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Applying the soothing oil of scripture. Ps 23.

Guest Blog – Max Rankin

Palliative Care

It was difficult watching my father-in-law experience sudden, debilitating pain attacks that were off the chart. This was the product of terminal throat cancer. Nurses would administer pain relief that took around 15 minutes to be effective and Dad would sleep for hours, exhausted.

Can scripture ease pain?

At the same time, I was studying Health Psychology and came across “Gate Control Theory of Pain” (Melzack & Wall, 1965). It stated that the experience of pain could be effectively minimised through relaxed breathing and mind control exercises. This activity releases neuropeptides which result in lowering pain sensations. The question that excited me was, “Could the imagery in the 23rd Psalm be used to restrict the Pain Gates and minimise
Dad’s pain?”

The goal was not head knowledge but experiential knowledge. Dad, ever the man of faith was open for a challenge and we began to practise.


The conversations went something like this.

Psalm 23:2
Me: “Ok Dad, I want you to breathe slowly, close your eyes and imagine the
sensations of lying down in green pastures, feeling the grass under you, the warmth of the sun and the sound of gently flowing water. Make it as vivid as possible. Let me know when you are there.”

(Note: This required practice, determination and an anointing from God to enter into fully, especially during a raging pain attack.)
Me: “Ok, Let’s establish the context. The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want! Let’s establish your thoughts on this. Acknowledge your anxieties but focus on I shall not want.”

(Note: Several times we had to return to meditating on Verse 2 to establish Peace and before proceeding)
Dad: “God is refreshing me… I feel a cool breeze … pain is easing…”
Psalm 23:4- 6
Me: “Can you see Jesus? He has promised to be with you right now.”
Dad: “Yes … we are sitting at a table…I feel the warmth of His Presence…”
Me: “What is Jesus saying to you…”
(Note: This is where we established revelation, repentance and growth. This information would be the foundation for the next session.)

This is how I fight my battles

Generally, by this stage, the pain medication had kicked in and Dad was resting. After our first session, Dad opened his eyes and quoted the song lyrics, “This is how I fight my battles.” His face was animated. We had discovered what David had described in Psalm 23—a dynamic that releases God’s Power in overcoming insurmountable odds.

Through the Valley of the shadow of death

Sadly, on the night of the 25th of August, Dad passed away peacefully. He was my Mentor and Father of the Faith— a man who literally walked through the Valley of the Shadow of Death with Triumphant Faith, a courageous man who takes his position with the great cloud of witnesses and is encouraging us to run our own race by fixing our eyes on
Jesus the Author and Perfecter of Faith (Heb:12).

and the next morning I sat my three-hour Health Psychology exam.

editor: Congrats Max on successfully completing and being awarded the B.Psyc.Sc.

1 comment

  1. Susan Julian

    Wow this is such a powerful and eye opening read. I too studied the same and never twigged about the relationship between the science and Psalm 23. Thank you so much. I’m very sorry to hear of his loss

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