In trying to care for a patient’s body, emotions, and spirit, most physicians wander around the proverbial elephant, first palpating a thick leg, next measuring a long trunk, and then listening to who knows where on the elephant’s body. They wonder how this all fits together. They know in their minds that somehow all of this is connected. But… without a Biblical view of man, they don’t have an answer. Oh, sure, they profess a biopsychosocialspiritual model of health, but what in the world does such a long and clumsy term mean anyway? From a secular viewpoint, it means what I just said – they know it fits together, but they don’t understand how or why.
Does the Bible really provide a better answer? Absolutely, YES! My third principle of “wholistic” care or maybe better termed “whole-person” care, rests on the reality that God made man and woman as whole beings in His image, not as a collection of unconnected parts. We are not part body, part soul, part mind, and so on. We are uniquely made as persons with each of these natures, but no single piece constitutes the entirety of who we are. My care of patients must reflect that as I address the complex issues they bring to me. If I only address their physical suffering and ignore the emotional fear that accompanies that suffering, I will miss out on providing comfort that the Bible calls me to provide (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). Furthermore, I will miss an opportunity to speak to their soul, their faith, and their hope in God.
In daily interactions, how does this look any different from other physician’s care? It begins before I even see the patient in a room as I regularly pray for God to provide insight and skill in first understanding the patient’s suffering and then wisdom in applying a remedy. It further includes my beginning patient interactions with a moment of prayer together acknowledging our need for God’s intervention if any good is to result from the interaction. During the conversation of the visit, it means I look not only for physical causes of suffering, but listen for relationships and life stressors that contribute to or are affected by the suffering. Only then can I later offer a “wholistic” treatment plan which first directs the patient’s attention to God as their source of restoration rather than science or my own abilities. This wholistic treatment plan will have hope of not only relieving physical and emotional and mental suffering, but will hope to bring patients closer to God and build their faith.
My seminary class paper on suffering and another on the Image of God in man (on the articles page of the website) go into far greater detail on viewing mankind and his suffering wholistically. For this blog post, let me just close with my dogmatic statement on the topic. If Christian physicians are to practice Biblical medicine, they must view their patients from the same viewpoint as does the Bible and practice accordingly. The Biblical viewpoint is “wholistic” and we must apply this to our care of those suffering in our midst.