Christians have a mixed reputation when it comes to living healthfully. Individuals who are involved in a religious community and consider themselves highly spiritual do many things right. They tend to have fewer problems with substance abuse, engage in risky sexual behaviors less often, and generally rate their physical and mental health more positively. On the other hand religious people are more likely to be obese, and some studies describe higher rates of depression and anxiety in this group.
Many aspects of spirituality are beneficial to physical, mental, and relational wellbeing. However, some religious people live dangerously, and see their relationship with God as a way to escape the negative consequences of harmful behavior. That’s not the way things should be.
True Christianity is anything but passive. The Bible presents God’s people as being very active in most circumstances, even fighting when necessary. David praised God who “trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.” (Psalm 144:1-2 NIV) Paul talked about the need to “discipline my body and bring it into subjection” in order to win the prize for which God had called him. (1 Corinthians 9:26-27) The Christian life involves striving not to save ourselves, but to live out the kind of life God calls us to.
This principle is especially true in the area of our personal health. As a Christian, what does it mean to take charge of your health? It’s one of the most important areas where God calls us to “run and pray.” (You’ll enjoy the story of 2 little girls that gives rise to that phrase.)
Here’s what that looks like:
- Respect your physical body as the temple of God’s Holy Spirit. If you really believed God was living in you, what would you do differently? (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) That understanding underlies all the following points.
- Seek God’s opinion on how you should live. God cares about what you eat, how you rest, what professionals you seek care from, etc. Pray for both His wisdom in what to do, and His strength to carry out any changes you need to make.
- Appreciate the power of small actions you take today to affect your health tomorrow. It’s irresponsible to expect God to undo the results of years of your bad behavior. Sometimes He does, but He usually expects us make the small lifestyle changes necessary to live well.
- Become informed about your health. We are fortunate indeed to have so much information available, much of it free on the internet. Pay attention to health news. Read well-researched sources on healthy living.
- Get appropriate help. Seeking help from professionals is part of taking care of yourself responsibly under God. Talk with your doctor or other health professional, and then think through their advice for yourself. Pray about it, and then act.
- Be a good steward of your healthcare dollar. Don’t expect the government or any other institution to take care of you. See yourself as a guardian of the resources God has placed within your care. Research any product or service carefully before spending money.
- Pay attention to your thinking. “Think on these things” – whatever is good and lovely, etc. – is good for both your mental and physical health. (Philippians 4:8) God made your mind and your body to be closely connected. You can choose what to think about.
- Invest in personal relationships. Research demonstrates that those closely connected with a community of faith live longer and healthier. So do those who are happily married. Take the time to invest in the lives of people God has put within your reach – family and others.
- Pray. Often. About your health. God cares about your wellbeing in every area of your life. Pray not only for His healing power, which He is eager to provide, but for His wisdom and strength to live in a way that both honors Him and promotes your personal health.
Working together with God is a powerful way to maximize your wellbeing physically, mentally, and relationally. People of faith who see themselves collaborating with God in this way have a generally higher level of wellbeing in many areas of life, and research can document this.
Don’t leave your personal health up to chance. Don’t leave it up to the government or your doctor to care about. And don’t even leave it up to God alone. Work together with Him, and you’ll experience the best life possible – here, and for eternity.
For much more on cooperating with God to live well physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually, check out Live Healthy, Live Whole.
Your Turn: What is one action you need to take in order to work together with God to maximize your health? Can you do that this week? Leave a comment below.
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