This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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Can faith in God heal physical ailments? How can the simple act of believing and trusting in the divine principle help to cure a bodily disease?
According to Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking, faith, when understood and applied in the right manner, can be a powerful factor in overcoming health obstacles. He argues that the amazing power of faith is not used enough in healing. Faith can work miracles, but these miracles are actually the result of spiritually scientific principles.
Here is how the healing power of God can be combined with medicine to help cure physical ailments.
Can Faith in God Help Cure Physical Ailments?
There are many examples, backed by medical evidence, of the role of faith—in combination with medical science—in healing. Faith is the added element that boosts the efficacy of medicine.
One great surgeon who combined science with faith, Dr. Hans Finsterer, believed that the healing power of God helped in his surgeries. He felt that true progress in medicine would be made only when doctors became convinced of the importance of God’s help in the treatment of patients.
Faith Is Tied to Healing
For many centuries, religious faith was tied to healing activities. The word “pastor” comes from a word that means “the cure of souls.” “Holiness” comes from a word meaning “wholeness.” “Meditation” resembles the word “medication.”
It’s generally understood that there’s a connection between how a person thinks and feels: the mental state has an effect on bodily health. Since religion deals with thoughts and attitudes, it fits that the science of faith would be involved in the healing process.
To keep a state of health and happiness, it’s important to use medical science to the fullest but also apply the techniques of spiritual science.
Author and playwright Harold Sherman was contracted to do a radio presentation with the promise that he would become a permanent writer. After months of work, he was let go and his work was used without credit. He was filled with anger and hatred over this injustice, and subsequently developed a fungus growth in his throat membranes.
Though he sought the best medical attention, the issue resolved only when he was able to give up the hate and find forgiveness and understanding in his heart.
God works through both doctors and ministers, and many physicians agree. Peale has encountered many doctors who believe the physical and spiritual are closely interrelated, finding that people’s feelings of fear, guilt and hate are often connected to health problems.
Peale met a physician who explained that many of his patients need better thought patterns more than medicine—their feelings of guilt, fear and resentment are toxic. He found himself trying to fix their spiritual troubles as well as their physical ailments, prescribing religious and inspirational books to help them live better. He believed that ministers, such as Peale, have an important role to play along with doctors in the healing of patients.
Other medical friends found that high blood pressure was connected to repressed fear, and diabetes (Shortform note: In this case Peale would be referring to Type 2 diabetes) is connected to grief and disappointment. In such situations, doctors can monitor and lower blood pressure and provide insulin, but no complete cure can come until people find a better understanding of their own emotions, which can be found through religious faith.
Medicine Plus Faith Creates Healing
From readers and listeners, Peale received numerous examples of healing in which the element of faith is present. In each of these instances, the best resources of medical and psychological science are utilized in combination with spiritual science resources.
Faith can add to medical therapies and bring about well-being if it is in God’s plan for the patient to live. Obviously, we all have to die sometime. In the cases of faith-enhanced healing Peale has investigated, he found certain factors to be present.
- The patient is willing to surrender their health into God’s hands.
- They let go of sin and have a sincere desire to have their soul cleansed.
- They believe in the combination of medical resources and the healing power of God.
- They are willing to accept whatever answer God has for them.
- They have an unquestioning faith that God can heal.
8 Strategies When a Loved One Is Ill
When someone you love is facing an illness and you want to maximize their ability to heal, using body and mind, here are eight strategies to follow.
- Believe that spirituality and medicine are both important in healing.
- Say a prayer for the medical professionals helping your loved one; they are instruments of God and his healing power.
- Keep positive, healing thoughts; don’t give in to fear or panic.
- Know that God’s spiritual law governs illness. We can be healed by medical science (natural laws) and/or through faith (spiritual law).
- Put your loved one in God’s hands completely to set into motion God’s healing powers.
- Make sure the family is in spiritual harmony. Disharmony and disease are connected.
- Visualize your loved one as healed, in perfect health. Let this image sink into your subconscious—what we believe in the subconscious we tend to get.
- When you ask God to heal your loved one, say “please” once. In later prayers, thank God for his goodness. This kind of faith releases both joy and healing spiritual power.
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- That there is no problem or obstacle you can’t overcome with faith, positive thinking, and prayer
- The practical techniques of applied Christianity
- How to take control of the events in your life rather than be directed by them