Health, Hope and Happiness
A young mother sits down beside her daughter and hugs her tightly. “I have something to tell you,” she begins hesitantly as she struggles to hold back her tears. “Your baby sister is very sick in the hospital with influenza. If she dies, you will be my only little girl.”
I was that baby sister who almost died. Growing up, I heard many times that I almost died as an infant, but never realized how my health impacted those who love me. I never considered that my parents cried for me or how troubling that conversation may have been for my sibling.
A century ago, many babies did not survive influenza and other diseases. Medical advances have indeed been some of this past century’s great success stories, demonstrating good use of doctors’, researchers’ and inventors’ Spirit-given gifts. Despite these advances, the Government of Canada continues to report a variety of alarming statistics concerning our collectively unhealthy lifestyles. According to one department, research has established a causal association between social relationships and health. People who have few ties to other individuals [including through their church] are more likely to suffer from poor physical and mental health and to die prematurely.
Together with daily prayer, the following habits can help us to develop and maintain well-being: eating a balanced diet based on Canada’s newest Food Guide to Healthy Eating(http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index-eng.php); participating regularly in physical activity; getting sufficient sleep each night; getting an annual medical check-up; avoiding overuse of alcohol, such as binge drinking or drinking to cope with problems; and avoiding the use of illegal drugs.
Also, we should not underestimate the importance of spirituality and positive thinking as part of a heart-healthy lifestyle. The Book of Proverbs reminds us that a heart at peace gives life to the body and that a cheerful heart is good medicine.
I Corinthians 6:19-20 further reminds us that God has appointed us the earthly guardian of our body and that it is up to us to steward it well. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you? … Therefore, honour God with your body.”
Health Canada also reports that 20 percent of Canadians will experience some mental health issue during their lifetime. Sadly, there is still a stigma associated with this range of issues, which presents a significant barrier to early diagnosis and treatment. For that reason, if you or someone close to you shows signs of mental illness or addiction, it is important that you seek treatment as soon as possible. You may wish to talk to a family physician, psychologist, school counsellor, pastor or social worker about your concerns, remembering that people should never feel embarrassed to take prescribed medications or to seek counselling that will help them to be at their best. It is indeed a shame that people often suffer needlessly when they could be living fuller, healthier lives to the glory of God.
Learning to deal with stress and talking with trusted individuals about things that concern us will also help us to enjoy God’s blessings to the fullest. In this regard, Philippians 4:6 (one of my favourite passages) offers some sage advice: Do not worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts, offer up your prayers and requests to God.
Admittedly, the battle can seem overwhelming for those suffering long-term illness and stress, but the Bible tells us to be strong and of good courage because the Lord is with us wherever we go. “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:29-31) And so, stewarding our health is about much more than eating our veggies and remembering to floss every day. It is about living in respect of our body and reflecting well on how our habits have impacted us and those who love us.
It means keeping informed about medical advances and seeking out forums that address issues of concern to us. It also means putting aside our embarrassment and going for medical tests and consultations that may save our life one day. It means saying “no” to the seductions of the secular world that will work against our body and God’s purpose for our life. Simply put, stewarding our health is about making responsible daily decisions that honour the body that God has given us. It is a way of life.
In closing, I leave you with the following words of prayer: I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. (3 John 1:2)
Barbara Hennessy, Chair