PETALUMA, CA, July 28, 2014 – A man who used to suffer from chronic back pain makes a pretty impressive claim about the herbal supplement that finally gave him some relief. “This stuff is God in a bottle,” he says in an advertisement appearing in email spam boxes around the country. “It healed me so fast it was like an answer to prayer.”
Now here’s someone who obviously appreciates the healing power of the Divine. A bit perplexing, however, is why he chose to rely on an herbal supplement instead of going directly to God for help.
Perhaps it has something to do with a general misunderstanding of God, coupled with a widespread dependence – some say overdependence – on pills, supplemental, medicinal or otherwise. While no one can profess to know all there is to know about God, there are a few concepts of him or her or it floating around that are at least worth considering, particularly as they relate to health.
The first is that God isn’t so much a some-one as a some-thing – a universal and immensely loving principle, if you will, governing one and all, whose effectiveness, at least from our present perspective, is in direct proportion to our acceptance of its presence and power.
The second is that God doesn’t operate by way of random intervention but through a consistent awareness on our part of his – or her or its – ready availability. While this adds a layer of personal responsibility, it tends to remove the need for late night runs to the pharmacy.
The third is that God really does answer our prayers – not in the sense that he gets up off his celestial sofa whenever he hears someone knocking on the door, but that “an absolute faith that all things are possible to God,” as Mary Baker Eddy describes it, begets absolute proof, perhaps the most notable being better health.
Back in 2010, a medical researcher from Stanford University found himself putting these ideas to the test, albeit unknowingly. In a study conducted on a handful of undergrads, he found that those looking at a photo of their beloved boyfriend or girlfriend while receiving pain stimuli from a hot probe reported feeling 44% less pain than when they looked at a photo of just another friend.
What does this have to do with God?
For many, God and love are synonymous, the one being the essential and inevitable expression of the other. Relating this to the Stanford study, then, it would be fair to say that a decrease in pain correlates to an increased awareness of love or God. Even more encouraging is the idea that our ability to love is innate, readily available, immensely powerful and effective.
The study also suggests an intriguing relationship between moral transformation (love) and physical restoration (painlessness), even the possibility that health is a largely if not exclusively mental phenomenon.
While no one may be able to explain why the man in the email ad experienced such remarkable improvement to his health, most everyone would agree that God can’t, in fact, be found in a bottle. On the other hand, having a greater understanding of the healing effect of love may just be the answer to prayer we’ve all been waiting for.
Eric Nelson’s columns on the link between consciousness and health appear regularly in a number of local and national online publications. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. Follow him on Twitter @norcalcs.