Health and the Christian

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones (Prov.3:7-8)

Recently, my wife and I visited a 65 year old friend of hours, in a Brisbane hospital. Admitted while having a heart attack, he nearly died, but was twice resuscitated. Now, he hopes to make a slow recovery.

His problems? Diabetes, poor diet, lack of exercise, excessive weight, too much sitting around and too much stress. His heart has sustained too much damage to permit a by-pass operation in the short-term; it would probably kill him. He’s still not out of the woods; he could still die in that hospital, any day.

All of this was predictable. These life habits were not new; they were present with our friend for many years, before his recent crisis.

Each of us shares the same human vulnerability. Once the heart stops, you have a few minutes to be resuscitated, or that’s the end. And we must remember this: God’s faithfulness to us doesn’t mean we can afford to be negligent with the body He has given us.

Every car’s oil, coolant levels and tyre pressures can easily be checked by its owner, and should be.  I do mine regularly. But what about our body?

The notion that we can somehow afford to despise or neglect our body has no basis in scripture. Paul prays for the Thessalonians, that “…your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus” (I Thess.5:23). This means that all aspects of bodily care, including health and fitness, should be important to us. Our bodies are a trust from God to be cared for, for His use and glory.

The body needs regular work and exertion. We were designed for it. Our modern, western sedentary lifestyle hasn’t been good for us, because we sit round, far too much. It might be the computer, the TV, or our work habits that contribute to this, but we need to find ways to deal with the problem.

I heard once of a middle-aged golfer who neared the end of his round, and challenged his partner for a race to the golf-house. He ran the 400-500 metres to beat his friend, turned around to brag to him, and died. His body was utterly unprepared for such a challenge.

Thus we need regular and reasonably vigorous exercise, and when our lifestyle is consistently marked by a lack of it (like my friend), there can be a severe price to pay.

I have a 120 metre hill up from our house, with a set of 13 stairs at the top. After running up that hill and then up the stairs, my heart is really working hard. It takes me 2 minutes to get my breath back (don’t ask me to talk!), but I feel good for it all. 5 days a week gives me a good workout.

But there’s a lot more. We have to talk about diet, which can make a huge difference to an individual’s health. I saw a sign when a child, saying “What you eat and drink today, walks and talks tomorrow.” Very true.

We are fortunate in Australia to have relatively easy access to plenty of meats, along with lots of fruits and vegetables, and they are all important. The Bible is not a vegetarian’s handbook. God said that for the feasts of Israel,

You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household (Deut.14:26).

Barbeques are Biblical. Mark’s gospel tells us that Jesus “…declared  all foods clean” (Mk.6:19). But it’s been noted that there is a correlation between a diet high in red meat, and incidence of bowel cancer. The solution? Intersperse consumption of red meats with fish and chicken.

It’s probably true that, “an apple a day keeps the Doctor away,” but it’s not only apples. Some less fashionable and cheap vegetables like spinach, beetroot and broccoli have very important protective functions in the body that we really need.

The best source of Vitamin D, is sunshine. Yes, over-exposure to the sun can cause sunburn and possibly skin cancer, but we all need some regular exposure. Furthermore,

In addition to the healthy affect on your skin, sunlight also provides another positive benefit. The human eye contains photosensitive cells in its retina, with connections directly to the pituitary gland in the brain. Stimulation of these important cells comes from sunlight, in particular, the blue unseen spectrum. A study by Dr.’s Turner and Mainster of the University of Kansas School of Medicine, published in the British Journal of Opthamology in 2008 states that, “these photoreceptors play a vital role in human physiology and health.” The effects are not only in the brain, but the whole body…The bottom line: The sun can help brain function, which can improve the nervous system, hormonal regulation, muscle function, immune health, and carries many other benefits.[1]

But there’s more. People whose lives are free from chronic anger, bitterness and unforgiveness towards others, will probably live longer. Why? Because these sentiments or attitudes really do harm people long-term, contributing to things like anxiety, lack of sleep and cancer.

Mental health institutions are largely made up of people who are refusing to face reality or take personal responsibility for their actions. In the vast majority of cases, there is nothing organically or biologically wrong with their minds at all. How they are thinking is really the problem. Attitudes of anger, bitterness, unforgiveness and guilt can be endemic in these places. The people there need to know that Christ’s atoning blood really does set people free. Through Christ, they can know that “all is forgiven.”

You really want to be healthy? Don’t expect perfection in this life from yourself, or others. Forgive people who offend or hurt you. You will not just please God, but do your health a huge favour in the process.

Conclusion:

“Healing to your body and refreshment to your bones” begins with the fear of the Lord. We all need that, and we need to take those wise steps with our body that it requires, to maintain and improve its health. That means looking at our diet, our rates of exercise, and even our attitudes and changing what we do, so we can joyfully serve the God Who entrusted our bodies to us, for a long time.

 

[1] Dr Phil Maffetone, “Sunlight is also Good for Eyes and Brain.”

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