Reflecting on Health: Life’s Greatest Gift

Most, if not all of us, believe that good health is the greatest of life’s gifts — and for good reason. Without it, we can’t physically function the way we would like to, and that causes even more psychological pain and suffering. 

The Baha’i teachings confirm it. Abdu’l-Baha wrote: “Although ill health is one of the unavoidable conditions of man, truly it is hard to bear. The bounty of good health is the greatest of all gifts.

Illness disrupts our daily lives, plans, and routines, sometimes horribly. Loved ones see us hurting and don’t quite know how to help, or if they can. Our compromised physical or mental condition turns into a burden for us and for others. 

Illness, as we all know, can bring on some of the worst experiences of life. Caring for someone you love who has terminal cancer in their last days is a gut-wrenching ordeal, a far cry from friends bringing pans of entrees to the house to supplant the need for cooking.

RELATED: Sickness: Combining Science and Spirituality to Fully Heal

A Great Health-Related Tragedy

The world has just suffered through a great health-related tragedy. 

During the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, even knowledgeable physicians and capable hospitals couldn’t save their patients. Globally, we’ve so far seen 608 million cases and 6.5 million deaths — grandparents, parents, children, siblings, relatives, friends, teachers, doctors and nurses themselves, and our fellow human beings. If it weren’t for the bold measures taken by dedicated researchers, physicians, and public health officials, the statistics would be far worse.

These kinds of global tragedies can help us make future decisions. We all know we will die, but even so, we want to avoid the severe illness and suffering that can precede our transitions to the next world.

Science, research, doctors and nurses, and prayers, and those who care about us, are all our friends when pain or disease occurs. It can strike like lightning, random, unforeseen, or gradually, hidden, and surreptitiously. My Dad died at age 50 from a massive heart attack in his sleep. My cousin had a long bout with cancer and died despite extensive trials and experimental treatments. These kinds of avoidable tragedies can make us inconsolable.

What We Can Do to Live a Healthy Life

Making the choices that allow us to live a healthy life isn’t easy. Endless TV commercials blast us with medicine commercial after medicine commercial. Workout gyms dot the U.S. landscape. Health drinks and concoctions, vitamin supplements, all the way to only eating organic foods, all vie for our dollars, not to mention all the miracle claims, formulas, prescriptions, and advice from others. One day drinking coffee is bad for us, but now the experts say three cups a day is fine. The list of what not-to-dos, like smoking, taking illegal drugs or abusing legal ones, goes on and on. Few people can keep up with it all.

The Baha’i teachings offer a solution to this morass of sometimes contradictory advice, recommendations, and data.

In all matters moderation is desirable,” Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith wrote. “If a thing is carried to excess, it will prove a source of evil.” 

In matters of health, and in every other matter, Baha’is try to take a moderate perspective on life. Moderation in all things, Baha’u’llah advised: “Whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence.

 That practical and principled standpoint allows Baha’is to recognize and adopt valid and insightful ideas whatever their source, without prejudice. “Whoso cleaveth to justice, can, under no circumstances, transgress the limits of moderation,” Baha’u’llah said

What the Baha’i Teachings Say About Health and Healing

Abdu’l-Baha, the son and successor of Baha’u’llah, said:

To admit that health is good does not constitute health. A skilled physician is needed to remedy existing human conditions. As a physician is required to have complete knowledge of pathology, diagnosis, therapeutics and treatment, so this World Physician must be wise, skillful and capable before health will result. His mere knowledge is not health; it must be applied and the remedy carried out.

This stance accords with the primary Baha’i principle of the essential harmony of science and religion. Baha’is believe in science, and know that we can rarely heal ourselves unless we have access to the skills of a trained and experienced medical professional. Even then, a permanent cure can be elusive, since the world does not yet have cures for every physical ailment and disease. 

That’s why we need research and science, proven mechanisms to inoculate ourselves against disease, and an able physician to provide our care. Society absolutely needs more competent physicians, nurses, technicians, and specialists to treat us. After scientific investigation and the necessary trials, they can determine what can best heal our own unique complex of chemicals and cells in our body and mind.

RELATED: The Effect of Expectations on Healing

Prayers Heal, Too

If we rely only on the science of medicine, we dismiss spiritual healing at our peril, because it can have proven positive effects on our spirit while improving our body’s ability to overcome disease. Among many Baha’i healing prayers, this passage from the writings of Abdu’l-Baha, sent to a Baha’i woman whose loved one was gravely ill, can help us understand the spiritual components of healing:

O handmaid of God! The prayers which were revealed to ask for healing apply both to physical and spiritual healing. Recite them, then, to heal both the soul and the body. If healing is right for the patient, it will certainly be granted; but for some ailing persons, healing would only be the cause of other ills, and therefore wisdom doth not permit an affirmative answer to the prayer.

O handmaid of God! The power of the Holy Spirit healeth both physical and spiritual ailments.

All of us will experience pain and suffering in this life. How we act to prevent and overcome it, and our attitude towards it, make us grateful for those times without it.

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