We live in a weird contradiction toward physical health. On one hand, we have more weight issues and physical ailments than ever before because we don’t take care of our bodies. One the other, we idolize our physical health as a way to vainly find beauty. It’s a pursuit of unattainable levels skinniness or muscle growth. Oftentimes, Christian communities add another layer to the problem due to over emphasize on the “spiritual” without understanding that our physical bodies are also intended and designed for spiritual use.
We are starting a series at Sojourn on Wednesday nights calledWholistic Spiritual Health. Let me define each of those. By wholistic, we mean all encompassing. We’re looking at how to pursue spiritual health in all areas of life. Spirituality is simply the search for meaning in life. It could refer to the pursuit of God or living in the Spirit for Christians, or it could just refer to the desire for purpose. Health entails more than the absence of illness; it’s the presence of vitality and life! Combined together, our series is about finding a meaningful spiritual health in every aspect of our lives. It’s connecting the everyday parts of our lives to the deeper purposes we desire to live by and the God who made us. The blog this quarter will follow our Wednesday night topics.
So why should we pursue physical health and what makes it spiritual?
First, it impacts all other areas of life: the emotional, mental, and spiritual. For example, our physical health dramatically effects how we experience stress. If you’re feelings stressed, the first question you should ask is, “how have I been taking care of myself physically?” Addressing stress at the physical level gives you a more level head to understand where the stress is coming from emotionally or mentally. It may relieve it altogether! The same is true for depressed feelings, anxious thoughts, relationship problems, and even spiritual disorientation. Our physical health either contributes to or helps alleviate the problems we experience.
Next, pursuing physical health builds discipline and a sense of purpose. Physical fitness is not something that just happens without thought. It takes planning, goals, and perseverance. That’s discipline. These don’t have to be overwhelming at all, but they will take effort! The discipline and purpose you feel will carry over into other areas of your life. It’s infectious. After exercising more regularly or eating right, you may find yourself more purposeful at work, home, and church. Pursuing spiritual wholeness through physical means can create a virtuous cycle. Pursuing in one area leads to pursuing in others.
Finally, it honors God. Our bodies are our greatest resource to steward over. Without them, little else matters. We live in an embodied, physical world. We can’t worship God, love the people around us, or serve the poor without taking care of our own physical needs first. That’s why it’s paramount we steward over our own physical health, it’s for the good of everyone! Our bodies are spiritual temples not only when it comes to our sexuality, but also in regards to our overall physical health.
Just like anything else, there are no short cuts to getting healthier. Beware if someone promises an easy way. Pursuing physical health takes work and planning, but pays off big time!
These are the 3 non-negotiable elements to improving your health:
1. Diet- you don’t need the latest fad diet or to starve yourself. Many times, this will just lead you to burnout and shame. Dieting is really quite simple, it’s just hard to actually do. If you eat real food (fruit, vegetables, and proteins) instead of crap, and limit sugary things, you’ll be on your way to feeling much better. Look for some healthier snack alternatives, put a little more green on your plate at dinner, and finish up by thanking God for the blessing of great food! Holly and I have recently begun this journey too. It’s interesting how once you begin to cut out some of the sugary foods, you get to experience the amazingness of other foods. Fruit like blueberries, pomegranates, and bananas are incredible! It’s natures deserts and you can have as much as you want!
2. Exercise- Start with a simple routine. People get excited to exercise so they buy a gym membership, go crazy every morning for a week, then burnout. Instead, start with small reasonable steps. Once you gain confidence and persevere through some of your goals, you can increase your exercise. That’s the truth of any spiritual or physical discipline! The discipline you keep is better than the one you wanted to keep, but didn’t.
3. Rest- Sleep is vital to our health. If you’re skipping on sleep you’re hurting yourself more than you realize. So many people think they’re able to function fully with 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night. That’s just not how our bodies work. It’s really simple: set a bed time. End your screen time an hour before bed, especially the phone! We’ve all been tired, so we get in bed only to find ourselves scrolling social media for 2 hours. Phones are portals into useless time. Getting even a little more rest each night will improve your mood, give you more energy, and help you learn.
I encourage you to approach these as a spiritual discipline. It’s not a vane pursuit or something to get to do if you have extra time. Physical health honors God and prepares you to be who he wants you to be. If you take steps in these areas, you’ll feel better, live longer, and grow towards God through pursuing physical health.
Look out for next week’s post on mental health! Come on the Wholistic Spiritual Healthjourney with us this quarter.