The American Heritage Stedman’s Medical Dictionary defines “health” as “soundness, especially of body or mind; freedom from disease or abnormality.” Etymologically speaking, “health” means “wholeness, a being whole, sound or well.”
There’s a big push in our country for health & wellness. Health no longer encompasses the physical sphere alone. It also includes mental and emotional health. Millions of dollars are spent every year in this country on medicine, supplements, fitness memberships and equipment, doctor visits, and the list goes on. As a Christian, I believe God is in complete control of all realms of life. And everything that He allows in our lives is for a reason, usually to draw us into a deeper relationship with Him.
Bad things happen. People get diseases, cancers, have mental breakdowns. We lose things or people we love and our lives have the potential of falling into a state of emotional turmoil and despair. This is part of life. And how we cope with these things says a lot about us. Some (note: not all) of these problems are a result of sin. Sin is anything that goes against the character of God – whether it’s a sin of commission (doing something we shouldn’t do) or a sin of omission (not doing something we should do). As a result of sin, mankind’s relationship with God was broken.
Fortunately, God sacrificed His only Son Jesus as the perfect payment for the sin of the world so that through faith our relationship with Him can be restored. Confessing and repenting of sin is necessary for a restored relationship with God. However, it does not guarantee a life of ease and health. Bad things still happen. But when we know Christ, we know that “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). See Life is Like a Box of Chocolate Chip Cookies post here.
Still, we have no guarantee of health. Just because I’m healthy today doesn’t guarantee I’ll be healthy tomorrow, and it certainly does not guarantee good health for the rest of my life. Just because I have a high IQ does not mean that I will never suffer a mental breakdown. Also, though physical and mental exercise is valuable, it is not a 100% guarantee of health either. As we age, we wear down physically as well as mentally. Even young people contract horrible diseases, including cancers. None of this means that God has somehow lost control or overlooked something. He knows our frame, that we are dust. He cares for us and loves us, to the point of dying a horrible death in payment of our sins.
While we are stewards of our bodies and impact our health by our choices, we are not ultimately in control of our own health. We do our best to stay healthy, but ultimately, God is in control and often uses health or the lack thereof to draw us to himself. To read more on Christians Living a Healthy Life, I’d recommend this site.
So, why do I workout?!
- My body is the temple of the living God and I should take care of it. My body is not my own; it belongs to God.
- I am a steward of the body God gave me on this earth and want to be physically ready to do whatever I can for His service.
- I enjoy it! Exercise is a great way to clear and correct my thoughts and emotions. Sometimes, I just need to run, and afterwards I feel better because it’s given me a chance to preach the truth to myself and get some good endorphins flowing!
- Exercise is a way to be all things to all people. I get to meet new people and build relationships I otherwise wouldn’t have, as well as be involved in more discussions and forums, and hopefully be able to share my relationship with Christ as a result of my taking care of my body.
- I want to understand Scripture better. There are so many good runner illustrations in Scripture. The physical life often mirrors the spiritual life of faith. We are to run the race with patience; though it is sometimes difficult, we must keep on keeping on.
One lie that I often battle is that the BMI (Body Mass Index) is the standard of what is healthy. Though the BMI is a good starting point if someone is underweight or obese, it definitely leaves room for error. Someone who appears skinny may fall into the “healthy” or “normal” category, but he/she may not be healthy. On the other hand, someone who works out on a regular basis and has a low body fat % and solid, lean muscle may have a higher BMI; many athletes are deemed “overweight” by the BMI chart just because they have dense bones or more muscle (lean body muscle) than the average person. Personally, I prefer measuring body fat percentage to using the BMI.
Here are some other questions you can ask yourself to determine if you’re healthy:
- Are you taking care of your body by eating healthful meals and snacks? (see the Food Pyramid or the Mediterranean diet)
- Are you getting enough rest? (Doctors recommend at least 7 hours each night for adults, more for children. Sleep deprivation can cause serious damage to our bodies and even affect our mental capacities.)
- Are you drinking plenty of water? (Dietitians recommend 9 cups per day for women and 11 cups per day for men!)
- Are you physically active? (Doctors recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of activity each day; if you’re trying to lose weight, you may need to increase to 1.5 hours per day.)
- Are you avoiding habits that could harm your body? (Alcohol and tobacco products, drugs – even the over-the-counter variety – can have negative impacts. Other negative habits include worry, excess stress, poor sleep habits, negative relationships, etc.)
- Are you spending time in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ every day? (Even secular studies show that spiritual meditation positively affects our health, and emotions like worry and anger can negatively affect our physical beings.)
Always remember, “we are fearfully and wonderfully made” by our Great Savior Jesus Christ! We are stewards of our bodies and minds. Eat right, exercise, get your rest, and, ultimately, trust God.
Here’s a picture I thought was helpful. Consider drawing a “health map” that’s personalized for you. For me, I would add lean meats, beans and nuts, and dairy to the diet category, Bible reading and prayer to Relaxation category, and pastor, spiritual counselor, and good friends and reading to the Help category.