Physical health and wellness alone do not lead to happiness. The Bible warns us not to worship idols. Idols, by definition, are anything that we place above or before God. Wellness and the many categories of it that are marketed to us by modern society can easily take a front row seat in our lives. It doesn’t seem like a bad thing to put a priority on our health but bowing to our flesh is dangerous. Even when we aim at wellness and physical fitness.
Wellness is “the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as a result of a deliberate effort.” In the medical world, wellness is coined as the “approach to health care that emphasizes preventing illness and prolonging life, as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases.” Seeking medical professionals to treat or prevent disease isn’t unbiblical, nor is opting for preventable health care, but placing any of this before God definitely is.
The following warning signs may alert us to lopsided priorities in caring for our physical health and wellness.
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1. It Comes First.
“I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
This verse comes to mind alongside victorious battles and hard-fought wars. It’s become a mantra of athletes, but I believe we miss the depth of what Paul wrote if we leave it at surface value. When what we think we can do alludes our physical strength to achieve it, we must press into the greater purpose God has for our lives. It’s not just strength to cross the proverbial finish line, but the leaning in we must learn to do to survive the storms.
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"...we can begin to place our daily health routines before all else, even time with God..."
If we’re not careful, we can begin to place our daily health routines before all else, even time with God in His word. It’s often a sacrifice to put God first. We want to do a million other things as the sun starts to peak over the horizon: sleep more, take a shower, go to the gym, make a healthy smoothie, or break out the yoga mat. The truth is, once the day starts rolling on without Him, it easily spins out of our control because we didn’t sit down to let Him pour in all we need to navigate the current day’s challenges.
We’re always seemingly running short of time, but He can stretch it. Meet Him in the morning. It’s the most effective way to care for our physical bodies, mental capacities, and thirsty souls.
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2. It Consumes Our Mind.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all our heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
The point of all the hard work it takes to maintain our healthy state is to be closer to Him.
Do we strive aimlessly, focused on the fitness machine readouts, scale numbers, calorie counting, or vitamin regions? Do we even look up from the cracks in the sidewalk as we run over them to see the sky and the creation surrounding us? Are we missing it?
Some of us are addicted to checking the number on the scale. We’re dead set on it showing a different number because that will assure us we are skinny enough, in shape enough, and good enough.
Others find it hard to function without their daily workout or weekly massage or become consumed by the labels on everything they eat or drink.
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"When these processes start to distract our focus from our Father, we’re treating them as idols."
Staying fit and eating healthy are good goals. Rewarding our bodies and minds for the hard work they carry us through is a healthy practice. However, when these processes start to distract our focus from our Father, we’re treating them as idols.
“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1 NIV)
King David wrote this verse when he was under duress from his enemies. So many times, in dire straits, David called out to the One True God able to save and satisfy Him.
God wants to bless us on this earth. He loves us extravagantly! Seek Him first, and we will find Him. Seek Him second, and we begin to strive for things that we’re never meant to struggle towards.
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3. We Don’t Stop
We’re unable to slow down, give ourselves a break, or allow our minds to recover. Many of us can’t stop the wellness train once it’s picked up an excess of speed. Soon we can’t get through the day without whatever it is that we’re convinced will keep us well.
It has taken me years and a body riddled with chronic injuries to learn to embrace days off from running. Low and behold, my legs feel better than ever when I slow my pace down and allow myself recovery days.
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"...embrace days off ..."
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
Death does not play favorites. We live in a fallen world, where unpredictable suffering has befallen many of us. Striving to achieve greater wellness and to live longer are futile goals on their own. It’s OK to take a day off, cheat a little on our diets, and break the normal routine because God is bigger than all of it.
But staying in our best fighting form so that we can maximize the effectiveness of our days on earth to bring as much hope and love to others as we can is righteous and worthy. Even the biggest satisfaction from our fitness and health here on earth is nothing compared to what awaits us when we follow Christ’s daily agenda.
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4. It’s Costing Us Too Much.
“It is not too good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to search out matters that are too deep.” Proverbs 25:27
This verse is saying that too much, even of a good thing, is too much! It’s good to swap bad habits for good, reaching for the banana instead of the cookie, setting the remote down to go for a run, or soaking in the tub with a good book rather than shopping online.
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"It’s easy to start justifying the need for our purchases when they are good for us!"
However, wellness is a big industry, and we must be careful not to let it affect our financial state in a negative way. It’s easy to start justifying the need for our purchases when they are good for us! I am convicted of this as I recall the cart full of compression braces and vitamins that I rely on to run. Being physically active in anyway yields the opportunity for a new wardrobe, from earbuds to shoes. Literally, head to toe.
A lot can be said about where how we spend our time and our finances. It reflects what is important to us, and so we must aim to strike a balance in how much our wellness habits affect the way God calls us to manage our finances.
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5. We’re Slaves to the Numbers.
Competition is healthy, but comparison can be deadly.
It can run us into the ground. Why have we set our current wellness goals? What is driving our habits to stay healthy and energized?
The starting line to wellness looks as different for everyone as the finish line. When we set the right priorities (time with God first being the most important), I believe we’ll be guided into the right pace for our individual journeys. We all have different weaknesses and are capable of different strengths. If we find ourselves burnt out, injured, and mentally depleted striving after certain numbers, it’s time to reevaluate whether or not our goals are practical and achievable.
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"Take care and be kind to yourself."
Don’t be afraid to start at a different starting line and let your body adjust in its own time. Take care and be kind to yourself. God surely loves and cares for us, and though we will face obstacles we will have to battle through, we can trust that He prepares us faithfully as we seek Him daily.
Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ on her blog, https://sunnyand80.org. She is a stay-at-home mom, freelance writer, blogger, and author of, “Friends with Everyone …Friendship Within the Love of Christ.” She resides in Northern Ohio with her husband of eleven years, two daughters, and their Golden-doodle.
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Originally published Friday, 26 October 2018.