Give Your Spouse the Gift of Healthy Disciplines
By: Rebecca Barlow Jordan
May the God of peace himself make you entirely pure and devoted to God; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept strong and blameless until that day when our Lord Jesus Christ comes back again. - 1 Thessalonians 5:23 TLB
Health and fitness usually top our priority list when we’re young. But after we say “I do,” those “disciplines” can sometimes fade into the background—not intentionally, of course. We often blame it on full workloads, bearing children, and fast-food meals on-the-go. After all, nobody’s perfect. And who has time to work out or eat healthy?
Yet giving our spouse the gift of healthy disciplines (ours) can definitely bless them. In fact, it’s one of the best gifts we can offer, especially as we grow older.
My husband and I decided early on (with help from a few friends) that we would give each other and our children the gift of discipline needed to stay as healthy as we possibly could. But our first step in that process was to give our bodies to God as a living sacrifice—asking Him to help us make our bodies a holy place where God’s Spirit could dwell and give Him honor. That involved offering our entire self: mind, body, and spirit.
The Message translation explains this clearly in Romans 12:1-2:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
I can hear the questions firing even as I write this devotion: “Where can you find the time—and energy—for exercise? And who has time or money to eat healthy foods? Doesn’t that mean cooking? Besides, no one agrees on what is truly healthy. I didn’t ask for bad health.”
All valid responses. My answer is usually that it’s cheaper to prioritize healthy habits than it is to pay unnecessary hospital and doctor bills. And obviously, we can’t escape all sickness or health problems through the seasons of our lives. God both heals and uses suffering for His purposes.
But doing our best to reduce stress, abandoning harmful habits, being willing to let God reorder our lives, and working together as a couple to encourage each other can make a huge difference. Every small step we make toward a goal grows into a bigger step as we discipline ourselves to stay on track.
Over 25 years ago, a doctor diagnosed me with a common condition with no known cause and no real cure. When I heard “exercise for life,” I accepted that necessary discipline as well as reducing stress and choosing healthy nutrition as much as possible. I haven’t always stayed on track, but I’ve worked hard to do my part. God has given me strength through His promises even on tiring days, so much so that I list only “mild fibromyalgia” now on my medical records.
Sometimes God uses a physician, a friend, circumstances, or even His Word to nudge us toward the disciplines that will inevitably help us and our spouse. I have no goal to live to 100 unless that’s what God desires (and of course, if I can share those years with my hubby). God may take me home tomorrow if my purpose on this earth is complete. But I love my husband enough to want to enjoy and serve God together as many years as God allows us.
God has the absolute right to do whatever He wants, and death may separate us from our spouse at any time—young, middle-age, or older. Cancer and other traumatic diseases may affect our lives or the lives of our spouse in spite of our healthy efforts, because we live in a diseased, sin-filled world. All of us will deal with physical trials.
But what I’m talking about is giving our spouse our desire and our discipline to them as gifts: to do everything we can with God’s help to enjoy the years God does give us together. The way each couple works that out and contributes to that process will be different. The apostle Paul, both in Romans 12:1-2 above and in 1 Corinthians 9:27 (ESV) gave this gift to God: But I discipline my body and keep it under control. Paul wanted to stay physically and spiritually fit for God’s service.
That gift of “healthy disciplines” to our spouse begins with our relationship to God—and includes our willingness to keep spiritually fit in spirit, soul, and body. Does that take effort? Oh, yes. Is it worth it?
Just ask your spouse.
Rebecca Barlow Jordan is a bestselling inspirational author and day-voted follower of Jesus who loves to paint encouragement on the hearts of others. After five decades of marriage, she and her husband are more passionate about marriage and family than ever. Rebecca has authored and contributed to over 20 books and has written over 2000 other articles, devotions, greeting cards, and other inspirational pieces. She is a regular Crosswalk contributor whose daily devotional Daily in Your Presence is also available for delivery through Crosswalk.com. You can sign up for Rebecca’s free ebook and find out more about her and her encouraging blog at www.rebeccabarlowjordan.com.
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