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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

More on Health

Paul’s recent post on Health and Fitness got me thinking (as his posts often do). It was strange that we posted on the same topic within hours of each other. His post was a continuum of a set of posts with the common theme of Health, Wealth, and Happiness … these being the pillars of his long term goals and with each pillar being linked to each other. I believe this is a common set of fundamental goals for many of us in the “western” world. In his writings, Paul does a beautiful job of illustrating each pillar with a slant to make the topic relevant to the endurance athlete.

But specifically his post dealt with a dimension of Health that mine did not, which is the mental aspect of health. This brought me to ponder the importance of spiritual health since, in my opinion, the three (mental health, physical health, and spiritual health) are undoubtedly connected.

So the premise thus far is that spiritual health is a necessary ingredient for the larger pillar of Health, and the pillar of Health is directly connected to the pillars of Wealth and Happiness. But what is spiritual health? How is it related to physical health? How important is it? How can it be obtained and maintained? And what impact does it have on the other pillars?

What is spiritual health?

Instead of providing a definition from some internet source, I’ll write the attributes that I believe embody spiritual health.

- Hope
- Eternal assurance
- Absence of fear
- Maturity
- Selflessness
- Contentment

How is spiritual health related to physical health?

I grabbed this from (a “secular” website), which was the first result in the Google search “spiritual health”:

“No one really knows for sure how spirituality is related to health. However, it seems the body, mind and spirit are connected. The health of any one of these elements seems to affect the health of the others.

Some research shows that things such as positive beliefs, comfort and strength gained from religion, meditation and prayer can contribute to healing and a sense of well-being. Improving your spiritual health may not cure an illness, but it may help you feel better, prevent some health problems and help you cope with illness, stress or death.”

And this is simply a confirmation that the medical community recognizes the importance and connection between spirituality and health. To me, the most intriguing part of this statement is the acknowledgement that spiritual health can “contribute to healing”.

How important is it?

Okay, so here’s where things begin to transcend …

Until now the premise has been that spiritual health is a vital component of Health, with the understanding that spiritual health contributes to physical and mental health. But, in truth, spiritual health not only affects the temporal (the mind and body as they exist now), but the eternal … specifically the spirit, which is not temporal. So in this regard, spiritual health transcends all other health since its implication reaches beyond the natural and into the supernatural.

If you are not of Judeo/Christian theology you may be saying to yourself, “this guy is Looney … I don’t believe that there is eternity … there is nothing that is not natural, everything is finite, including us, the world, and all of existence. We have no spirit; we are simply animals whose minds have evolved way beyond that of other animals”.

To that mindset I don’t really have a response. It’s like a blind man and a man who can see sitting on a bench in a park. The man who can see says, “Hey there’s a squirrel over there”. And the blind man says, “No there’s not. There is no such thing as squirrels.” The man who can see says, “Yes there is, I’m looking at one. It’s right over there.” And the blind man says, “Yeah right … you’re a fool. Like I said, there is no such thing as squirrels.” – A pointless debate that goes nowhere.

So, moving on …

How can spiritual health be obtained and maintained?

There is only one answer and it is the same for both obtaining and maintaining spiritual health. Christ … believing in Christ, receiving salvation and redemption through Christ, and being sanctified through Christ. Christ is the only way. Every other path is false and will never bring you to spiritual health.

And what impact does spiritual health have on the other pillars?

Well … unfortunately for our desire to be comfortable, Christ does not call us to a life of wealth and happiness. He puts a greater calling on our lives; He calls us to a life of sacrifice! The truly best part is that He promises that through this we will find something better than happiness … we will find contentment, which transcends both health and wealth.

This shouldn’t be a problem for endurance athletes like me since we are very accustomed to sacrificing comfort to gain fitness and performance. So I should do this more. I should sacrifice my wants and my needs for others. I should love my neighbor as myself. And I should do this as a willing sacrifice to the Lord.

Another wise man named Paul once wrote these (I think it is obvious that Paul was an athlete, perhaps a runner, and a fan of sports):

...train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. - 1 Timothy 4:7-8

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. - 1 Corinthians 9:22-27

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. - Galatians 5:6-8

...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. - Hebrews 12:1-3

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. - Romans 15:1-2

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. - 2 Timothy 4:6-8

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

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