Health is often taken for granted until you lose it. Many will spend money to keep fit, buy the right food and adopt a lifestyle to stay healthy. When we become unwell, it can affect what we do, how we think, how we feel and in some cases, it can be life-changing. Reading the Bible reveals a lot about health, but also the limits of it and our need for a healer - Jesus.
When illness creeps into our lives or we experience the sudden ill health of a loved one, we might start to think about the bigger questions of life. In some cases, it can drive us to think about the number of our days and our own mortality. There is good news to be found in Jesus and much wisdom on health in the Bible. Here are a few to consider:
1. Sickness and Death Are a Result of the Fall, but There Will Be a Glorious Resurrection
The Bible marks the beginning of when health first started to fail. When sin entered the world through Adam, there was a great unraveling of the perfect health that Adam and Eve would have experienced when they were created. Death is the result of the sin of the first humans and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). We have experienced the effects of sin and death in our world since then. Our outward bodies are wasting away (2 Corinthians 4:16) and we know that they will eventually perish. However, as Christians we know that death is not the end of the story and there will be a resurrection of the body.
In 1 Corinthians 15:42-49 we have a contrast between our physical bodies in this world and our spiritual bodies when we are raised again to new life. Our bodies will be planted in the ground when we die, but will be raised to live forever (1 Corinthians 15:42). They will be buried in brokenness and weakness, but will be raised in glory and strength (1 Corinthians 15:43). While we are in our physical bodies, we will experience the effects of the fall of Adam in both mind and body. We will need prayer, medical intervention and support from others when we experience ill health. Yet, we can hold onto hope as we look forward to the resurrection, when we will be like the heavenly man, Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:49).
2. The Old Testament Laws Demonstrate How God Cares for the Health of His People
Laws found in the Old Testament were written that would have promoted good health, cleanliness, sanitation and a healthy diet amongst the people of God. Examples include distinguishing between clean and unclean animals (Leviticus 11), treating leprosy (Leviticus 13-14), cleansing houses (Leviticus 14) and laws about bodily discharges (Leviticus 15). These were in place long before medical discoveries were made which shape our understanding of health and hygiene today.
3. Having our Mind Set on God Can Affect Our Health
Having our mind and heart set on Christ and obeying Him can result in an increase to our years of life, peace, health to our body and nourishment to our bones (Proverbs 3:2, 8). The Lord numbers our days and just because we follow Jesus does not mean that we will live to a grand old age. However, when we look to the Lord and live for Him, our mind is on the right thing. We are to take every thought captive to obey Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:5), to set our minds on the things above and not the things of this world (Colossians 3:2) and to be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Ephesians 4:23).
God also created us and knit us together in the womb (Psalm 139:13). He knows our physical needs, our emotional struggles, our mental state and our deep need for Him. It is no surprise to God when we experience loneliness, despair, anger and depression. Many well-known individuals in the Bible experienced this including Elijah, Jonah, David and Job. Yet, the Lord worked in each and every situation for His glory and He will do that in our lives too.
4. We Can Pray for the Good Health of Others and Encourage Them to Get Help if They Need It
In John’s letter to his friend Gaius, he prays that he would “enjoy good health and that all may go well” with him (3 John 1:2). This is an encouragement to pray for others in this way as we seek to love them well. In Proverbs 17:22 it says: “a cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” This should spur us on to encourage and come alongside others to help lift them up and improve their physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health.
Elsewhere, the apostle Paul gave a suggestion to help Timothy’s ailment: “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Timothy 5:23). Today, we might advise others to seek medical help and get the support they need from those who are trained professionally. Having healthcare is something to give thanks to God for and we should not take it for granted.
5. Training Our Physical Bodies Is of Some Benefit, but Godliness Is of Even Greater Value
We should look after our bodies and this might include training it through discipline, healthy eating and fitness. There is a type of training that surpasses physical bodily training. Training in godliness has eternal significance and is of value in every way (1 Timothy 4:8). We are preparing for an eternity with our Lord and Savior and whilst we are on earth, we are being refined and transformed by the renewing of our minds. Knowledge of the truth leads to godliness (Titus 1:1).
6. Jesus Experienced Suffering and Death in the Body, but His Resurrection Gives Us Hope
God came into our likeness and identified with us through living in a physical body. He experienced the pain of torture through crucifixion and death in the body. The same hands that reached out in love and healed many on earth would become scarred with nails to save our broken world. His compassion for the sick and dying, the healings He did and how He resurrected others and His own resurrection, points forward to a time when there will be no more suffering and there will be restoration of creation including our bodies.
7. Our Bodies Belong to God
We should honor the Lord by taking care of our health because our bodies were purchased by the blood of Jesus, therefore we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). He not only created us, but He died for us too. With these amazing truths, knowing that we were created by God, that Jesus died for us and that we will spend eternity with Him, should be the confidence we need to live boldly for Him and to steward everything He has given to us, including our bodies. As believers, our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit and God dwells in us. We can live a life that brings the Lord glory through everything we do (1 Corinthians 10:31).
One individual and sister in Christ that exemplifies this beautifully is Joni Eareckson Tada. As she celebrates her 70th birthday this year, she reflects on how the Lord has worked through her disability and ill health to reach many with the gospel and help many with disabilities around the world. The gospel has transformed Joni’s life and she lives her whole life for Jesus.
It is a comfort to know that we are known by God from the inside out, He can transform our heart and mind and we have a glorious resurrection to look forward to. He knows the end from the beginning, and nothing is outside of His control, including our health. We might not understand the purposes He has for us, but we can be secure in His love for us whether we are in good or ill health. He wants us to rely on Him, not our own health, strength or resources. Will we allow Him to take us up in His arms and strengthen us with the strength that only He can give? Will we depend on Him, knowing that He will meet every need? When we place our trust in Him, even sickness and death are not the end of the story.