As a believer in Christ, the term personal power is probably an unusual term for me to use. In fact, in our circles, all power belongs to the Lord Jesus – end of discussion. Unfortunately, when a person has been abused, traumatized, or suffered through years of chronic illness, God seems far away. Feelings of intense powerlessness begin to envelop her.
Hopelessness is a daily companion.
In those times, emotional, mental, or physical healing are a dream out of reach. The darkness cloaking us feels eternal. Finally, we lay down whatever fight we had left. Internally, we curl into the fetal position and cede our power or personal will over to the invader.
Healing And The Medical World
After living with fibromyalgia and chronic migraines for 15 and 13 years, respectively, I am no stranger to the medical world. Until that time, my personal interaction with doctors was yearly check-ups and birthing my children.
Consequently, I entered the world of medicine expecting an answer to my pain and fatigue. However, what I received for 8 solid months was more questions. In fact, a rheumatologist insinuated that my symptoms were psychological. In other words, he said I was probably ‘just depressed’.
I wonder if he would have said that to a man? Furthermore, I wonder how many other suffering women he dismissed?
Thankfully, due to the support of my husband and family, I persisted until I found a doctor who could diagnose and help me. My point is, the medical world has the power to demean us and deepen our sense of powerlessness. Although there are empathic physicians available, there are many who have no bedside manner while they are informing us what they know (or don’t know) about our illness.
At least that was my initial experience. And I know I am not alone.
Can the medical community help us? Most of the time, yes! However, when you have questions, do some research of your own before your appointment. Arrive prepared with personal knowledge. Finally, when you are hurting, never allow yourself to be shut down by a doctor on an ego trip.
There are other, caring physicians available.
1st Way To Help Ourselves
For many years, my perennial flower beds have been a source of peace for me. I’ve called it my dirt therapy. Recently, I discovered that there is a reason for the positive feelings I have when I play in the dirt.
Scientists have discovered a bacterium in soil microbes that have a similar effect on the brain as an anti-depressant. After testing rats by injecting or ingesting the microbes, researchers found that the rats had less stress, better cognitive abilities, and increased concentration.
The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier. Studies were conducted on cancer patients [who]reported a better quality of life and less stress…Gardeners inhale the bacteria, have topical contact with it, and get it into their bloodstream when there is a cut or other pathway for infection. The natural effects of the soil bacteria antidepressant can be felt for up to 3 weeks if the experiments with rats are any indication.
Other studies revealed many positive results from gardening. These included reductions in depression, anxiety, and body mass index, as well as increases in life satisfaction, quality of life, and sense of community. In addition, gardening increased life satisfaction, vigor, psychological wellbeing, and cognitive function. Further research on gardening found it improved life satisfaction and mood.
2nd Way to Help Ourselves
Gardening may not be something you can or want to do. I understand. What about a walk in nature?
“There is mounting evidence, from dozens and dozens of researchers, that nature has benefits for both physical and psychological human wellbeing,” says Lisa Nisbet, PhD, a psychologist at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who studies connectedness to nature. “You can boost your mood just by walking in nature, even in urban nature. And the sense of connection you have with the natural world seems to contribute to happiness even when you’re not physically immersed in nature.”
Moreover, studies have shown that a 30-minute walk in nature will speed the health recovery process, reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of cancer. In addition, it will lower cortisol levels, a stress hormone.
Unfortunately, we humans tend to brood. Scientists call this morbid rumination, and it causes us to focus on the negative aspects of our lives. Naturally, focusing on the negative can lead to anxiety and depression. Scientist and researcher Gregory Bratman, and colleagues, discovered that participants in his rumination study who walked in wooded places had less brooding activity in their brains.
3rd Way to Healing
In 2015, UC Berkeley psychology PhD candidate Craig L. Anderson began investigating awe and its association with nature. He conducted two studies, the first with 124 vets and underserved youth who went on either one-day or four-day whitewater rafting trips. Each kept a diary of their daily experiences and emotional responses.
Anderson wanted to track awe, amusement, contentment, gratitude, joy and pride.
In the second study, with a similar number of participants, Anderson chose to have them in nature – hiking, walking, etc. However, this time they did not participate in the excitement of whitewater rafting. Again, they kept daily diaries noting experiences and emotional responses.
In both studies, says Anderson, awe was the only element that predicted whether people would feel less stressed and more “healed.” Further, awe was the only emotion directly associated with nature.
Anderson said, “…awe essentially stops the brain and allows the expression of other positive emotions.”
The Healing of Awe
First, I want to thank Ann Voskamp for pointing me to the studies on nature and awe. As one who understands suffering, she has a gift for putting words to pain. My intent here is to spread the word farther.
My grandchildren know that around me, the word awesome is reserved for God alone. Of course, since God created the world, nature is indeed, awe-inspiring.
According to the Bible, nature serves as a testimony to the majesty and glory of the Lord.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 19:1, ESV
And one called out to another and said,
“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.” Isaiah 6:3
His splendor covers the heavens,
And the earth is full of His praise. Habakkuk 3:3bIn his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Psalm 95:4-5, ESV
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse
The Ultimate Healer
Since the creation of the world, we have been lavished with the beauty of nature. Some may have to drive or walk to a park to enjoy it. Others live in the midst of it. Fortunately, we can all look up at the stars or own a few house plants.
The point is, time spent in nature brings healing to our troubled souls. Most importantly, it also leads to the awe of our Creator and Lord…the ultimate Healer.