As an endocrinologist, I am often asked to evaluate persons that are experiencing physical or emotional stress I am asked to determine if the body is responding properly to the stressful condition. Many hormones are designed to increase during times of stress. The increase of these hormones allows the body to effectively face the challenges of the stressful situation. These hormones include: cortisol, adrenaline, vasopressin and glucagon. On the other hand, there is a series of hormones that actually decrease during times of stress. The decrease helps to protect the body from the damaging effects of stress. The hormones that decrease during stress include thyroid hormone, insulin and the hormones that control sexual function. Failure of the stress hormones to respond appropriately can result in 1. a slowing of the recovery process, 2. a worsening of the underlying illness or 3. worst of all, death.
As a physician, I have also observed the important role of faith in the lives of my patients that are facing stressful situations. Medicine is wrought with many stress provoking situations. A diagnosis of cancer, the physical trauma from an accident, an urgent need for surgery or other procedure, the failure of a therapy to work as intended. Each of these can test our resolve. Each of these often leads to the question, “Why?”
Having someone to turn to (God), having a hope to stand in and having a faith to rely on is ultimately more important than even the healing mechanisms that have been designed into our bodies. In a recent review of the medical literature, a positive outcome in response to prayer was found in seven out of twelve studies. Praying regularly was found to be an important factor in living longer and staying healthy. Finally, praying for others has been shown to reduce the negative physical effects on the person praying. (Note to prosperity preachers: praying for material gain did not counter the effects of stress.)
Reassurance When Facing Stress
Deuteronomy 31:8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.
(Quoted in Hebrews 13:5)
When tragedy strikes we are not alone
Psalm 121:4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
Matthew 28:20 And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
There is never a time we cannot reach out for encouragement and reassurance.
Isaiah 38:17 Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Our lives are not a series of random, purposeless events. Everything happens for a reason.
Some may criticize this article as belonging more in the religion section of the newspaper and than in the medical section. Medicine is the study of the body that was “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God. We have both physical and spiritual components to our being. In addressing stress, attention to the spiritual component often is critical to the success of the physical response.
When stressful times come, please learn to ask “What?” rather than “Why?” Asking “What does God want me to learn from this?” gives purpose to life’s stressful events. Asking “why did this happen?” usually only worsens the stress.