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Book Review: When Sickness Heals Book Review: When Sickness Heals
September 7, 2012

When Sickness Heals—The Place of Religious Belief in Healthcare
By Siroj Sorajjakool
Published 2006 by Templeton Foundation Press

Is it possible to find meaning and purpose in the suffering—and even in the death—caused by an illness? This is the central question Siroj Sorajjakool explores in When Sickness Heals: The Place of Religious Belief in Healthcare. In his book, Sorajjakool argues that although suffering and death are spiritually traumatic, each experience has a place in the process of spiritual healing. This is true both for the people who experience suffering and their own mortality, and also for those who watch their loved ones suffer and die.

When a person confronts a serious or terminal illness, a disruption to their belief system may occur. Illness or death is an existential change that challenges a person’s understanding of spiritual meaning. When someone asks, “Why is this happening to me?” or “Why is this happening to a loved one?” they are searching for meaning in the suffering they experience. Religious traditions may inform the drive for meaning, but illness can disrupt a person’s belief, and the religious tradition may not be enough to help one cope with illness or death. Although the crisis is spiritually traumatic, Sorajjakool explains that it is a necessary step in the process of spiritual healing: people need to find purpose in the illness or death. Eventually, as a person discovers a new sense of meaning, the experience will be integrated into a newly developing system of understanding.

Using perspectives of both theologians and philosophers, Sorajjakool’s book provides a roadmap to understanding that suffering can be managed and overcome by the spiritual process of finding meaning in illness. To support his point, he provides examples from over 10 years of studies that demonstrate successful health outcomes related to the completion of this spiritual process. This book would be useful for anyone interested in spirituality and illness.

Andrew Gienapp is an educational coordinator and manuscript editor for the UTHSC Neurosurgery Residency Program at the Methodist University Hospital in Memphis, TN.

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This article is featured in the Fall 2012 print issue. Click here to see the complete table of contents.