Some years ago a friend and I were visiting with her grandmother. Granny’s conversation with us was peppered with resentment. Though I don’t remember today what it was that distressed her, I still have a strong impression of how her hands were gnarled with arthritis.
And I wondered if her hands would be better if she could forgive, rather than recount, her hurt.
This unanswered question resurfaced recently, when I read that arthritis took the top spot in an extensive Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study into the most prevalent diagnosed chronic illnesses in people aged 65 and older. Amazingly, arthritis had more than double the occurrence of the next most common ailment.
As my heart went out to those suffering in this way, I thought of my friend’s grandmother..
Could there be a spiritual remedy to resolve the resentment, bitterness, and frustration that often seem to accompany old age, and could doing so have any impact on arthritis?
I quickly discovered a host of books, articles, and personal testimonies of those healed of arthritis as a result of forgiveness, prayer, or spiritual counseling.
Here’s a sample of my findings:
In “The truth about forgiveness” author Wendy Bussell shares, “My family physician told me, Wendy if you do not deal with your past and the resentments you have, you will be an arthritic cripple by the time you are forty-five.” As a chaplain, she let her faith guide her to a larger relationship with God which resulted in finding forgiveness and she remained free of arthritis.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in “Strength to Love” wrote, “Medical science reveals that such physical ailments as arthritis, gastric ulcer, and asthma have on occasion been encouraged by bitter resentments. Psychosomatic medicine shows how deep resentment may result in physical deterioration.” And he goes on to quote Jesus, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
The weekly inspirational magazine, the Christian Science Sentinel carried this account by contributor Wilbur Jenkins, “I was almost completely immobile. Medical specialists were called in and diagnosed the condition as rheumatoid arthritis. They told me it was incurable. My family, who are deeply religious, brought me an article from a Protestant magazine. In it, the author recounted how he had learned to live with arthritis.
“Then and there I decided that I was going to learn to live without arthritis!”
When Wilbur went home, the first thing he did was call a Christian Science practitioner. He recounts, “I will always remember the practitioner’s gentle insistence that I must learn to love more! She recommended that I study Christ Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and especially the verse in which Jesus says (Matt. 5:44), “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
“I learned to think of love as a mental attitude of being on my knees in humble forgiveness and compassion for my fellowmen.”
As he continued to study the Bible and a companion book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by noted Christian healer Mary Baker Eddy, his arthritis disappeared. He resumed normal activities and closes his account by commenting, “I’m striving daily to learn to love more.”
These examples give us hope that we too can learn to love more and forgive. And then why shouldn’t we find ourselves as well with greater freedom of thought and movement!