Before you discount me as a heretic, may I just say that the following are simply honest thoughts and questions. "Intelligent people are always open to new ideas. In fact, they look for them." Proverbs 18:15 (Though I suppose you could use that verse to defend anything unorthodox….haha.)
In my search for healing of a physical problem that I believe is what they call "psychogenic," that is, mind/body related, I have done quite a bit of research. In the last year, I have read numerous books on the mind/body connection, some more farfetched than others. One such book, which I don't even exactly remember how I came across, was the self-help classic The Power of Your Subconscious Mind. Written in the 1960s by Joseph Murphy, a lapsed Catholic and "Divine Science minister" (I didn't know this when I checked it out from the library) the book mostly contains what I would consider heresy and foolishness. I thought I was checking out a volume on the interplay between the subconscious mind and the body; rather, this book makes a lot of outrageous claims about having everything you want. You just have to convince your subconscious mind to get it all for you--that's right, your subconscious mind knows all. Just tell it to obtain whatever you want--anything from healing of cancer to a new purse--and said outcome/object will be yours. There are some instructions on the process of going about this, but that's what it basically boils down to.
Maybe I should have stopped reading right there. But I was curious about what else the crazy old coot would have to say. In my many months of research and in my own personal experience, I can say with certainty that our minds have tremendous power over our bodies, our attitudes, and sometimes even our circumstances--so while I was entirely skeptical of Murphy's initial conclusions, I wondered if he might eventually make some good points. It turns out Murphy references the Bible quite a bit (after all, he was a Divine Science minister--that makes him a reliable theologian, right? Oh, wait….) Specifically, Murphy gives his own unique interpretation of the many healing miracles of Jesus. On multiple occasions where Jesus heals people in the Gospels, he tells them, "Your faith has healed you." According to Murphy, it is the power of the subconscious mind--or, put differently, the placebo effect--that does the healing. Once the person is convinced they will be healed, their mind tells their body to do the healing and, boom, healing occurs.
Okay, so I don't believe for a second that that's exactly the way it went down when Jesus healed people. But reading this very different evaluation of Christ's miracles got me thinking…where do the divine power of God and our own thinking intertwine to effect healing? What exactly did Jesus mean when He said, "Your faith has healed you," or "According to your faith it will be done to you"? Is it heresy to think that it almost seems like He was downplaying His own role in their healing, almost as though He was saying that some of the power to heal lies within the sufferer? In linguistics, such declarations are called "illocutionary speech acts," that is, language which changes reality merely by the act of being spoken. (For example, "I now pronounce you man and wife.") Those who had faith in Christ's "speech act" were healed. When people didn't have faith in His words, such as in his hometown of Nazareth, He refused to do any miracles among them. So why does faith play such a huge role in miracles--specifically miracles of healing? Is it because it shows God we're doing our best to believe in Him and trust Him? Is healing a reward for this faith? Or does our faith also have a healing effect upon us all on its own?
I am coming to believe that it's both. Between the Bible and modern-day science, we know that our mental state changes how we feel physically. Psalm 38 is an example of sin--an issue of the mind/spirit--ruining a person's health. ("My bones have no soundness because of my sin…My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.") And while not everyone who believes they will be healed of something actually receives that healing, evidence substantiating placebo cures can hardly be ignored. When people believe their health is improving, believe they will be healed, believe in the power of a certain treatment, they are statistically more likely to see their goal realized. And I believe that this is a power God has placed within the human body--the power to heal itself.
Ultimately, I believe that all power is God's. Any power we humans possess has been placed in us by His hand. But I do find the sleuthing of the details rather interesting--as if I'll ever get to the heart of the mystery.
So what do you think? What is the relationship between our faith, God's power, and physical healing? Could Christ have been referring to the healing power of faith itself in His words in the Gospels, or does the entirety of the work lie with Him, and our faith is merely the bridge that takes us across to His power?