April 28, 2017

Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age

It seems like the more control we gain over our physical well-being, the more we want to control — and the more it scares it when we can’t! But what if we’ve been approaching our healthcare all wrong?

As frail, mortal humans we place a premium on physical health. We want to be healthy and whole. If we are hurt or injured, we seek a remedy. If we are diseased, we seek a cure. We exercise, diet, and take vitamins to keep our bodies working in prime condition. We even spend money on well-visits just to make sure there’s nothing wrong behind the scenes.

None of that is wrong . . . until it crowds out everything else. None of that is harmful until it becomes our main focus in life, causing anxiety and stress over a physical condition that we really can’t control.

You know the feeling. You feel a tingling sensation, suffer a few heart palpitations, get a migraine that won’t go away, or have some digestive upset that can’t be explained — and your mind immediately goes to “What’s wrong with me? What if I have cancer? What if this won’t go away?”

We in America have access to some of the best healthcare in the world (or so I’m told), yet we also experience the highest anxiety levels when it comes to pursuing medical care. If our doctors need to run further tests, or if they just simply doesn’t know what’s causing the problem, we stress and fret and actually worsen our physical symptoms.

But do we really own our health? Does it belong to us — or to God? What if our health is a gift to simply nurture as we have received it, rather than a possession to control and protect? 

Author and medical doctor Bob Cutillo dives deeply into this issue in his book Pursuing Health in an Anxious AgeHe suggests that there’s an ever-widening gap between what we expect from our healthcare and the truth of who we are as human beings. Though our medical abilities and understanding have seemed to grow by leaps and bounds, and though it feels like we have more control over physical problems than ever before, there are ways in which it has moved far too rapidly and is actually less in our control than ever before.

Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age

In his words:

Our current efforts in health care are full of power and possibility. But though policies and practices progress rapidly forward, it feels like a train coming off the rails because we’ve gone too fast, and we have no clear idea where we are going. In order to figure that out, we have to be willing to think about what human beings are in our nature and who we are in our destiny. 

We typically pursue medical care for the purpose of becoming more whole, of curing disease and healing injury. We think that choosing just the right doctor, the right treatment, the right lifestyle will guarantee us a healthier body and thus a happier mind.

But medicine will always fall short of our expectations. It can never fully deliver us from who we are (mortal creatures marred by sin) or where we’re headed (death). 

In pursuing top-notch healthcare so fervently, are we actually seeking to deny the frailty and mortality of our bodies? Otherwise, why do we so desperately seek to escape our physical limitations? Why do we try to run from death with all our (feeble) strength?

{Note: the author does caution that changing our perspective and pursuit of medical care “in no way dismisses or discredits a thoughtful care of the body that includes healthy diet, good exercise, and proper rest.” He is a medical doctor, after all!}

Medicine is a gift of God for the benefit of humanity. But perhaps we’ve approached it from the wrong direction. Perhaps what we want is not so much good healthcare, but control over our bodies.

Cutillo seeks to help us cultivate a biblical understanding of the relationship between faith and health in the modern age, reorienting us to a wiser pursuit of health for the good of all. He approaches this by considering four major aspects of our relationship with medicine:

  • What has shaped our current views of healthcare?
  • How does our attitude toward healthcare deny biblical truths about humanity?
  • How does our hope for immortality affect our decisions about medical care?
  • What are the underlying connections between the Gospel and medicine?

As someone who has lived with chronic illness for over ten years, seeking to control symptoms and fight physical decline, I have a valid reason to pursue quality healthcare in a timely and consistent manner.

Pursuing Health in an Anxious AgeBut even those with good reason to do so can elevate it beyond its station and make it a higher priority than it should be.

“If our bodies are an inescapable fact, then trying to change them beyond what they are meant to be is likely to make us sick rather than healthy.”

Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age challenges the world’s passion for physical longevity, pinpoints the disparity between our care for the soul and care for the body, and questions the prevailing methods of both providing and seeking healthcare.

As we are all feeble creatures prone to disease and destined for physical death, I would recommend it to everyone who wants to approach physical care in a manner that honors the Gospel. It is deep, and I’m sure I failed to grasp some of the truths that Cutillo expounded upon, but it is thorough and well-balanced between our obvious need for medicine and our equally obvious need to establish a biblical worldview in every area of life.

I leave you with one final thought from the book’s introduction:

“We need a view of life and health that can respond to the tragedy of cancer that fails treatment, the unfaithfulness of a spouse who has given his wife a sexually transmitted disease, or the birth of an imperfect child. We need a story that can embrace contingency without running away, even finding a way to make it meaningful . . . that accepts the basic reality that we are dependent, frail, and fragile.”

To learn more, read this interview with the author or buy the book here.

 

 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Also, I received this book for free from Crossway in exchange for providing an honest review. All opinions expressed herein are completely my own.


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