“Therefore, I urge you, brothers
in view of God’s mercy,
to offer your bodies as living sacrifices
holy and pleasing to God –
this is your spiritual act of worship.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed
by the renewing of your mind.”
We often see newspaper articles or television shows which discuss the important links between our minds and our bodies. Sometimes the idea that our physical health is influenced by our mental health is treated as a startling new idea. And so it is to the modern western world, which several hundred years ago came to see the body and the mind as two separately functioning entities. But the ancient wisdom of Scripture has taught us all along that the body, mind and spirit are a unit.
This ‘new’ discussion in our media about the mind-body link includes conversations about the possibility that what we think with our minds can change our physical health. Some people suggest that we can fight cancer more effectively if we engage in “positive thinking.”
There are some exciting aspects to this idea, and some potentially confusing aspects as well.
The idea that we can participate in our recovery and health is an exciting idea. We do not have to be passive people who do whatever the doctor says without asking questions or considering alternatives. We can ask questions, and gather information, and learn to be assertive partners with our doctors. We can develop positive attitudes towards our sometimes difficult treatments, seeing them as God’s gift of healing in our lives. We can also learn how to live more sanely, how to cope with stress, and how to rest and play. And we can learn to engage our imaginations as we pray for health and strength. These are exciting possibilities.
The confusion in the “positive thinking” movement is that we can draw the conclusion that we somehow caused our cancer by not thinking correctly. It is also very confusing to conclude that if we change our thinking, we could then cure ourselves of cancer. Cancers are complex diseases with multiple causes. We know that environmental toxins, genetics, a depressed immune system are but a few of the contributing factors. We cannot cause or cure cancer by thinking positively. God has not given us either that responsibility or that power.
God invites us to give ourselves to God — body, mind and soul — in a relationship of love and trust. It is good for us to develop honest, positive perspectives which grow in the rich soil of a love relationship with God. But God does not ask us to bear the heavy burden of being responsible for things that are beyond our control.
May you be transformed by the renewing of your mind as you reflect on God’s love for you.
Questions for Discussion – Session 1
1. In what ways has the idea that you need to have a positive attitude been a problem or a burden for you?
2. How has the idea of positive thinking been helpful to you?
3. What role do you think your perspective or attitude plays in your experience with cancer?
Questions for Discussion – Session 2
1. Romans 12:1-2 suggests that we can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. How has your faith renewed your thinking?
2. How has your renewed thinking transformed your life?
3. What does it mean to have a positive outlook about living with cancer?
4. What things help contribute to a positive outlook for you as you live with cancer?