It’s January – in case that had passed you by – which means New Year’s resolutions consisting of an over-priced gym membership, new workout clothes and multiple early alarms set on your phone, watch or actual alarm clock. Bring on the New Year, bring on the New You. Am I right?!
As ‘health and wellness’ reigns throughout the January headlines, I seem to find myself asking: “Wellness – what is it anyway?” And wondering if it really impacts my faith.
As I attempt to scan my ever anxious and overwhelmed mind for the meaning, I encounter images of green juices, yoga pants, meditation classes, luxury spa holidays and running. A lot of running. This equates to a commitment, a drag, a pain in the backside – in more ways than one – and among all of this, I frequently encounter an overwhelming sense of shame and guilt. And so begins 2017.
Yet, when I try to recall all the struggles and pain in my life, my list spans from paper cuts and winter colds all the way to anxiety, job loss, losing loved ones, not to mention war and famine that we see all over the world. Pain seems to overshadow my approach to wellness and wellbeing and it overshadows the ever growing approach that the wellness industry provides.
So, wellness – what is it anyway?
If we look back at the history of wellness, starting within India, China and Greece, we’ll see it most definitely encompassed our whole being. As a physical trainer by trade, this intrigues me. It wasn’t just physical, but also emotional and spiritual as well. “But this is 2017AD, not whateverBC. What has this got to do with me?” Glad you asked.
Just as the ancient Greeks pursued a healthy body and mind, so did Jesus – albeit in different ways – and the current narcissistic approach to wellness not only ignores areas of our health, but has created some ill-health by approaching it as a competition. I’m not saying that a new physical fitness regime for 2017 is a destructive and self-obsessed goal, but we might just want to check ourselves at the gym door of our motivation.
On a primary level, wellness includes our physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing. Therefore it also includes our physical, spiritual, and emotional pain. This means our approach to our health should cover all these areas, which unfortunately a gym membership and fluorescent running trainers don’t really do. If you weren’t already feeling slightly overwhelmed at the thought of a new 2017 fitness regime, I’m afraid I’ve got another one to add to the list: spiritual and emotional health. There is however, one area that I believe ties all these together, and it’s this area that incorporates our faith into our wellness.
If we look at the Bible we’ll see that it’s surprisingly holistic. We were created in relationship with the Father, Son and Holy spirit, and we were created for relationship. We were also designed and created as one being; mind, body, spirit, and so our initial design through connection and relationship then brought in the rest of our being. Relationship first, physical, spiritual, emotional second. In fact, the physical, spiritual and emotional enable us to be relational. Pain and health can be experienced in them all.
When crucified on the cross, Jesus quoted and experienced the ancient Psalm of sorrow and lament, Psalm 22. It demonstrates how Jesus went through physical, spiritual and emotional pain to restore us back to relationship with the Father. All of our pain is taken up in the person of Jesus as he sacrifices himself and restores us to wellness. All of these areas of our being matter. As Tim Keller says: “The God of the Bible not only invented and created all these areas, but He is redeeming them.”
The story that the Bible tells isn’t distant from our health and wellbeing today, but instead continually speaks to us as we are being restored back to full relationship with God. It demonstrates a God who is in relationship with us, His creation of whole entities – mind, body, soul and spirit. He designed us to live out relationship and connection with one another so our mind, bodies and soul could be restored, healed and made well. We weren’t designed to wholly focus on our outside being, but to be aware of and consistently working on our inside being. God recognised all of our pain and met it so our bodies could be made well, and if they aren’t restored here on earth then they will be restored in heaven.
So if there’s one health area I’d encourage you to focus on in 2017: your relational health. Life becomes a holistic gym, no pricey membership required. As your relational health to God, yourself and others unfolds, watch how the other areas of your health also start to unfold and flourish.