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Your body — God’s gift

By JoAnn Butrin

A wise Congolese friend once responded when asked, “What is health to you?” by saying, “Health is everything I am.” Though this article will focus on physical health, there is an interconnection of the body, spirit and emotions when thinking of health. Even the World Health Organization recognizes that physical health is not merely the absence of disease, but an overall state of well-being — emotionally, spiritually and physically.

All of us desire to be blessed with good physical health. No one enjoys being in pain. Many of us dread the possibility of a heart attack or stroke, and for some the very thought of cancer evokes fear and dismay.

Most Americans today are well informed about the benefits of healthy behaviors such as proper diet and exercise. We know those two factors alone can contribute to reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke and even some forms of cancer. We also know we should have annual medical checkups and that there are certain diagnostic age-specific exams that can detect cancer that we should have routinely or when our physician orders them.

Many of us, despite this life-saving knowledge, often find it difficult to put the knowledge into practice. We postpone or avoid proper eating and exercise, claiming we just don’t have time. We don’t schedule checkups and exams because we feel it’s too expensive. Sometimes we even think that it isn’t necessary to do these things because “God will protect us and keep us well.”

There is another segment of our society, even including some within the evangelical community, who go from avoidance to the opposite extreme. They become obsessed with fad diets and all sorts of products and supplements that promise reduction of cancer risk, cures for arthritis, prevention of colds, increased mental abilities and any number of benefits that are difficult, if not impossible, to substantiate. In our “quick-fix” society we are drawn to the idea that taking a pill or, more usually, multiple pills and supplements will give us the physical health and well-being that we so desire without any great effort on our part.

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Whether we avoid or obsess, the question is —why? Why do we care for our spirits and tend to our emotional needs while neglecting or even abusing this amazing organism — the body that God has entrusted to us?

The Bible speaks of the wonder and importance of the physical body in Psalm 139:13,14: “For You have formed my inward parts; You have covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (NKJV). Paul also wrote, “So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones” (Ephesians 5:28-30).

These Scriptures give us the idea there is an expectation that we will take care of the body that has membership with God himself and that we do and should love ourselves enough to care for our bodies.

The number one reason given for lack of attention to our physical health is time. We often feel we don’t have time for exercise, we don’t have time to eat properly and we don’t have time or money to have the checkups and exams that would benefit us.

Statistics show that Americans are spending millions on so-called health products to try to make themselves healthier, when, in fact, most of what is promised by these products could be achieved simply by eating healthy, balanced diets and participating in regular exercise.

Most of us, however, do find time and money for the things we enjoy — socializing, television, recreation, hobbies, etc. Think back over the past week and look at possibilities when exercise and preparing a balanced meal might have fit into your lifestyle. Is lack of time or money really the root issue?

In reality, self-discipline may be more of a key to the lack of caring for ourselves than anything else. Eating vegetables and low-fat foods is not nearly as satisfying as a cheeseburger and a large fries, and those fast foods are quicker and easier to obtain. After a long day, sitting in front of the TV is usually more appealing than getting outside for a brisk walk or going to the pool to swim.

Another factor may be that we simply do not like our bodies very much. We feel intimidated by what we see in the mirror and we make all kinds of unfavorable comparisons with the ideal bodies we see portrayed in the media. Rather than improving ourselves as best as we reasonably can, we choose to avoid dealing with our physical health.

How can we take the knowledge of good health behaviors and put them into practice? In so doing, as Paul wrote, how can we help to nourish and cherish our bodies that are a gift from God?

First, do a survey of your physical status. Are you actively caring for your physical health as evidenced by good health behaviors? Are the following practices part of your life?

  • Regular exercise — Increase your heart rate for a minimum of 20 minutes at least three times a week.
  • Regular medical checkups — An annual physical exam and age-specific diagnostic tests can identify health issues before they become health crises.
  • Eating healthy — Eat three meals a day and focus on grains, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat foods while avoiding high-calorie fast foods and fad diets.
  • Rest and play — Get adequate sleep and take time out for relaxation.

Second, find out why you are not taking necessary measures.

Ask yourself the following questions and honestly address the answers.

  • Do I lack discipline and simply not take or make time to fit these important activities into my life?
  • Do I dislike my body and therefore avoid taking care of it?
  • Do I use “faith” in God to take care of my body for me as an excuse not to take responsibility for my physical health?

By taking care of our physical health with a balanced, non-obsessive approach we are honoring the gift of the body God has entrusted to us. Certainly we do trust God to care for us and protect us, and He does. But God also expects us to do our part in caring for the amazing gift of our bodies. We truly are God’s temple, His dwelling place (1 Corinthians 6:19). Caring for ourselves is not only a blessing for us, it is pleasing to our Creator.

Dr. JoAnn Butrin is director of HealthCare Ministries of the Assemblies of God.

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