Stress and Health
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15, ESV).
It was her third visit for the same GI issue, and despite a thorough evaluation and several attempts at medical therapies, there was no improvement in her symptoms. I was just about to begin my discussion with, “So, tell me, what is your stress level?” when the patient quietly and somewhat ashamedly asked, “Do you think this has anything to do with stress?” It was easy for me to answer, “Absolutely, what’s going on?” She then spilled out her story of an affair with a married man that she knew was wrong and was “eating her up inside.” We talked and prayed together and she left that visit determined to break off the affair. With her next visit I was not surprised to see how her symptoms had nearly resolved.
We all know that stress is related to, or even causes, many disease states. Simply asking about patients’ stress levels can be a great way to delve more deeply into their lives to learn clues connected to their symptoms.
We also know that unrepentant sin in our lives may be a deep cause of stress and illness. In God’s wisdom, physical consequences of our sin may be used by God to get our attention and point us back to Him. He loves us so much that He will use anything He can to call us to Himself.
As healthcare professionals, we are often in the position to hear all kinds of complaints from patients. In many cases, these are God’s signals for us to join in His work of transformation. When we know our patients well enough to dig deeper into difficult symptoms, we may be granted the privilege to speak the truth into areas more profound than mere biology.
This is a careful, sacred ground we tread, where we may earn the right with some of our patients to tell how God has designed them and how He might now use the consequences of badly chosen behaviors for their own good. We are speaking the truth in love to do so.
Of course, we must always tread lightly with humility, as we ourselves are sinners.
Please help me listen when a patient’s rebellion against you may be contributing to their illness and you ask me to speak. Examine me, also, that I may not speak as a hypocrite. May I be your voice of both truth and love to my patients today.
by Lavonne Johnston, PA-C