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THOSE WHO ARE SICK
By Dr Marion Ashton
Those who are sick, if they are wise, go to a doctor. I, as a doctor, know that the most difficult kinds of sickness to treat and you, as a patient, know that the most difficult kind to understand and bear are those which have no physical cause but which are said to be nervous in origin. Maybe the doctor calls the condition nervous tension or exhaustion, an anxiety state or depression according to the state of mind of the patient. The patient on the other hand may be more conscious of distressing physical symptoms such as palpitations, indigestion, headaches, or many and varied other aches and pains and strange feelings in different parts of the body. He may be constantly exhausted or finding sleep difficult. He may be gripped with sudden fears and feelings of panic. All these symptoms are difficult to understand and to explain but they are very real, not imaginary as some people seem to think. They make it very hard for the patient to cope with the pressures and tensions in outward circumstances which are bound to come to all of us.
Anyone may suffer from signs of nervous tension as a result of great or prolonged stress, but there are some people who are more prone to it than others. These could be called insecure people; people who do not feel safe, who have many fears, who lack self-confidence, who are unsure of themselves; who often have a sense of inadequacy and failure. The seeds of this kind of insecurity are usually sown in early childhood. The little child who is brought up in a home where there is a stable relationship between the parents, and good relationships with the parents, is likely to grow up reasonably secure and stable. If these personal relationships in the home are threatened by constant friction between parents, or if there is actual breakdown in the marriage, then the seeds of later insecurity are sown. The most important relationship for the security of a child is that between the parents, but the relationships of the parents individually with the child are very important. Every child needs to feel the love and acceptance of its parents and to be brought up in a firm, secure framework.
As a Christian doctor I see the need of two different kinds of treatment for these nervous conditions.
First, ordinary medicine is needed. Medicine can be of great help in the treatment of these signs of nervous tension. It is important to take the medicine prescribed by the doctor. It is also important to take care of the physical health, especially to have a balanced diet and to get sufficient sleep. Patients have expressed to me the knowledge that medicine does not reach the root of their trouble and have therefore asked what is its value. While recognising that this question is justified I believe that it is right to accept the real help that medicine can give. At the same time when patients say this they are acknowledging the need of a second kind of treatment, one that will not only help the symptoms but will reach down to the insecurity underlying the tension.
This need for something to reach deeper into the personality than ordinary medicine reaches is where I see the vital need of the Christian message. For the sickness of insecurity I see the need of the Great Physician, the Lord Jesus Christ. He can do things which no ordinary doctor can do. The centre of His message which is the Christian message, is that He can bring us into one absolutely secure, stable personal relationship. A relationship with One utterly secure Person Who never changes and Who will never let us down. When Jesus Christ was here on earth He said that He had come to show us what God is like, that He is God become man, and that to come to Him is to come to God. Above all He showed us what it means to call God “our Father”; that God is like the best of all possible earthly fathers and more so. The heart of Christianity is not church-going, being christened or baptised, reading the Bible, praying, doing our best; it is this personal relationship with God through Jesus.
I have talked of a personal relationship. What do I mean by that?
I think a personal relationship always has in it the sense of belonging. We say, “my father,” “my mother,” “my friend,” “my children”. When we come to God through Jesus Christ we can begin to say “God is my Father”, “I am His child”. I know a lady who was an illegitimate child and never knew her own father. She grew up very insecure and full of tension. She then came into this personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and when telling me about it she said, “You have no idea what it meant to me to be able to say for the first time, ‘I’ve got a Father. God is my FatherÌ“.”
To have this personal relationship with God is to enter into the security of the Love of God.
We all know that a child needs to feel itself loved if it is to feel safe and secure. To begin to know the love of God, that God loves ME is a wonderfully stabilising factor in life.
Jesus showed us that God’s love is an accepting love. He said that He will never reject or turn away anyone who comes to Him.
Fear of rejection is a very common fear. We all want to be accepted, we all need to feel accepted. Children who have felt rejected in childhood often grow up with a great fear of being rejected till this fear colours all their experiences. A young man who had felt this rejection in childhood described himself as being like someone living in a castle with high walls in which were little windows covered by blinds. If somebody new came into his life he would let up the blinds and peep out; if there was the slightest sign of that one rejecting him he would pull down the blinds and hide behind the walls. It is a wonderful thing to know that God’s love is an accepting love, that He accepts us just as we are; not just when we are ‘good’. He never rejects anyone who comes to Him.
I was so pleased to be able to say to her, “Yes, God can forgive a woman”.
Another question that many people are asking is, “Can I ever forgive?” Bottled up resentment is often present in one who is insecure. Resentment against parents, resentment against oneself, perhaps resentment against God. How can one who has been deeply sinned against learn to forgive and let go of resentment? How, in some circumstances, can one learn to forgive oneself? This is not easy. Forgiveness is always costly. To see the presence of resentment does not mean that it is easy to let it go. The greatest power on earth to make possible the letting go of resentment is the forgiving love of God as it is allowed to come into the heart, forgiving and then making the forgiven one able to forgive.
To enter into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ is to enter into the security of the control of God.
I said at the beginning that insecure people are people with many fears. Because of fear they are not at peace in their emotions. This part of the personality is like a troubled sea. There is conflict and anxiety. There is the tendency to react by going on the defensive or becoming aggressive or running away from the situation which produces fear.
I am often asked the question, “Can these emotions be controlled? Can my emotional reactions be changed? They are so much a part of me; built up over so many years. Can they be changed?” My conviction is that only the power of God can control and change them. They are too strong and too instinctive for me to change them myself. Many have tried their hardest and given up in despair. But God can come and control and change from within. He really does come to live in those who come to Him through Jesus. Canon J. B. Phillips says rightly that there is an actual invasion of the human personality by the Spirit of God. Our emotions can be likened to an orchestra tuning up in which every instrument is playing a different tune and there is discord. A conductor is needed to take control, to bring unity and harmony. God is the great Conductor who can take control of these emotions of ours, and bring harmony and peace where there is conflict and tension.
The control of God is not only within, it is also an outer control of our circumstances. Those who have entered into a personal relationship with God can come to a deep and quiet conviction that controlling every detail of their circumstances is a loving heavenly Father Who will allow nothing to come into the life of one of His children except what can be turned to his or her good. This conviction can become a powerful factor in removing frustration from the present and anxiety concerning the future.
There is one other thing I should like to say about the security of this personal relationship with God. It is the only security which is not threatened by death, the only final security. Every other relationship with another human being, however stable it may be is threatened by death. Which means that all I have been saying is really of vital importance to us all not only to those who suffer from nervous tension. We may have had wonderfully secure homes and be comparatively secure, stable, people, but we shall never know the deepest kind of security except through a personal relationship with One Who can never die. Because Jesus died and rose again we have the certainty that those who have a personal relationship with God through Him belong to One Who will never die. We also have the certainty that for these their own death will not end the relationship but will be a door into a fuller, better life.
It is true that many Christians have had times of suffering from nervous tension; it is also true that there are very many Christians who would say that the love of God and the power of God have been the most vital factors in helping them to face the tensions of life and in bringing them through the times of inner nervous tension.
Would you like to know in experience the increasing security which comes from a personal relationship with God?
The Lord Jesus gave a wonderful invitation when He was here on earth which is still open to you today. He said, “Come unto me all you that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest”. If you do not know how to come to Him, could you just tell Him that you want to come but you do not know how; that you would like to know God as your Father? To do that is to come to Him. Or go to someone who you know is a Christian and ask that one to help you to enter into this relationship.
If you want to understand more read the New Testament, especially the Gospels which tell about the life and death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Just take some step towards Him and He will lead you on.