Physical and Spiritual Health

christian living health stewardship May 06, 2023

(originally published 20JUN22)


I see Christians ask fairly often for specialized help in their spiritual walk, ranging from special counseling to help with questions about their faith or advice about parenting. These requests are usually sincere, but often they seem unnecessary. Let me explain via a comparison. 


When dealing with a health issue, people could spend hundreds or thousands of dollars and countless hours seeing doctors and specialists, trainers and dieticians, and doing who knows what. Often these are necessary, but these experts will first check on the patient's habits. 


Are they struggling with weight but eat a gallon of ice cream every night after a full three meals? Do they binge whole bottles of alcohol every weekend? Have they not left their bed for months save for going to the bathroom? 


These are the first things that any good specialist will advise changing. Drop some of the sugar and alcohol, increase the vegetables, or at least start taking vitamins, and start exercising, even if it's just going for short walks. 


Similarly, if we are struggling financially but spend hundreds every week going out to eat instead of eating at home, any good financial specialist will tell us to dial back on that. If we drink $10 coffees daily but think we can't afford a $10/month gym membership…


Why would we expect our spiritual life to be different? If we feel like we aren't close to God, but we never read the Bible, why would we expect to feel close? If we are constantly falling to sin, but we never go to church or small group, have no accountability partners, and rarely pray, should we expect to be spiritual giants? 


So, let's look at a few standard spiritual practices that we need to continually engage in that will help keep us spiritually healthy. Then, if we still have issues, let's talk with a pastor or go to a prayer group. But let's do what's in our power first. 


  • Reading Scripture. This is not just reading a verse, thinking about it for a few minutes, and then going about our day. I’m talking about reading whole books, one by one. This may take several days or even weeks, depending on the book. But it should be a continuous, organized walk through Scripture, not jumping from verse to verse.
  • Fellowship. If at all possible, this needs to be in person. And no, I do not mean the typical Sunday morning services. Yes, those are important, but I mean actually getting together with individuals and families. Small, life, or community groups, whatever you call them. Getting together for meals. Joining together for Bible studies. Online groups can supplement this but should not replace in-person meetings. 
  • Prayer. This can be dedicated hours-on-end prayer. Or it can be short bits throughout the day. But this ought to reflect our seeking after His will and looking for His answers. We should be taking all our concerns before God and asking for His guidance. We also ought to be spending time in prayer worshipping Him. 
  • Physical health. There's an acronym: HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. The idea is never to make big decisions when feeling any of those four feelings. You know exactly what I mean if you've ever gone grocery shopping when you're hungry; our hunger can drastically affect our bank accounts. This demonstrates that our physical condition affects all of us, and being physically healthy makes these less of an impact. To be clear, I'm not saying that you have to be a fitness coach, but being generally physically fit will affect the rest of your life. It will affect how much downtime you have for illness or pain, how tired you are throughout the day, your ability to focus, and how clear your thinking is. 


To be clear, there are plenty of times when we need a doctor, pastor, or spiritual expert. By no means am I trying to discourage anyone from seeking professional help. 


But also don't be surprised if they ask you about your habits. For example, if you want to get healthy, you'll need to give up most, if not all, of the fast food. Likewise, if you want to get spiritually healthy, be ready to change your lifestyle.


I also want to be clear that this applies to mental health. Yes, there are plenty of mental health issues that a healthy lifestyle will not resolve, but a lot of the time, the severity of their conditions will be lessened, and some possibly even prevented. For example, are you constantly anxious and financially in trouble? Cleaning up your finances can go a long way to reducing the source of the anxiety, and making a healthy sleep habit can help us better manage the remaining anxiety.


If you want some guidance and first steps, let me recommend the following resources. Note: these are intentionally mixed up between “secular” and “sacred” because we need to break the pattern of thinking that what we do outside the church isn’t an outworking of what we do in the church. Christ wants our whole life, not just one hand or foot.


Boundaries, by Cloud and Townsend

Torah for Living, by Mark Lanier

Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey/The Money Challenge, by Art Rainer

Saturate, by Jeff Vanderstelt

The Daily Stoic, by Ryan Holliday

How to Read the Bible Book by Book, by Fee and Stuart

My Big Bottom Blessing, by Teasi Cannon

Wrestling Prayer, by Mark Ludy

The Whole30, by Melissa Hartwig Urban