Total Health?

How To Resolve 7 Deadly Stresses: A Health Manual for All Nations. Oak Brook, Illinois: Institute in Basic Life Principles, 2008.

Carefully reading and then applying the principles in this book would prevent a great deal of disease and even bring healing to those already afflicted with major illnesses.

The inside title page adds, and Discover Five Causes off all Diseases, which might seem to be an arrogant claim, but is supported by a great deal of evidence, both from science and from the Bible. Though the author is not named, Bill Gothard’s fingerprints appear on almost every page.

The book begins with a definition of “total health”” not perfect health, but “the ability to fulfill the purposes for which God created you.” We are told that “total health involves a restored relationship with God and the accompanying signs of joy, freedom, and inward peace.”

Next comes a series of chapters on the five factors that determine health, which are: what we think; what we say; what we do; what we eat; what we inherit. Each of these then receives detailed treatment, with a description of how they affect our physical health and how they can be adjusted to foster physical and mental well-being.

“The disease crisis of modern medicine” is that we rely too much on drugs, all of which have toxic side effects. Covering symptoms with unnecessary pharmaceutical intake, we set ourselves up on a “course of increasing drugs and diseases.”

After an explanation of the harmful effects of stress on the body, we read in the body of the work how to “resolve” the seven major stressors in life: anger, guilt, sexual lust, bitterness, greed, fear, and envy.

More specifically, the writers claim that anger affects the cardiovascular system; guilt affects the nervous system; lust affects the endocrine system; bitterness the digestive system, greed the immune system, fear the respiratory system, and envy the musculoskeletal system.

Extensive references to medical literature back these diagnoses, which were apparently contributed by C. Stephen Paine Jr., M.D., who is thanked for his extensive role in the production of book.

Fundamentally, however, the starting point for each analysis is the Bible, which turns out to contain far more specific references to the relationship of mind and body than most of us would think.

At the beginning of each chapter on the various stressors, we learn how we try to hide or deny their presence in our lives. “I am not bitter… I am just deeply hurt.” On the other side of the page are ways in which we reveal express what would otherwise remain hidden. Bitterness, for example, may come out as “harsh, vitriolic speech, being very easily offended, being extremely judgmental, hard facial features,” and other manifestations of a festering wound.

After diagnosis comes a prescription for healing, based on the Bible and illustrated by vignettes of people who have found freedom by carrying out biblical instructions.

I was amazed at just how intensely practical information was packed into this slender volume, and how much wisdom is contained in a very brief compass. The reader will find step-by-step guidelines on how to “have a courageous conversation” and “how to transform lust into the dynamic of genuine love,” for example.

Some of the aphorisms bear careful pondering:

“To love someone is to understand him.” “One of the greatest gifts we can give a neighbor is a listening heart.” “It is not wrong to desire greatness. It is wrong to strive for it in our own way.” “The truest test of being a servant is how we respond when we are treated like one!” “Love is not an emotion but a choice we make based on God’s will. “Love can always wait to give. However, lust can never wait to get.”

Because of my profound admiration for the value of this beautifully-produced, lavishly-illustrated guidebook to health, I hesitate to make any criticisms. No human production is perfect, however, and How to Resolve 7 Deadly Stresses has a few that should be mentioned.

Though in general I found the interpretation of the Bible adequate, a few sections seemed to stretch the original intent of the biblical passage quoted. “Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) probably means that we are to evince kindness to all sorts of people, even those who are unlovely. Instead, it is somehow made to support the otherwise helpful concept that we should be sincere and enthusiastic in the way we greet people!

Indeed, one of the main criticisms leveled against Gothard over the past several decades has been his propensity for forced interpretations of the Bible. Perhaps he would benefit from more input from biblical scholars.

Some will be turned off by another of Gothard’s trademarks: A “simple recipe” approach to resolving complex and sometimes chronic problems. One could get the impression that it’s just a matter of going through a checklist of recommended activities, and everything will be fine. For some reason, this doesn’t bother me, perhaps because I think there is the principles are so true, and most of the application of them so helpful, that a great deal of benefit really would come from following the author’s advice.

More difficult for me to understand were the ways in which a biblical principle is linked with a “resulting quality.” “Go the Second Mile” will produce deference; “Observe Communion” (the Lord’s Supper) will result in thoroughness. And so forth. I found this to be the only really jarring feature of an what is basically an extremely helpful treatise on total health.

Overall, however, I would strongly recommend How to Resolve 7 Deadly Stresses. It deserves repeated and thoughtful reading, and forms a good complement to my The Lord's Healing Words, available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AuthorHouse.

You may obtain this book from the Institute of Basic Life Principles

G. Wright Doyle