Health. The thing we can so easily take for granted, but desire so much when it fades. There are multiple aspects to being healthy, and it means living a healthy lifestyle before the bad health comes. Each person is a whole being: they are made up of spiritual, emotional, physical, mental, and relational aspects that all are connected to each other. When one aspect suffers, so will all of the others; when one aspect improves, all the others will shift positively as well. As a Christian, I believe that sanctification is the refining and purifying of each area of our lives, and ultimately God is working to remove sin and transform each of us back into the unique human being that He created us to be. This journey will be completed when Jesus comes back (or takes us home). In the meantime, we work out our salvation and strive (by the Spirit) to live this life as best we can for God. A way that we do this is through developing health in multiple areas:
Spiritually, each person is on a journey. We were made by God to know God and live in relationship with God. Because of sin we were separated from communion with God, but Jesus came to die and rise again to restore our relationship with God! The stages of faith have been mapped out based upon the collective experiences of countless saints and while they are too black and white for reality, they do provide some insight into where a person is at spiritually:
Stage one is a life changing awareness of God and where the need for mercy is realized and a relationship with God is begun.
Stage two is getting connected with a community of believers and learning about what it means to be a Christian.
Stage three is about actively using gifts for the service of God and others.
Stage four is a journey inward and includes “the Wall,” a time of doubt and struggle that needs to be surrendered.
Stage five is journeying back outward, this time from a more solid assurance of who we are in Christ.
Stage six is characterized by love: being perfected by God’s love: giving it to others and back to Him. (http://www.emotionallyhealthy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/JOURNEY_THROUGH_THE_WALL_Toby.pdf).
Where a person is in their relationship with God will affect all the other aspects of the person. Sometimes it will be smooth sailing, and at other times, it will require great wrestling. Of all the different aspects of a person, it has the strongest power because it is a relationship with the God of the universe, who is unfathomably majestic and powerful. When someone has a breakthrough spiritually, the power of the Holy Spirit unleashed will almost always produce remarkable freedom in other areas of that person’s life.
We are not only made for relationship with God, but also with people. “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be subject to the fire of hell. Therefore if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:22-24 NIV). It is very important for a person to have healthy, positive relationships. This means that conflict is addressed and encouragement is spoken. When this is done, it creates space for the person to be themselves and live in freedom.
The state of the physical body also plays a role in health (big surprise, I know!). “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV). While this verse is talking about the spiritual level of being a living sacrifice, it is specifically talking about the importance of the physical body. It is a gift that we should steward well. Exercising helps the body to continue working well, the way God designed. On the macro level, it effects the way a person feels and how well they can perform daily activities. On the micro level, it produces hormones that improve a person’s mood and outlook on life and even boosts the vital reactions of the body! The same goes for eating a healthy diet. The body has certain nutrient needs and when those are met through the ingestion of nutritious foods, all of the body’s systems will run better. When the correct foods are eaten, the person will feel better overall and be able to function in a more positive, energetic way.
The thoughts that cycle through the mind have incredible power. They can determine actions, belief systems, and emotions, which all eventually can lead to physical pain, etc. Learning to guide where the mind goes is important for anyone who wants to be healthy. Mindfulness is the secular name of the goal, but the principle is found in the Bible as well: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV). “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Philippians 4:8 NIV). There are certain things that should be purposefully thought about and other things that should be banished from the mind.
Being healthy emotionally means living most of the time from internal positive emotions, while also being able to handle the negative emotions well that inevitably come in life. “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). Feeling an emotion is different than letting it control your actions, pushing the person toward something sinful. Emotional maturity is also feeling the right emotions at the right times and knowing how to express them. In the context of a relationship with God, it means finding satisfaction and joy in Jesus. That provides an overflow which can be given to others, instead of going to others seeking affirmation and positive emotions. A person cannot be more spiritually mature than they are emotionally mature.
A person is complex, and therefore, being healthy will involve many aspects that are on a spectrum of positives and negatives. Everyone has aspects that they need to grow in at any given time. Tackling every area at once may not be the best idea, but this life is a journey. What is your next step toward being a healthier you?