon.
However, David had a chronic illness, and for that he needed to treat what was stressing his system. I explained that he could get by with less medication if he changed his body’s chemistry in other ways. I assured him that, while there’s a place for modern medicine, he could very likely dispense with the expensive medication by following the owner’s manual that was prepared by the One who designed his body. David and I had already discussed diet and exercise, so I gave him three additional biblical prescriptions.
People who own dogs and cats have fewer heart attacks, strokes, and infections. They also experience better results with cancer treatments. My dogs, Max and Daphne, help me relax at the end of a long day. No matter where I go, Max and Daphne follow. They want to be with me. When I get up in the morning, they are excited to see me. They give me unconditional love. It isn’t about the barking, the yelping, or the licking. It’s their love that changes the chemistry.
Jesus told us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . [and] your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37, 39).
Love in the heart improves the chemistry in the body. Love helps the body to make less of the stress chemicals, epinephrine and cortisol, and more of the beneficial chemicals, especially endorphins. Love also helps to reduce the inflammation that causes cardiovascular disease. All this enables the body to be stronger and fight disease better.
We were designed to love each other. Without love, stress increases, leading to the production of damaging substances. Statistics show that when a spouse dies, the remaining spouse is more likely to suffer health problems. Why? The loss of a loved one causes stress. Constant stress, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, ultimately causes damage to the body.
Love is putting the interests of others above your own. The world emphasizes selfishness—materialism (I want more), sensualism (if it feels good, do it), and egotism (I am all important). To destroy the world’s health, simply remove love. Have people focus on their own interests instead of the needs of others. This “me first” mentality goes against the body’s owner’s manual, creating bad body chemistry.
Thus, my first biblical prescription for David was to add more love to his life.
Being too busy can also take us away from love, away from God. We were originally designed to be with God, the Source of love. Making time for God will lead to healing. This brings us closer to the original plan. That’s why my next prescription for David was rest.
The person who breaks an arm doesn’t keep on throwing a ball. One would hope that the person who’s nauseated won’t stuff food into his or her mouth. The human body needs rest. Violating this natural law places stress on the body. Imagine a person lost in the desert with no water, no food, tired, and trying desperately to find a way back to civilization. His body would create the stress hormones it needed in order to survive. Chemicals would help to keep his blood pressure up, retain water, and maintain energy. This process is exactly what he needs in that emergency. But maintained over a longer period, these chemicals will damage his body. And that’s precisely what happens to people who don’t get enough rest.
Rest allows our bodies to renew their tissues. Even our brain needs rest. Unfortunately, the fast pace of our modern world is causing many of us to get less rest. It’s no wonder that our health suffers and we need more doctor visits and more medications.
We are also designed to rest at night. Centuries ago, it was customary to work during the day and rest at night. Today’s subtle misconception is that we must work as much as possible, be continually connected to the cell phone, schedule nonstop social and sport-related obligations, watch TV or surf the internet into the wee hours—the list goes on and on. There’s even a tendency to stay busy doing “good.” The bottom line is that when we cross the “too busy” threshold, our bodies can’t rest and repair tissue the way they were designed to.
Resting at night means avoiding late-night meals, switching off the TV, setting aside the work, getting off of the internet, and going to bed!
The Bible teaches us to work six days and rest one. Lest we should forget this principle, the Bible emphasized it by embedding it in the heart of the Ten Commandments, telling us to “remember the Sabbath day” (Exodus 20:8). How many people take the time for a weekly rest? How many even think rest is essential for their health, a way to avoid and treat disease?
Matthew 11:28 explains another way to rest: “Come to me,” Jesus said, “and I will give you rest.” God designed us to make Him a component of our rest. There’s evidence to back up this conclusion. Studies have shown that those who worship have fewer health problems. By coming to the Source of love, we obtain a free gift, a way to improve our body’s chemistry.
My patient David needed to stop. He needed to rest. Thus, my second prescription for him was to add more rest to his life.
My third prescription is from the biblical book of Proverbs: “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). God created us to be happy and have joy. When we are happy, our bodies release more endorphins, helping to balance the stress chemicals. Around the world, people are joining laughing clubs to improve health.
We are designed not only to be joyful but also to share this joy. One person can be a prescription to another with a smile, a warm greeting, or a hug. This treatment has no negative side effects, and it’s cheap!
Everyone enjoys a good, clean joke. So try collecting the best ones that come your way and sharing them with your family and around your workplace. It’s fun, and the laughter the jokes produce will improve both your health and theirs!
There are other ways to bring joy into your life. Do you like to read? Check out a good book at your local library, find a comfortable place to relax, and enjoy a pleasant hour or two with it. Visit a zoo or a museum. If you do this with family and friends, you’ll combine the joy with love.
An excellent way to add joy to your life is to do something special for someone else. Volunteer to help at the local food bank. Sign up to be a mentor to a child in a single-parent family. Visit a homeless shelter and help someone in need. Something as simple as handing a dollar bill to the person on the street corner who’s out of work can bring you a moment of joy.
My third prescription for David was to find ways to have a life full of joy.
Laws are important
Sir Isaac Newton discovered the law of gravity, which explains why, if one jumps off a high building, there will be unfortunate consequences, even for the one who does not believe in the law of gravity. I explained to David that God has given universal laws that govern our bodies. If these laws are broken, even if we aren’t aware of them or don’t believe they exist, damage will occur, putting stress on the system.
David had three new treatments: love, rest, and joy. I suggested that he add them one at a time and try boosting the dosage each day. I guaranteed that his chemistry would improve as he followed the owner’s manual more closely.
As I finished, I sensed that David understood the big picture. I’m hoping that he won’t need the expensive blood pressure medication. More than that, I hope he understands the ultimate Source of his healing.
His eyes were misty. He seemed more relaxed. The future didn’t seem so uncertain. He had received a nontraditional treatment plan. He still wasn’t in full control, but we both knew who really was in control and has been in control all along—the One who loves us and cradles us ever so closely in His arms. At the heart of health is, indeed, love.
I rechecked David’s blood pressure. It was already lower. I made an appointment to see him again in two weeks.