Is spirituality good for you?
You might expect me to claim that Christianity or, more generically, spirituality is a good thing for your health. But that’s not what I believe.
And both science and God’s Word back me up on this.
Now before you click “Delete” or “Back”, think of it like this. The way spirituality impacts your health isn’t unlike the way other relationships affect you. If your relationships with your husband, children, family, and friends are relatively healthy, then of course these interconnections benefit your health. But if your relationships are characterized by violence, addiction, anger, and conflict, than your physical, emotional, and spiritual health will be seriously damaged.
It’s the same with your spiritual life. Numerous studies point to a pattern: a relatively positive spirituality is associated with lessened anxiety and depression, a better quality of life, positive stress-related growth, less chronic pain, and lower mortality. On the other hand, negative spirituality is associated with poorer physical health, increased mortality, increased anxiety and depression, lower self-esteem, and a heightened incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder.
And what does God have to say about this? Religious words and practices in themselves may be worthless! “The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men’” (Isaiah 29:13).
So what IS healthy spirituality?
There has been a lot of scientific research on that question. Here’s a great summary by Dr. Kenneth Pargament, Professor of Psychology at Bowling Green University:
“Some forms of religion are more helpful than others. A religion that is internalized, intrinsically motivated, and built on a belief in a greater meaning in life, a secure relationship with God, and a sense of spiritual connectedness with others has positive implications for well-being. Conversely, a religion that is imposed, unexamined, and reflective of a tenuous relationship with God and the world bodes poorly for well-being.”
God would agree. He doesn’t care nearly as much about your religious behaviors as He does about your well-being and the status of your heart. Here’s a short list, from the Bible, of what God is looking for from you:
- Your listening. Like it or not, He’s smarter than you. And that’s in all ways a good thing! He’s looking for you to listen, not just with your ears but with your actions as well: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).
- Your allegiance. God’s enemy declared war against Him long before you and I came along. And whether or not we want to, each one of us must choose sides in this war. “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
- Your trust. Is God worthy of your trust? Will He do what He says He’ll do? Can you live your life based on what He says? That’s what faith is all about, and it’s what truly pleases God. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
- Your worship. Today we call our idols by almost any other name: entertainment, popularity, convenience, material possessions, other people’s opinions, or any of a wide-ranging number of other possibilities. God expects to come first, and He deserves to. In Jesus’ own words, “For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” (Matthew 4:10).
- Your transformation. God loves you unreservedly, just the way you are. But He also loves you too much to let you remain in your broken down, sinful condition. He asks you to let Him transform you from the inside out, “that he might sanctify and cleanse [the church] with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26).
- Your love. Not a “peck-on-the-cheek” kind of love, but an intense, loyal, intimate, passionate love that causes you to leave behind all lesser lovers and devote your life to following wherever He leads. And then to pass that love along. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).
So yes, your spiritual life makes a huge impact on your health in every way. And understanding what God wants most from you will make sure the impact is positive.
Like to find out more?
This is an excerpt from Live Healthy, Live Whole: Your Prescription for Good Health, Loving Relationships, and Joyful Spirituality. You can get your copy in either paperback or eBook right here
Your Turn: In what way has your spiritual life had a positive impact on your wellbeing, or a negative one? Leave a comment below.
Tweetables: why not share this post?
- Not all spirituality has a positive impact on your wellbeing. Here’s the difference. Tweet that.