Healing Line

Healing Line

Thoughts From Francis

by Francis MacNutt
June 1993

Dear Friends,

One of the most exciting developments in recent years has been the medical world's discovery of how our spiritual health contributes to our physical health.

This confirms what we have discovered, that our prayers for healing often need to go beyond the purely physical. We may need to counsel and pray for those spiritual and emotional attitudes and hurts that often underlie physical sickness.

Some twenty years ago Doctors Friedman and Rosenman wrote the ground–breaking Type A Behavior And Your Heart, about the connection they found between heart disease and the stressed out, irascible Type A personality. This knowledge has helped guide us (on the human level, at least) in knowing what to look for while praying for those with heart problems.

So, for 20 years, doctors have indicated that improving our spiritual health can help cure heart disease, our No. 1 Killer. But how about No. 2 Killer: Cancer? Yes, they are working on that one, too. Research is coming out on those behavior elements that seem to set us up to come down with cancer.

Another new, fascinating study, The Type C Connection by Dr. Lydia Temoshok, attempts to show that certain behaviors and attitudes do set us up to come down with cancer. We know that we all have cancer cells, so there has to be a reason why, at some point in life, some people's immune systems are no longer able to fight off the cancer invasion. Dr. Temoshok describes her cancer patients thusly:

  1. They don't express their anger. Often they don't even know that they are angry!
  2. They also tend not to express other negative emotions, such as grief or fear.
  3. They are patient and unassertive. They appease people and are co–operative in their family and work relationships. They always comply with external authorities.
  4. They are overly concerned with meeting the needs of others and don't pay enough attention to their own needs.

That list looks like a description of someone we might see as an ideal Christian! It certainly suits the way I was trying to live for many of my younger years, and it's still with me. It is embarrassing to think that while I was striving to be holy, I may have been setting myself up, in some ways, to be sick!

This has a lot to say, doesn't it, about a model of Christianity that many of us accepted as Gospel, but which was flawed in some aspects — especially in dealing with our emotions. The Gospels show Jesus getting very angry on occasion, yet many of us feel guilty about expressing our anger.

Paul's Letter to the Galatians shows him confronting Peter to his face, yet many of us would be ashamed to confront a religious authority (e.g. a bishop) and say, "You are wrong. Stop acting this way!"

Dr. Temoshok offers a 20 point checklist (if you agree with 10 or more you are a Type C cope–er). I will not give the whole list, but here are a few that brought me up short:

  • I rarely, if ever, lose my temper.
  • I would not describe myself as assertive.
  • I'm more concerned about the needs of my family and friends than my own.
  • If someone I care about asks me to do a favor that I'd rather not do, I'll do it anyway.
  • I have a hard time standing up to authority figures.
  • I don't cry very often.
  • It's best to be positive at all times. I try not to let myself get depressed, sad, or angry when things go wrong.

It's quite a shock, isn't it, to find that many behavior patterns that we practice because we think they are saintly can actually be destructive? Our ideal, we discover, is really a false spirituality.

Dr. Bernie Siegel talks about people who assume the victim role as cancer patients, assuming that it's God's will that they suffer patiently — they are the ones who die! Those who fight against their sickness are the ones who have a chance.

This all fits with what I learned when I entered the healing ministry 25 years ago, we should not automatically accept sickness as God's will. Those who believe sickness has been sent by God are often the ones who die.

In the Gospel view, sickness is evil. It's something we pray to heal because, ultimately, sickness comes from Satan while God is on the side of life and health.

Furthermore, anger and grief are God–given elements of our humanity — each with its own purpose, and we are meant to learn, as Christians, how to experience and express anger and grief in a constructive way.

Changing Type C behavior means we have to get in touch with our anger (which is meant to motivate us to change unjust and harmful relationships) — to feel anger and learn to express it in an appropriate, non–destructive way.

What does it mean to think, feel and act as a Christian? That's what it all comes down to. I need to get rid of my false image of being religious and instead, become an·· authentic follower of Jesus Christ, who was angry enough to fashion a whip of cords, and who was sad enough to weep unashamedly over Jerusalem.

I need to weep more, not less; laugh more, not less; and get more angry at those evils that need to be changed.

P.S. Much of this is inspired by Mary Soergel's review in Peace of Hope, a privately printed publication meant to encourage those affected by cancer. Mary was herself healed of cancer through prayer.

Scripture to Ponder

"...Do not let truth leave you... It will be healing to your body, and refreshment to your bones." Prov 3:1–8

Love in Christ,
Francis, with Judith,
Rachel & David

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. June 1993 Issue