Today I am writing with a hot pack on my back, as I struggle to get comfortable in my computer chair. At nearly six months pregnant, my swollen belly is putting constant strain on my back, resulting in continuous back pain. The hot pack helps soothe the pain, but I am reminded that many people cope with pain more severe than this on a daily basis. For some, this pain is not a result of disease or illness, but just a matter of age.
Lord willing, the aging process will happen to everyone. As we get older, our bodies slowly deteriorate. We find that the hamburgers that we once ate with gusto now cause us to gain wait and give us heartburn. We move slower. We realize that we cannot open jars as easily as we once could, and find ourselves out of breath at the top of a flight of stairs. This will happen to all of us, to a degree.
Our bodies were not designed to work forever. But this is not an excuse to let our working bodies fall into disrepair.
Pastor and blogger Tim Challies writes that our bodies are like our finances. As Christians, we know that our finances do not belong to us; God has the rights to everything we have. But we are the representatives of this money, called to be good stewards, and prayerfully spending, saving, and giving in a responsible manner.
In the same way, Scripture tells us that we do not own our bodies, but are responsible to care for them, so that they may be used to do the Lord’s work.
“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Challies writes, “Your body is not your own. Your body is God’s, to be cared for as he demands, to be committed to his service.”
In our culture, we can get overloaded with articles that promise “Your Healthiest Life Now” and ads showing amazing body transformations. While some of these methods to obtain a healthy body may be legitimate, Scripture calls us to another method of healthy living.
1. Plan to be fit.
Yes, we have to start by talking about physical fitness. Eating right and exercising is at the heart of being a good steward of your body.
Paul writes that “... bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).
Challies explains, “This is a warning about neglecting spiritual fitness in favor of physical fitness. But it does not diminish the importance of being fit, for Paul still acknowledges it ‘is of some value.’ While we know that physical strength is fleeting, that it peaks early and goes into long decline, we also know that our bodies, minds, and spirits operate better in a fit body than an unfit one.”
2. Guard against idleness.
“Laziness leads to a sagging roof; idleness leads to a leaky house.” (Ecclesiastes 10:18)
This, and many other verses in Scripture point to the value of good work, as opposed to laziness. There is value to true rest, but sitting on the couch binge-watching Netflix is not the kind of rest we need in order to refresh ourselves to continue the work of the Lord. That is plain idleness.
“Even a quick study of the biblical teaching of the subject will show that much of our unhealthy living is a result of idleness, of the refusal to prioritize our bodies. Guard against the idleness that keeps you on the couch when you should be active,” Challies writes.
3. Guard against gluttony.
“Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.” (Proverbs 23:2)
This verse seems incredibly harsh, and yet, gluttony mostly overlooked in the church today. But it’s time we paid attention to this silent sin. When we overindulge, we are more likely to become overweight; we may even be on the path to heart disease or diabetes, which has the potential to inhibit our lives and our ability to work for the kingdom.
Writes Challies, “Food is a great gift, but it makes a terrible god. Learn to practice self-control toward food and renounce any sign of gluttony.”
4. Prepare for the decline.
We know that our final years will come one day. We may be in our final years right now. And when the day comes when we find that we simply no longer have our physical health, make sure you still have your spiritual health.
“Read Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 as a glimpse of your own biography and ask, “What will sustain me in that day?” The answer is simple: godly character. Nothing but godly character will sustain you as your body decays and your mind weakens. Even while you give attention to your physical health, do not neglect your spiritual wellbeing,” Challies says.
Crosswalk.com contributor Elisabeth Klein writes that she is on a personal journey to attain a healthy body and lifestyle. In addition to making smart choices about nutrition and activity, she says she tried something new: prayer.
Klein writes, “Out of the shower, getting ready the other day, I started thanking God for my body. Out loud. Listing things.
“Thank you for my long hair. Thank you for my Mom’s green eyes and good genes. Thank you for my height, I like being small. Thank you that I can see and smell and touch and taste and hear. Thank you that I can use my hands. Thank you that I can walk. Thank you that I could run if I wanted to not that I want to. Thank you that I can ride a bike.
“And then I shifted it a bit.
“Thank you for my tummy. Thank for the stretch marks from having my two babies... Thank you for the extra weight because that means I’m not lacking for food. I’m sorry for not liking myself right now. Please help me with this. Please help me like myself.”
Brothers and sisters, you are beautiful creations of God. Let us treat ourselves as such, by being good stewards of His marvelous creation.
Carrie Dedrick is an editor of Crosswalk.com. When she is not writing or editing, she can usually be found teaching dance classes, running marathons, or reading with at least one adopted dog on her lap. Carrie and her husband Dustin are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their first baby, a daughter, in October 2017.
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/Manuel Faba Ortega