The Biblical View of Illness and Physical Problems
- Introduction: The Bible is not a medical textbook or a textbook on the treatment of physical problems. However, it does deal with the whole person – thoughts, desires, and actions/behavior. Therefore, it supplies everything that a believer needs for life and godliness (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4). It is all a believer needs to properly address and respond to physical problems.
- How is that possible – how is that so? It provides a proper anthropology and world view.
- Man is God’s image, a duplex being, and a whole person.
- Man was created a real, historical being (a real Adam); a relational being; a rational being, a revelational being; religious being; and a responsible being.
- Man is a feeling being.
- Man is a faith-based being.
- Man was initially in perfect sync with God – desires, thoughts, and commands.
- Every person is a rational, responsible being in or out of proper relationship to God
1) He functions either as a believer – God’s child and a wise man fundamentally functioning as a God pleaser/worshiper
2) Or he functions as God’s enemy as a self pleaser/worshipper – he is a fool.
- All of life is theological and everyone is a theologian.
- No area of life is neutral or lived in a vacuum.
- Every person will live as a good or bad theologian – to please God or please self.
- The Bible is our owner’s manual provided and preserved for every believer.
- When the Bible speaks about taking care of the body, it is authoritative.
- Among other truths, the Bible teaches that:
- God designed your body, saved it, and entrusted it to you (1 Corinthians 6:12-20).
- Therefore, you are not your own. You have a new Master – the Lord Jesus Christ is your Boss (Romans 10:9).
- As a result of God’s ownership, you are obligated (duty) and privileged (joyful devotion) to care for your body as a good steward: Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 5:9.
- Stewardship is a universal principle – provisional ownership carries God’s expectations, your responsibility, and God’s accounting.
- A steward is a person who has been entrusted with something that belongs to another in order to take care of it and is expected to give an account of his efforts: 1 Cor. 4:2.
- The stewardship issue for every believer is this: does he function as a good or bad theologian-steward?
- Applying biblical principles to the whole person is the best thing a believer can do for his health (Proverbs 3:5-8). Unbelievers benefit as well (explain).
- Summary points:
- Life is relational
- It is lived in or out proper relationship to God.
- Every person is functionally either a God pleaser/worshipper or self pleaser/worshiper
- The Bible is the believer’s owner’s manual for life; it is God’s gift.
- While it is not a medical textbook, what it says about health/disease is authoritative.
- God designed your, saved you as a whole person, and entrusted your body to you.
- You are not your own – Jesus is Master/Boss and the HS indwells you and the church.
- You are a steward-theologian – good or bad.
Section One: The Origin of Misery, Pain, and Physical Problems: Medicine’s Perspective
- Definition: definitions make all the difference. You may hear these terms: disease, illness, and sickness. Each one carries a different connation although physicians tend to be “lumpers.”
- Remember the noetic effect of sin: the effects of sin on thoughts and thinking .
- Sinful thinking is rebellion.
- It is contrary to God and His Word – your thoughts and ways are not my thoughts and ways: Isaiah 55:8-9.
- As a consequence, there are observational distortions of facts: nature and the universe, human physiology and anatomy, human behavior and motivation:
- Man’s being (origin), destiny, and purpose in/for life.
- Man as man and his problems in the context of the meaning of life.
- Solutions to and for all the above.
- Distortions will be descriptional, definitional, and directional.
- These distortion are evident in the hard sciences (such as physics, biology, chemistry) – evolution as science – and even more so in the soft/social sciences (such as psychology, sociology) – is mental illness a reality?
1.Webster: disease is “any departure from health; it is illness in general, an impairment of the normal.” It is also defined “as a particular destructive process in an organism with a specific cause and characteristic symptoms and signs.”
- Dorland (medical dictionary): disease is “any deviation from or interruption of the internal structure or function of any body part, organ, or system that is manifested by a characteristic set of symptoms and signs and whose etiology, pathology, and prognosis may be known or unknown.”
- Both of the above imply, if not indicate, that disease is a primary disorder of various pathophysiological mechanisms of the body.
- History: after the discovery of disease in animals and humans was attributed to specific organisms (R Koch and L Pasteur – anthrax and tuberculosis), the medical model and germ theory of disease was born (late 1800s and early 1900s).
- The medical model took center stage in contrast to the supernaturalism (prevalent in the Roman church) and Greek thinking.
- Rationalism, empiricism, and so-called “evidence-based medicine” under the guise of science characterized “modern scientific” medicine.
- Disease was defined as a physical problem with measurable abnormality by physical examination, laboratory studies including blood tests and biopsy reports, and/or radiographic studies.
1.Today, that is not the case especially in the soft science area.
- Today, what is considered disease is much more flexible .
III. Illness, a relatively new term medically, is defined more loosely as an “unhealthy condition.” You may hear the terms “symptom expression” or “symptom complex.”
- Therefore, when the word ‘illness’ is used, there has been a move into the realm of “not normal” based on “symptom expression.”
- This means that the diagnosis is based on the patient’s self report – subjectivity – and not necessarily pathological changes.
- What is “normal” and “healthy” has been blurred: examples: blood tests, criteria for a disease, and MRI results: what is the role of various tests and procedures?
- A standard for normal/abnormal and healthy/unhealthy is required .
- When subjectivity is that standard, science is blurred, and symptoms and their “control” take center stage.
- Mental illness: the field of soft sciences (including psychiatry and the psychologies) deals with the subjective: thoughts, feelings, and behavior (behavior is observed but flows from feelings). “Mental illness” is categorized as a “disease” based on subjectivity.
- The medical model is assumed to apply to those behaviors termed mental illness.
- There is no consideration of the noetic effect of sin in interpreting the person’s behavior, feelings, and thinking and there is an improper biblical anthropology.
- The noetic effect leads to an inherent distortion of the description/observation, definition/conclusion, and diagnosis in man’s thinking
- Is psychiatry a pseudo-science? Does its practice compete with God’s truth?
- The conclusion and solution to and for mental illness is not to be challenged and reinterpreted.
- When subjectivity rules for any diagnosis:
- “Improvement” of the condition will be couched in subjective terms: “I feel better.”
- Subjectivity as the standard for diagnosis and therapeutic success or failure is taking place in traditional medicine as well.
- It is important and helpful, even mandatory, to distinguish between signs and symptoms
- Signs (objective) and symptoms (subjective): they are not the same.
- Potential explanations for both: genes, biology, molecule, biochemistry, neurotransmitters, etc are responsible for disease.
- Ultimately, the Creator God and the indwelling HS have to be encountered but these facts are too often denied or considered in an improper way by both patient and physician.
- Sign: objective: can be measured and quantified by other than self report: feverishness (symptom) vs. fever (sign).
- Symptom: subjective: the amount and degree of a symptom rests solely on the person’s report.
- The concept of something wrong with the body and in the body
- In the body: a rapid heart rate is a sign of either a normally working body, perhaps influenced by fear, anger, or hard work, or disease within the body such as anemia – in that case, the increased heart indicates a normally-working heart responding to a pathological condition.
- With the body: the person’s rapid heat rate or chest pain, if due to heart disease indicates that the sign (and symptom – if the person complains of shortness of breath) is due to something wrong with the body such as coronary artery disease.
VII. Theories of disease:
- Medical Model (MM): It is presumed that the body is sick and that symptoms, signs, and behavior are caused by an abnormality in some organ or tissue causing malfunction of the body (molecular model of disease). This would include mental illness.
- Under the MM, disease is diagnosed when discoverable abnormalities are present by some objective testing; symptoms and signs are explained on the basis of these abnormalities.
- A person’s thoughts, beliefs, and desires are not considered in the diagnosis and are thought to be independent of the diagnosis and management of the patient (“mind-body” dualism).
- As a result, a therapeutic rationale is developed.
- The MM has been quite successful in the diagnosis and management of certain diseases especially those that are acute. In those cases the focus is usually on a single, acute medical problem: e.g.: streptococcal pharyngitis (strep throat), appendicitis, pneumonia, or lung cancer.
- There is no room for God in this model. In fact, the model developed as a reaction against the mysticism and superstition prevalent in the medieval age.
- Biopsychosocial Model (BPS): Since the early 1990’s, medicine has moved toward the more inclusive BPS model of disease and patient care, emphasizing the role and importance of biology, “psychological” factors, and “environmental” factors on health and bodily function.
- These factors are considered determinants of the condition and include genes, biology, and outside pressure.
- These factors “do” it to a (? pre-programmed) person so that he feels and acts a certain way.
- “Biological” refers to a person’s genetic make up (genes) and biochemistry: nature
- “Psychological” has to do with one’s “psyche”: nature and/or nurture
1) It is considered as pertaining to one’s “mind,” how he feels, and his deep (Freudian term) inner self which are his “inside” environment.
2) “Psychological disease” and “mental illness” are claimed to indicate that something is wrong in or with the brain – brain and mind are considered synonymous.
3) “Social” (or environmental): nurture – the term is used in relation to pressure outside the person “causing” something within a person.
- The person’s response is observable and is attributed to that which is outside the person.
- The individual is not considered to be a responsible responder but as a victim and reactor.
- Examples: “situational depression,” post-traumatic stress, bipolar, and social anxiety
- There is a compartmentalization of the person leading to the development of “experts” in the fields of social science and physical science who believe that their “area” of the person has a determining influence on the production of physical problems that is called disease and illness. This sets in motion a compartmentalized/holistic treatment program.
- Biopsychosocial spiritual Model (BPSS): The model adds a “spiritual” dimension to the presumed cause of symptoms, conditions, and disease. Proponents of this model:
- Suggest that at the very least, spiritual variables (however defined) are fundamental determinants of “psychological” variables which in turn are determinants of physical and social factors which lead to “disease” (symptoms).
- All factors listed in #1 play some role in producing or aggravating disease.
- Cite the failure to address a patient’s “spiritual needs” as being linked to patient dissatisfaction and “poor” clinical outcomes (however defined) despite advances in technology and treatment modalities.
- “Spiritual” needs are defined as a need to make sense of, give purpose to, and ascribe meaning to illness/life; as a desire to acknowledge and cope with the notion of death/dying; and as a desire to feel in control (or give up control), be connected, and cared for.
- In this model, the standard for spirituality is never Scripture.
- The term “spirituality” is used relationally in the context of a person’s “connectedness” with self, others, a higher being, or the universe. It is a user-friendly word that includes all religions.
- Even though only the MM seeks to demonstrate a physical abnormality as the cause of disease, all three models claim that symptoms originate from some alleged physical defect.
- A pathological abnormality often can not be found, or if present, it can’t readily explain the person’s symptoms.
- Still diagnosis and therapy are based on the presence of symptoms, behavior, and the desire for relief rather than correcting a proven, objective malfunction of the body.
3.. In the BPS and BPSS models, as part of an overall treatment plan, attention is given to each alleged “compartment” of the person and by a different expert (the physician for the biological, the psychiatrist/psychologist for the “psychological,” the pastor for the spiritual, and social worker/psychologist for the “social”).
- The reasoning: because man is the sum of all these parts and no one person can adequately have all the answers, attention must be given to each part by a different “expert.”
- Critique: Each of the models excludes God, His judgment, His grace, and His providence. They are theologically incorrect.
- The MM originally attempted to give an accurate description of an observed phenomenon. It did, and does so, in many instances.
- Today, it is used to explain any and all behavior even though no pathological findings are demonstrated.
- It paints man as physical only, thereby rejecting the duplex nature of man.
- It ignores man as a whole person – he is feelings and actions.
- It opens the “door” for the use of medications – drugs.
- The MM champions science as if the God of science and science are opposed and as if “the natural” and “the supernatural” have no connection.
- The BPS and the BPSS are attempts to fill “in the gap” left by the MM. They emphasize a person’s inner-man activity (not their term!), and they move further down the path of wrong theology and its application.
- The practice of medicine is a product of a world view, mindset, and a system of presuppositions.
Section Two. The Origin of Pain, Misery, and Physical Problems: God’s Perspective
- The basic reason for all disease/illness/symptoms is the fall: God’s judgment/curse on sin due to Adam’s first sin.
- Specific passages: Rom. 5:12-14; 8:20-22; Ezek. 18:4, 20; Gen. 5: lived…then he died – except Enoch – v.21-24
- Biblically-speaking, physical problems include misery, illness, old age, and death.
- In the Bible, the first mention of pain is in Gen 3:15-17 – after sin.
- God’s curse on sin affects every person due to man’s representative relationship to Adam.
- When Adam first sinned (he failed the probation test of covenantal faithfulness) in the Garden each individual sinned because he was in Adam.
- Each died physically and spiritually: guilty and condemned.
- Death and misery are the direct result of God’s curse.
- These truths must be personalized – unbelievers often have little physical problems and believers may have a tremendous number of them.
- General principles of that are frequently encountered in this area
- Universality: everyone has sinned in Adam and personally wit the consequence of misery and deteriorating bodies: Rom. 6:23; 2 Cor. 4:16-18
- Separation (death) and union (salvation): Rom. 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 15:21-22
- Responsibility: the soul that sins bears the responsibility: Ezek 18.
- Sowing/reaping: consequences for choices: Gen. 2:17; 3:15; Gal. 6:7-9.
- Judgment and fear of death: Heb. 2:14,15; 9:27
- The use of prayer and issues of wisdom: 2 Cor. 12:7-10; Job
- There may or may not be a direct causal relationship between a person’s particular physical problem and his particular sin.
- No one will outrun the effect of God’s curse on sin in his lifetime. Illness/trouble is to be expected (John 16:33; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 12:7-10; 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Peter 2:19-29; 4:13-14; 5:10).
- God has given the blessing of health to a greater degree and of longer duration to some whether believer or not.
- Often good stewardship results in “better” health: Prov. 3:5-8.
- Biblically-motivated and active stewardship always pleases God.
- Victory in (via correct thinking/wanting), through (God’s good purpose), and from (many including relief, greater eternal focus, sting of death removal) the illness.
- Consider the “tarry” principle including prayer and fasting: Ps. 34:8; 46:10.
- Ultimately all things occurring in this world come from the sovereign hand of God – God’s providence. Is there truly God’s frowning providence?
- God uses secondary causes to achieve His purpose.
- This is true for physical problems (Isaiah 45:7-8; Prov. 16:33; 21:1; Job; 1 Chr. 29:12; 1 Cor. 10:13). What is God’s purpose in general and specifically?
- Yet God is not the author of sin: God is Big, Good, and Purposeful:
- He is faithful: 1 Cor. 10:13: He won’t exceed the believer’s ability to respond
- He is the Giver of every perfect gift (James 1:13,17). The ultimate, perfect gift is:
1) Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Savior (resurrection life): redemption accomplished
2) HS Who applies Christ’s work: redemption applied.
3) The inscripturated, infallible, and authoritative Word which rightly interprets every fact, all of human experience, and all of history.
4) A saving, active relationship with God in Christ.
5) Saving and sanctifying grace: 2 Cor. 8:9; 9:8.
- God’s providence is the context (including physical problems) for growth in Christlikeness. Avoid the use of the term life as if life as a life of its own
- Progressive sanctification:
- The Christian is to function as a Christian oyster. He uses irritations and unpleasantness to make the pearl of Christlikeness: gain through and in pain – one of the lessons of the cross and a bigger motif: exile and exodus.
- The HS’ presence enables the believer to use hard times (easy ones as well) to become more like Christ which is every believer’s goal/purpose in/for life.
- As a result, the believer will not be controlled by the desire for relief and its pursuit. He will be controlled by what God intends for the believer: growth in Christlikeness: 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 12:7-10.
- Here are theological questions/issues that deserve good theological answers:
- How can something so bad (my condition, physical or otherwise vs. cross) be good?
- How can God be both good and powerful when bad things happen – to me?
- Why me and now?
- Why so much pain and misery?
- Should man try to eradicate disease if God is sovereign?
- Where does my stewardship fit in?
- Response to one’s physical problem is a response to God and His providence. Since:
- God is present, He is in the problem. He has made promises and keeps them.
- He is in control/power, He is at work in the problem via His plan.
- He is purposeful so that what happens in His world is intentional.
- He provides every believer has all he needs to please God.
- God’s intent: His glory and the good of the believer: Gen. 50:19-21; Rom. 8:28-29 is accomplished by and through His provisions, one of which is the believer using the unpleasantness to develop more of the character of Christ. In that way, God brings good out of evil.
- Specific passages in re: to a person’s physical problems and sin:
- Jesus, Job, John 9, Luke 13:1-5, 2 Cor. 12:7-10: no direct sin-condition correlation
- James 5:14-16 leaves the question open that there may be sin-engendered illness.
- 1 Cor. 11:28-32; Psalm 32/38; Exodus 15:26; Deut. 28:26,60-62; 7:15; 2 Sam. 12:13-15: these passages show a direct causal relationship to body problems and personal sin.
- 1 Kings 18-19: these passages show an indirect casual relationship: Elijah was a poor steward that led to physical problems.
Section Three. Specific Expressions of God’s Curse on Sin re: Illness and Physical Problems
- Providentially, God brings about physical problems for any number of reasons in a particular person or group of people with or without a direct parallel between individual, personal sin and the condition.
- Fallen man’s body is included in God’s curse on sin. The sinner’s body is:
- Deteriorating – “aging” is an euphemism for the effect of the curse
- Affected with a specific disease (RA, cancer, diabetes, etc)
- Affected by personal sin/sinning and/or another’s: being sinned against.
- Affected by the person’s sinful response to God’s providence including trouble
- Scripture and God’s purposes:
- Chasten or educative discipline: Exodus 15:26; Deut. 28:58-60; 2 Sam. 12:13-15; 1 Cor. 11:30. There is a physical price to pay for covenant breaking.
- Teach: Isaiah 38:15-20; Ps. 119:65-73; Heb. 12:5-11; 1 Cor. 11:23-30: there is always a blessing from responding to illness/physical problems in a God-honoring manner.
- Produce repentance: Num. 21:5-7; 1 Cor. 5:4-5:
- Physical problems should encourage the believer to make a personal spiritual inventory, not necessarily as a means for healing but as means of sanctification.
- Physical problems should encourage the believer to tarry/taste and see that God is good.
- Prevent sin: 2 Cor. 12:6-10: sin is a horrible offense against God. If only one sinner existed (it was you) with only one sin, the cross is still necessary – Adam’s one sin (Rom. 3:21-26).
- Transform: Deut 8:1-4; 1 Peter 1:6-8/Rom. 5:1-5/Jam. 1:2-4; Rom. 8:28-29; Gen. 50:19-21; Phil. 4:13: to enable the believer to function as a Christian oyster.
- Testify re: God and His glory: John 9; Rom. 9:22-23; Job, cross
- Some physical problems are directly related to sin – personal or in general
- In general, symptoms develop because:
- The human body is not flawless – it is sin-cursed. It will never be symptom-free this side of heaven.
- There will always be more symptoms than causes discovered.
- Medical technology is limited – it always will be.
- There is the reality of unbiblical wanting and thinking present in the believer: the secular community may call this “stress.”
- There is actual tissue damage (disease) which produces abnormal organ function, symptoms, and signs.
- Examples of the inner -outer man unity: phone call from IRS; bear; “butterflies;” secretary home/work.
- Psalms and Proverbs that emphasizes the duplexity of man:
Proverbs 12:18, 25
Proverbs 15:4, 13, 15, 30
- Specifically, sin may cause or contribute to the physical problem. The illness may be the:
- Result of a particular sin in the individual’s life: Jam. 5:14-16.
- The “natural” consequence of sin: Prov. 10:24-25, 26-27; 13:15; Ps 16:4; 32:10; Gal. 6:7-9
- The “sowing and reaping” principle: e.g.: smoking and COPD/lung cancer
- What people think/.want yield choices which yield consequences and sometimes physical symptoms – wanting/thinking, doing, and feelings are interrelated.
- Sinned against
- Biblically speaking, the condition may be spiritual-physiological in contrast to psychosomatic – a term that the culture’s uses to define and explain symptoms (the symptoms are “real” but there is nothing wrong with the body – the DSM definition of the condition)
- Physiological changes occur in the body
- Known disease such as RA, cancer, heart trouble, or diabetes
- It is reported that “chronic pain” can produce physiological changes in the body specifically the nervous system: is that true?
- Medically unresolved:
1) Do physical changes occur in the body due to wrong responses to life (God’s providence) generated by unbiblical wanting and thinking?
2) Do biblical responses to life and problems produce physical changes in the body?
- Inner-man activity of wanting and thinking has outer-man effects of feeling and doing.
- A person’s evaluation of and response to circumstances produces/may produce physiological changes in the body which results in symptoms (and perhaps signs)
1) Situation – thinking/wanting – behavior – physiological changes – signs and symptoms
2) Situation – unbiblical thinking and wanting – unbiblical response – bad feelings – decreased function
- These observations are true because of the creational fact that man is a duplex (unity of inner man/outer man) and is a whole person.
- There is a relationship between the whole person activities of wanting, thinking, doing, and feelings.
- The secularist, and maybe Christians, does not acknowledge God’s design of man.
- Therefore, he uses such modalities as CBT, positive thinking, and yoga.
III. The principle of gain through loss: physical problems, as are problems in general, are intended to be beneficial for the believer
- In any situation including physical problems:
- God’s role: His providence and His design – when there is pain, disease, and death, the believer is always to be vertically oriented.
- It is so easy to be MORE temporally and “now” oriented – self-focused.
- Practice daily to remember and mediate on non-negotiable facts:
1) God’s curse at the cross was reversed, incompletely in this life and completely in heaven
2) The believer is to use the situation as God’s instrument and the believer’s tool to grow.
3) The believer has a new identity, great resources, and responsibility in the situation.
4) Therefore the focus is on the God of the problem rather than the problem.
- Man’s role (Philippians 2:12-13 ) is to follow God’s design by using grace and the situation.
- The principle of gain through loss: what is considered bad by the culture is intended for good by God and is to be used for good by the believer (Romans 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18ff; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Romans 8:28-29).
- Pain did not occur until after the fall. It was not essential/necessary for living in the Garden.
- Points to ponder:
- Was the body capable of “experiencing”/feeling pain pre-fall?
- Is the body capable of pain in heaven and in hell? If not why not?
- Was pain designed by God and if so for good? What was that design?
- Was the cross designed by God for good?
- Pain, and the cross, in and of themselves, are bad – both are a result of sin/God’s curse. Sin is bad.
- Pain and disease remind the believer of God’s wrath/curse on sin but also redemption: John 11. The physical always has a spiritual reference.
- One of the lessons of the cross: gain through loss when rightly responded to.
- Physical problems are one of God’s instruments/classrooms to teach this truth.
- God’s purpose in all of life: Ps 115:3; 135:6. His goal is to bring glory and honor to Himself: He does this by saving a people for Himself and growing each one in Christlikeness.
- Consider this basic template for all of life:
- God’s design in eternity past (Eph 1:4): to be holy and blameless – in Christ
- The believer does this by pleasing God (2 C 5:9),
- Which he does by becoming more like Christ (Romans 8:28-29; 2 C 3:18),
- Which he does as a whole-person by putting of certain thoughts/affections/ desires and actions and putting on Christlikeness (Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:8-10),
- Growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 P 3:18).
- All of history, including every event in an individual’s life, is working toward the end of glorifying God: John 9:1-3; 11:4; Philippians 1:20; Matthew 5:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 1 Peter 2:9-10.
- The individual is not to be passive in God’s plan.
- Rather he functions as a Christian oyster.
- Physical problems are the result of sin – but not necessarily personal sin.
- Physical problems and suffering don’t bring God glory.
- But God has a purpose in bringing the problem: He uses it and the individual’s response to it to advance His plan including growing the believer.
- It is the believer’s response to God’s providential ordering of His world and what God does with that response that glorifies Him.
- The believer is responsible for his response: 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Corinthians 10:13.
- Bottom line: what is most important: getting well/relief or glorifying God by pleasing Him?
D A major question that must be answered God’s way: how does that which is “bad” – physical problems – produce benefit?
- Illness itself doesn’t. It is said: in the illness, God is glorified when the illness “makes” a person more like Christ: Romans 8:28-29,35-37; 2 Corinthians 3:18.
- How does it do that?
- It doesn’t!
- Physical problems are the result of God’s curse on sin but are “neutral.” They have no power in themselves.
- The problems are the context for the believer to evidence what is in his heart and the significance of his relationship with Christ – at a given moment.
- The believer’s focus/perspective on what God is doing in and with the situation directly affects his response.
- God uses the believer’s response to accomplish His purpose.
- The illness doesn’t make a person more like Christ anymore than the cross alone brought salvation.
- Salvation came to believers because of the Crucified One Who used the cross as an instrument of death to please His Father and save unlovable people for Himself.
- Physical problems are the stage on which a person’s inner person is exposed. “How?”
- The person complains/grumbles at his “lot in life” (God’s control) or he embraces and uses what he doesn’t like to grow – he considers it:
1) A tool to use – not to get rid of
2) A blessing, not a burden
3) A gift, something to be grateful for
4) An adventure, not something to dread
- As a grumbler, he reacts as if God made a mistake. In his grumbling, he attacks God demanding that God should treat him better than He treated His Son.
- Here are a few ways in which the person uses what he doesn’t like to grow:
- Instead of sensual living and feeling-directed reaction, he practices suprasensual living: he filters/interprets/assesses life through the cross/biblical principles which springs from and brings a proper vertical reference to his condition.
- As a result:
1) He changes from a “now” view of life (sensual living: lives for and by feelings: the physical, personal, visible, created, external, and temporal) to an eternal perspective via suprasensual living: he views life via saving faith with a purpose/goal to please God: John 4:31-34; 2 C 5:7-15; Col. 3:1-3; Ps 73
2) He learns to trust a sovereign God and views God’s control as good and wise especially when his body hurts and when the culture’s wisdom says serve yourself and get relief.
3) He functions as a responsible person to the degree that he can when feeling bad – all of grace: Phil. 4:13.
4) He thanks God’s for His goodness in and out of trouble (1 Thess. 5:18; Eph. 5:20).
- The mindset of the believer is in stark contrast to the culture’s mantras of health, relief, better “quality of life,” feeling better, and even using God to get what he wants – relief and even a new body this side of heaven: 1 Cor. 1:18-30.
- Other ways that illness is beneficial:
- It is a reminder of the frailty and shortness of life, man’s finitude, the effects of sin and God’s righteous judgment, and the cross: James 4:13-17; Job 7:9; Ps. 31:15; 39:5; 102:11; 1 Peter 2:24 (Isaiah 40:6-8); 4:19.
- It demonstrates a person’s character: hard times (pressures) often reveals a person’s character and his view of God more than good/easy times.
- Illness shows personal goals and the impact of his relationship to God in Christ. 1 Peter 2:19-23; 4:19.
- Proves the genuineness of faith
1) The words used for testing/approving in the NT and OT indicate that God requires every believer’s faith to be refined and the dross removed.
2) He does that in and by hard times but also by good times (Proverbs 30:8-9).
3) The OT word nasah (Gen. 22:1; Deut 8:2; Exodus 16:4;17:2,7; Judges 2:22;3:1,4; 2 Chr. 32:31)
4) The NT word dokimazo (Rom. 5:4; 1 Peter 1: 7; James 1:3,12)
- It demonstrates a person heart and his singleness of purpose:
1) Everyone lives out of his heart: Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 12:33-36; 15:8,16-20; Mark 7:17-23; Luke 6:43-45.
2) Matthew 5:3,8
3) Consider the metaphors of a sponge and a pitcher.
4) Consider these “Job” passages: 1:8-11, 12-22; 2:3-6,9-10; 40:2-5; 42:1-6.
- It is to increase one’s ministry and may change its direction – never a decrease
- Job 2:10
- Jesus on the cross: Luke 23:34; 23:39-43; John 19:25-26; 19:27; and to believers.
- Paul: Philippians 1:12-18; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; 4:1; 12:7-10; 1 Timothy 1:12-16
- It motivates a person to develop a different mindset regarding what is valuable.
- Too often the believer measures value with the same measuring stick that the culture does (“now” theology) and “happiness” theology (based on happenings) via sensual living.
- The Bible teaches that a relationship with God through Christ guaranteed by His resurrection and His session at the right hand of the Father, and the indwelling HS is the best thing this side of heaven. Illness should bring home the reality of this fact – faces turn to God and to heaven.
- Physical problems can be “I don’t like” situations and the biblical principles for responding to them are no different than any other pressure, trouble, and “heat” of life.
- An illness rightly viewed helps the believer develop and apply God’s definition of valuable:
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7; Romans 5:1-5.
Section four: Counseling Those with Physical Illnesses: Basic Counseling Methodology
- You don’t need to have a physician’s knowledge of the condition or personal experience with the condition to help the person:
- Why? It is the Comforter that is the key: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Hebrews 4:15 – His comfort – His strength
- It may be better for you no to have the same experience.
- The experience vs. the God of the experience and a corr4ect interpretation of both.
- Gather data from the counselee/patient/person including:
- How the patient views his condition (his identity) and how he is responding to it
- Everybody lives out of an identity as a whole person:
- His wanting (I call this his “functional motivation” system – his wanter: FMS)
- His thinking (I call this his “function belief” system: FBS)
- His doing (that behavior which flows from his wanting/thinking and he hopes will procure for him his goal.
- Behavior reflects the person’s heart and his view of his relationship with Christ; its cost/its blessing.
- Every person labels/identifies himself (or accepts the label given to him), has an agenda, and pursues it based on his FMS and FBS.
- After determining that he is a believer, discern:
- What the problem is, not simply the context of the problem
- How it is a problem
- His response to it and the results
- His understanding of God’s solutions
- The counselor’s response to the patient and his illness
- The counselor is to bring (provide) biblical truth to the situation with the goal of helping the counselee address and respond to the condition from a biblical perspective resulting in a God-honoring response.
- Biblical truth/principles don’t change no matter the trouble. The Comforter doesn’t change even though experiences/problems are many and varied.
- Application of biblical truth will require change on the counselee’s part (his FMS and FBS) and on the counselor’s part who must be convinced of victory – not relief – for the counselee.
- Massage the person with God Himself and biblical truth.
- Victory includes a change in the person’s thinking and desires about self, God, His Word, others, and life including physical problems.
- A change in action/behavior follows. .
- Victory’s foundation is the sufficiency, superiority, and supremacy of God’s Word (John 8:31-36 – truth sets you free) – His promises.
- Focus: is it to get relief or please God?
- “Accept” the diagnosis as is: you are not his physician even if you are a physician.
- On the other hand, if there is “legitimate” concern regarding what the counselee is telling you, then clarification from an MD may be needed.
- Clarify: is the condition being diagnosed on the basis of subjectivity or objective and physical abnormalities.
- Clarify: has the counselee heard the MD correctly: many don’t hear or understand what was said – remember that MDs maybe short on information
- There are many ways for the counselee to obtain clarification.
- The counselor’s is NOT to prove or disprove the diagnosis.
- The counselor is not to recommend alternative treatment.
- Your goal is to turn his attention from the pain, discomfort, and poor function to what God intends to do through it: beauty out of ashes: Isaiah 61:1-3/Luke 4:18-22. You do that by:
- Focusing on truth: God in His word doesn’t promise relief or cure but victory.
- Bring God’s intentionality and goodness into the counselee’s thinking by focusing on Gen 50:19-21 and Romans 8:28-29 and asking:
- Where is God in your thinking?
- Why would God “allow”/ordain that you have this?
- Has God made a mistake?
- How have you responded to God’s providence including His “no” re: relief or cure?
- God intends for the counselee to use this for God’s glory and the believer’s benefit/growth in Christlikeness
- Explain the “why” (to become more like Christ) and the “how” (being a good theologian-steward).
- The counselee is to have a more effective ministry through it.
- Encourage including doing a spiritual inventory and demonstrate how the counselee is to be a good theologian-steward:
- Use examples: couch potato, road runner, pain and gain
- Help him determine if there is un-confessed sin, bitterness, resentment, and/or grudge holding against God or others.
- Help him get busy using the condition rather than simply praying for God to “use” it or remove it.
- Help him change his focus from “why” to “how” to use what he doesn’t like to grow/change
- Help him minister (2 C 1:3-4): as one comforted, he is to be a comforter. His ministry has not been stopped. It has been moved in another direction.
- Help him act upon the fact that God’s grace is available and sufficient: 2 Corinthians 9:8; 12:9. Job did and so can the person: Job 1:1-2:10;40:2-5;42:1-6.
- Help him understand that living this side of heaven guarantees that no one will be free of symptoms.
- Help him believe and act on the truth that God intends for him to have victory – this is what is valuable about hard times – victory, not relief, is what glorifies God.
- A new body is coming – Rev 21:1-6
- If the illness is terminal, help him anticipate the glories of heaven: Rev 21:1-4; 22:1-5.
- The sting of death which is the law, sin, judgment, and slavery has been removed: Hebrews 9:27; 1 John 4:17-18; 1 C 15:54-57; Hebrews 2:14-18.
- Jesus is the believer’s brother: Hebrews 2:17-18.
- Death is God’s vehicle to bring the person to Him.
III. Remember the basic facts about any condition, and help the counselee/patient to function as a learner.
- Help him distinguish between subjective and objective and the use of terms such as: “I can’t” vs. “I won’t” because of bad feelings.
- Help him understand
- The function and results of tests:
- “Tests” are done in many cases to rule out specific conditions.
- Often many “tests” are done but the person is unaware of the results.
- The function of terms such as disease, illness, and syndrome.
- Their use may have benefits (e.g.: clearing the air diagnostically)
- This may have disadvantages
1) It gives an air of certainty.
2) It allows for treatment which is based on the diagnosis/terms and what the medical culture believes is producing the symptoms.
3) Relief is a demand with a “I don’t deserve this but that” mindset.
- Patients may do better on medications.
- Prescribing drugs is something that a physician can do easily and quickly.
- It often gives immediate results, and seemingly is based on science.
- Knowing the cause or “tell me what I have doctor” (what caused me to hurt vs. what caused me to have cancer or RA):
- These are not synonymous.
- Many patients want “to know” hoping for relief or to “have certainty.”
- Help determine the basis for the diagnosis – how was the condition diagnosed?
- Knowing the cause may be satisfying for the patient:
- It can bring “closure” to the issue in terms of treatment, in what he will tell his family and others, in what he may gain, and/or in how he “feels” about himself.
- It may relieve uncertainty, doubt, fear, and worry. But you must ask him how?
- A diagnosis can be used as eliminating personal responsibility.
- Knowing “how” may not make any difference to the physician: e.g.: active RA is RA requires treatment.
- Basic principles for the counselor or friend: remember IMAP: everyone has an identity, motive for doing and not doing, an agenda, and pursues the agenda.
- Don’t maximize or minimize a person’s symptoms.
- Help him focus on his responsibility: as a new creature in Christ, having whatever physical problem he has, it is to respond in a God-honoring manner growing in Christlikeness.
- Gather much data in order to understand his thinking and motivation.
- Gain involvement and give much hope: How? Trust in a big, good, wise, purposeful God through:
- Reading, understanding, believing, submitting to, and applying (RUBSA) God’s word,
- Basing expectations on His promises as recorded in Scripture (Romans 15:4,13).
- Review biblical reasons for illness:
- Physical problems are a result of God’s curse on sin
- It may be solely God-engendered (His providence) for any number of reasons
- It may be sin-engendered: (personal sin)
- illness has a benefit: rightly responded to, it is the glory/honor God; it reminds of the fragility of life; rightly understood, it is for character building – Christlikeness; it can change and or enhance your ministry; and what helps you discern and focus on what is valuable: relief vs. pleasing God thereby becoming more like Christ. .
- Always there is a spiritual-physiological connection: inner-outer man duplexity links inner-man activity wit h outer-man effects.
- Gather data re: the person’s lifestyle:
- What, if any, restrictions has the physician or the condition placed on the person?
- Does the counselee agree or disagree with those restrictions – his response to them and why?
- How has he responded to the illness and the restrictions?
- How has his thinking and response added to or helped the problem?
- Does the medical profession have any genuine help and if so what is it?
- Determine his functional capacity given his condition/the physician’s restrictions. Have him complete his assigned responsibilities no matter his feelings.
- Determine what aggravates the condition and what makes it better.
- Gather data re: the person’s thinking and attitude:
- What is the person’s mindset/view regarding his condition, himself, others, God?
- Help him acknowledge the difficulty/unpleasantness – in contrast to God’s purpose.
- Is he looking at the gain or the pain and if so for what reasons?
- Does he view his situation as a blessing or burden, a curse or adventure? What are the reasons?
- How is he responding to the unpleasantness? Does he expect better treatment than Jesus?
- How is he responding to his family and friends?
- What type of responder is he: a “road runner” (learned drivenness: goes until he drops) or a “couch potato” (learned helplessness: pity parties)?
- Gather data re: the counsel and the response of relatives/friends: helpful or not?
- What counsel is he receiving from them?
- How do they respond to him, the condition, and the restrictions?
- Is the response of the family a blessing or a hindrance?
- Homework: based on biblical principles that the person needs in order to grow/change.
- Answer certain questions:
- The why of God’s providence question God’s way: Romans 8:28-29 and Deut 29:29
- God’s “no” and the person’s response to it
- His response to God’s providence in general and his case in particular
- Review biblical stewardship principles: the what and why (motivation).
- Review his understanding and application of the physician’s instructions.
- Help him sort out responsibilities: his, the doctor’s, and God’s.
- Eliminate confusion on the counselee’s part.
- Think in whole-person terms: stewardship of thinking, wanting, and doing, and general principles for good health.
- Daily, record in what ways he has applied biblical principles in re: to his response to his condition (God’s providence) and the results:
- Mind renewal: 2 Corinthians 10:5; Ephesians 4:23; Philippians 4:8 and Matthew 7:21-27.
- An instrument (him and the situation) in God’s hands: 2 C 5:17-20; Romans 8:28-29
- Service: how is he using his problem to serve others?
- Comfort (2 C 1:3-4): how has he been comforted and how is he functioning as a comfortee?
- Rejoice (2 C 12:7-10): not in the pain but the gain – does he fervently desire the gain?
- Thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:20/1 Thessalonians 5:18): for the results
- Biblical principles to help sick people have victory in their illness.
- Define victory:
- It is being controlled by biblical principles rather than wants/relief and the agony of the condition.
- It means pleasing God rather than seeking relief.
- It is using the condition to put self to death and become more like Christ. Rom. 8:35-39; 1 Cor. 15:54-57; Phil. 4:11-13.
- Biblical-controlled thought processing: think biblically about all aspects of the condition: 1 Cor. 2:16; 2 Cor. 10:5; Phil. 4:8. Consider the ‘pizza pie’ of life: physical, social, home, church, spiritual, and work.
- The frailty and finiteness of this life and him/me: Ps 39:4-6; 90:11-12
- The relationship of the physical to other aspects of life: the inner man – outer man connection
- The relationship of the person to other people: functioning as a taker or a giver.
- Remember and act on the 6 P’s of God:
- Presence: God is in the problem: Hebrews 13:5-6
- Power: He is up to something: Everything is under the control of a sovereign God: Proverbs 21:1; Dan 2:21;4:35; 1 Chronicles 29:12; Matthew 10:29
- Promises: God is up to something for you now and eternally: Deut 4:31.
There are 4 promises of hope in 1 Corinthians 10:13 and one in Philippians 4:13.
- Plan: God was in the problem in eternity past and remains so: Ephesians 1:4
- Purpose: God is up to something good – now: Genesis 50:19-21; Romans 8:28-29; 1 Peter 2:19-23;4:19.
- Provision: God provides a relationship with His Son, the indwelling HS, the Bible, and His saving and enabling grace in order for the person to respond in a godly fashion thereby functioning as a Christian oyster.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 9:8; 12:9-10;
Philippians 2:12-13; 4:13;
Section five. Why should a Believer go to the Physician?
- The believer seeks medical care to please God by functioning as a good theologian-steward.
- Because all of life is theological and everyone is a theologian, every man is a steward.
III. Since theology matters, the issue is: which kind of theologian-steward are you?
- What is the basis for the statement: “life is theological and theology matters”? It is that all men live in relation to God, properly or improperly, whether acknowledged or not.
- God is man’s environment. This is an inescapable fact. God is not limited by space – He is present everywhere. Therefore, there is no escaping God (1 Kings 8:27; Acts 7:48-49;17:27-28; Ps 139:7-10; Isaiah 66:1; Jeremiah 23:23-24): burden or blessing?
- As the image of God, man is:
- A real, historical being, created in relationship to God as dependent being with a covenant keeping capacity.
- In the Garden, Adam was a revelation receiver, interpreter (understand), and implementer (apply). Man continues to be a revelational being
c Man continues to be a relational being: to God (vertical) and others (horizontal). In the Garden, God gave man information (verbal revelation and created reality) on how best to live in that relationship. Today it is no different because God provides His truth in the Bible.
- Man is a religious being – he is a worshipper by nature.
- Man is an ethically responsible being.
- Man is a rational, thinking being.
- Man is a sensual being: he takes facts in via the senses.
- Man is a faith-based being: saving or non-saving faith. Man filters facts and their interpretation through faith, reason, experience, and or feelings or via the Bible.
- In the Garden, God entered into covenant with man; he had covenant keeping responsibilities and was entirely dependent on God.
- Man is a morally and ethically responsible being because God the Creator so designed him – God Himself is a morally responsible Being.
- God’s creation and His creatures are His and are obligated to Him (Psalm 24:1-2; 29; 33:6-11; 50:7-11; 89:5-18; 93; 95:3-5; 104). Man is a debtor even before sin – he owed God.
- In the Garden and before the Fall, Adam and Eve were in perfect relationship to God and knew Him as Creator, Judge, and as their Friend: Genesis 2:15-17.
- Unconverted man continues to know God both as Creator, Almighty, and Judge.
- Converted man, however, also knows God as Father, Redeemer, and Friend.
- God saves in the context of relationships.
- His people were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4)
- His people grow in that relationship as they become more like Christ – this is the process of sanctification (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:3-5).
- Therefore, all of life, from beginning (creation) to end (man’s destiny which is heaven or hell) and all in between (either growing in the likeness of Christ or the likeness of Satan) is theological.
- Reasons for going to the MD
- The goal of every believer is to be/function as a good theologian.
- One of the keys for doing so is acknowledging and acting upon the truth that every believer is to be a good steward.
- Everyone must give an account of all entrusted to him including his body.
- Every believer is to function as a good theologian-steward – this honors God and is beneficial for him
- Stewardship means taking care of that which God has entrusted to you (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 16:1-13; 19:11-27). It is God-given blessing with responsibility and accountability.
- Every one is a steward. The question is which kind: good or bad?
- Stewardship is a theological issue because every one is a theologian and lives in or out of relationship to God. One’s body is not his own: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.
- Seeking medical care is to be for the purpose of pleasing God (2 Corinthians 5:9) as a good steward of His temple rather than relief or getting well.
- There are at least six characteristics of biblical stewardship: ORUEAR
- God owns everything; you own nothing – your “ownership” is relative to God’s absolute ownership. This is an ownership issue (1 Chronicles 29:10-20; Haggai 2:7-8; 1 Cor 6:19-20).
- You do possess. God entrusts to you everything you have, including your body. You are an “trustee.” This is a responsibility issue for you (1 Corinthians 4:2-5; Psalm 139:13-16).
- God enables you to use, and even increase, what He entrusts to you. This is a user issue (Deuteronomy 8:16-18)
- God expects a return on what He has given. This is an expectation issue (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27).
- You must give an account of your care of your body and it may be today. This is an accounting issue (Luke 12:16-21; 2 Cor 5:10).
- The issue is good or bad stewardship: there are consequences for either. This is a result issue (Matthew 25:24-27; Luke 19:24).
- Man is a duplex (a unit: inner and outer man).
- One’s thoughts/attitudes, desires, and actions (inner-man activities) affect the body (outer man) and outer-man functioning influences the inner man.
- Man lives out of his heart (FBS/FMS) – Proverbs 4::23; Matthew 15/Mark 7; Luke 6:43-45.
- This truth is expressed as: You feel what you feel because you do what you do; you do what you do because you think what you think and you think what you think because you want what you want (FDTW).
- Biblical stewardship involves taking care of both the inner man and outer man.
- The inner man will influence outer man function: Genesis 4; Ps 32/38.
- The outer man influences inner man function: Christ, Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-10), Job (1:13-22; 2:9-10), Elijah (1 Kings 18-19).
- Man is a not a person with a body problem: he is a whole person and duplex being.
- That person consists of the material and immaterial.
- Man is body/material but he isn’t only body.
- He is spirit/immaterial but man isn’t only immaterial.
- He is a duplex – inner and outer man.
- Summary: a believer can always be a good steward of his body whether his desired results occur.
- Good stewardship of the body is the best thing one can do while on this earth and most often results in improved health.
- However, improved health is to be a byproduct of good stewardship and it should not be the believer’s primary focus (Matthew 6:33).
- Pleasing God is the primary reason for being a good theologian-steward. Proverbs 3:5-8.
- Corollary truths:
- Death is separation:
- Physical death is the separation of body and spirit.
- Spiritual death is the separation of the inner person from God.
- Eternal death is the whole person (body and spirit) separated from God.
- Life is union:
- Physical life is the union of the body and spirit.
- Spiritual life is the inner person united to God.
- Eternal life is the whole person united with God.
Section six: Putting It All Together
- Prevailing theories of disease and the cause of symptoms
- Medical Model (MM): There is a physical, anatomic reason for symptoms and behavior. The assumption is that the body is “sick” even if no anatomical abnormality is found. Francis Crick’s discovery of DNA: man is molecules in motion added to this concept.
- Biopsychosocial Model (BPS): This model assumes that man’s physical complaints are the result of “psychological” factors (“handling life issues”) which have been influenced by his genes and environmental factors.
- Biopsychosocialspiritual Model (BPSS): This model adds a “spiritual” dimension to the presumed cause of symptoms but defines spirituality using non-biblical standards.
- Summary and critique:
- All three models posit that symptoms and behavior originate from some physical defect even if it can’t be proved.
- Therefore, therapy is directed at removing symptoms and changing behavior by changing feelings.
- The latter two models compartmentalize man; treatment is directed at each of these compartments: physician, social worker/ psychologist/psychiatrist, and minister.
III. The culture’s view of man’s “anatomy” contrasts God’s Word:
- Thinking is both an inner person and outer person (brain) activity
- The brain is part of the body (soma); there is no biblical term for brain.
- Man’s moral compass is not located in the material – brain – but in the inner man.
- The inner man is the purview of the Holy Spirit.
- Therefore, God and His grace, not medications, “change” the person.
- There are all types of heat of life (other terms: pressures, problems in life, “stress”)
- These include:
- One’s own sin and its consequence: Gal 6:7-9; Proverbs 13:15
- Being sinned against
- Physical problems
- Poverty; riches: Deut 8; Proverbs 30:7-9
- Conflicting voices of counsel
- General life hardships
- Pleasant times
- Rom. 8:35-37: the questions of being and determinism are always at the forefront and are captured in the questions:
- What is man (his being/ontos) – nature, nurture, or a combination or neither?
- Origin and purpose of man?
- Things happen: why?
- Is there room for God and His providence and if so how?
- Victory can best be gained by asking how things outside of a person “produce/cause” certain feelings and behaviors. Is it possible that your response is part or all of the body problems?
- Being controlled and being influenced are entirely different concepts.
- Pressure/problem à evaluation/interpretation according to one’s senses leading to a perspective/mindset à reaction à bodily and physiological changes that can be measured: e.g.: fear: “panic attack”/stage fright and butterflies; the bear and IRS examples.
- Secular therapeutic options, such as “stress management,” cognitive behavioral therapy, and medications, are egocentric and focus on the person’s feelings and behavior.
- Personal responsibility: one can’t completely change what is outside of him but he is responsible for his thinking and motivation and therefore his response.
- Pressure/problem à unbiblical response à bad feelings à decreased function.
- If the goal is to get rid of bad feelings and/or to function better (often termed a better “quality of life”), where will the physician and patient focus?
- Rather than focusing on the wanting and thinking, the focus will be on relieving feelings and behavior.
- Medications don’t change thinking or wanting directly.
- They can change feelings
- The brain is not man’s moral compass
- Everyone functions out of/responds to pressure (hard or good times),
- Out of a Functional Motivational System (FMS) – wanting, and a Functional Belief System (FBS) – thinking
- Which can be boiled down to: what I want vs. what pleases God, and what I think is right vs. what God in His word says is right.
- Thinking God’s thoughts (biblically-controlled thinking; saving faith based reasoning) leads to honoring God and it is best for your health.
James T Halla, MD email@example.com
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