Do you not know that your bodies are temples 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 bodies. 1 Cor. 16:19-20
We’ve all seen this verse a million times, usually in the context of some sort of sex talk, but also to illustrate that we should take care of our bodies in general. These bodies are not our own; they were given to us by God to house our souls for the duration of our earthly lives. They are properties that we are stewards of until we are taken up into heaven where they will be perfected and glorified. I think a lot of people miss what it truly means to take care of our bodies on all fronts, and I’d like to examine that a little closer here.
We all know we should take care of our bodies. Our parents badgered us to eat our vegetables and pass on the sweets for as long as we can remember. And our society has a particular preoccupation with physical health. Every week it seems our culture is bombarded with a wave of the next health fad(s). Blueberries, quinoa, avocados, kale, a different take on the juice cleanse. Avoiding sugar (while somehow also eating fruit?), gluten, carbs, certain meats.
But it goes beyond what we eat. There are innumerable ads for the next workout machine or treadmill. People sign up for CrossFit, Iron Man, Tough Mudder, or their local gym. We spend time and money on acquiring all the gear we need for healthy, toned bodies. But a week or a month (or maybe a little longer) after buying that new pair of sneakers and expensive juicer, we fizzle out and go back to watching American Ninja Warrior while languishing on the couch with a bag of potato chips or a bowl of M&Ms.
I think a big part of why we lose our motivation toward physical health is that we are doing it for the wrong reasons. A lot of us (maybe most of us) get pumped to sweat at the gym and make wise meal choices because we want to look good for other people. We want the confidence that a fit, healthy body brings by knowing that other people see and admire it. It’s not bad to want to look good. But we shouldn’t be primarily motivated by impressing other people. We should be trying to improve our bodies out of respect for them and respect for God.
I’d list some advice for taking care of yourself physically, but there are a lot of tips and regimens out there, as this week’s podcast illustrates.
There’s a lot of buzz about mental health in our culture as well, although it tends to focus on how we should view and treat mental illness rather than how the average person can nourish their mind. I would hazard a guess that more of us spend time at the gym and prepping meals than taking steps to care for our minds.
Just as our bodies need to be exercised and nourished, so do our minds. TV and social media are fine in moderation, but their content generally doesn’t give our minds the “weight” they need to develop and remain strong.
Try to challenge your mind in different ways. There are a variety of different mind games and puzzles out there. Reading does wonders for your mind. If you are not in the habit of reading, start with material that is on a level you are comfortable with, then work your way up to material with a more difficult vocabulary or more complex concepts. Learn how to handle mental stress like worries or heavy workload through the development of good mental habits, like prayer, meditation, and control over your thoughts.
Taking care of your mind is not only important as you age; it will serve you well right now. The value of a sharp and clear mind cannot be overestimated.
In my opinion, our emotional health is often overlooked. Life will always bring trials and difficulties. Life is sad, frustrating, and scary. People will disappoint or hurt us. We will experience loss. Simply living will put us through a great amount of emotional stress.
It is important to 1) learn how to handle emotional stress and 2) remove unnecessary emotional stress from your life. You can better handle emotional stress by venting your emotions in healthy ways, such as high-intensity activities, prayer, art, or talking with a close friend. Bottling things up may work short-term, but it will have long-term effects.
Identifying and removing unnecessary emotional stress is just as important for your emotional health. Pull back from friendships that are taking an emotional toll on you and bring no benefits, or in some cases sever those friendships entirely.
It can be hard to decide if an emotionally stressful friendship should be dropped or not, so let me give an example: You have a Christian friend who is willfully sinning in an area of his life and is refusing to repent or accept counsel or accountability. Although you try to be a good influence on your friend, he’s resistant. In this case, your close friendship with this person is not doing him much good and is putting you through the emotional wringer. It is best to withdraw from this friendship (whether that simply means hanging out less or becoming casual acquaintances is up to you) while still communicating that you will be praying for him and will be available if he needs you.
These three aspects of the body are connected and affect each other. If your body is unwell, it can weigh on you emotionally and mentally. If your mind is weary, it can mirror that weariness in the body and emotions. And if you are emotionally frazzled, your body can become ill and your mind less sharp. God gave us these bodies, minds, and emotions, and we should honor them as the gift they are. With strong tools, we can better carry out the will of God in our lives and the world.
In what ways do you seek to strengthen yourself physically, mentally and emotionally? What works for you, and what doesn’t?