Biblically and in Africa, health isn’t just avoiding sickness
In times of suffering, the church must show God’s healing and health to the world. As COVID-19 spreads, believers can help others by avoiding public gatherings. But health means much more than avoiding sickness. To be truly healthy, believers must take care of not just their bodies but every part of their being. Let us take this time to appreciate God’s blessing of health in all of our lives. Learn what biblical health means from this excerpt of the Africa Study Bible article, “Health and Wellness”:
Shalom and Sin
Good health means a healthy harmony of mind, body, spirit, and relationships. This balance results in an overall feeling of well-being. The Bible calls it shalom, or peace. A person’s health is connected. When part of someone’s health sickens, the whole person suffers.
Genesis 2 gives a wonderful picture of God’s shalom. He provided a home filled with beauty that held all we needed (2:8-9). He gave Adam work, a wife (2:24-5), and fellowship with God Shalom means peace, but it also means living in harmony with God, others, your environment, and yourself.
Adam needed no healing because he knew neither sickness nor injury. Health does not result from healing. It is the balance of well-being in mind, body, spirit, and relationships.
The world of shalom shattered with sin. When the man and woman disobeyed God, everything changed. Sin brought disease, natural disasters, and violence. The diseases, famines, wars, epidemics, droughts, and genocide Africa experienced all threaten our shalom. Stress, greed, and lack of sanitation do so too.
We live in a world that destroys our wellness. Messages from personal interaction and technology distract our mind’s focus. Sometimes we lack time to eat healthy meals. Often we replace intimacy with God and others with earthly concerns. When we adopt the fast-paced Western way of life, it becomes difficult to find shalom.
Traditional and Western Approaches to Health
Traditionally, Africans understand health as part of someone’s entire existence. An Angolan doctor explained that his patients bring a positive wholeness to appointments. The family attends, and doctors explain the spiritual and emotional causes of the patient’s problem. Even accidents don’t simply happen. The family tends to see an intricate pattern unnoticed by Western doctors. Frequently, Africans respond to illness by visiting a traditional healer who helps restore relationships and treats the illness with herbs. As Christians we reject idolatrous aspects of traditional medicine, but we must still understand that health involves the whole person.
Western medicine developed in an age of rationalism. Its techniques tend to ask how to fix health problems instead of asking why they happen. The Angolan doctor said otherwise: “I need to address the deeply rooted question of ‘Why?’”
Improving Your Health
We can do many things to improve our health, but we often do not like to obey God’s commands. Instead, we ignore good health practices and pray for miracles to reverse our irresponsibility. God wants us to care for our bodies because “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God. […] You must honour God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Here are a few practical ways we can improve our health and wellness:
- Live wisely. Be aware of your own physical, emotional, and spiritual health, and seek wise counsel from a professional when you have questions.
- Drink more clean water. We need water to help our bodies process food and filter out toxins. Water is life.
- Get a good amount of sleep. You need a restful environment to allow your body to restore itself for a new day.
- Move more. Your body needs regular physical exercise to maintain good muscle tone and exercise your heart and lungs.
- Eat healthy. Eating meat may be a sign of prosperity, but eating it in abundance is hard on our bodies. Fast food is not as good for us. We need to get back to eating a variety of vegetables.
- Improve your relationships. One of the strengths of Africa is its emphasis on being rightly related to family, friends, community and God.
The Old and New Testament closely tie words about healing to salvation. God’s healing encompasses all aspects of being human. Jeremiah 14:17 says, “Oh LORD, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved. My praises are for you alone!” God wants us to work out our salvation and bring shalom to our lives and our world.
Would you like more people to read about God’s shalom “through African eyes?” Share with others and spread the word on taking care of our whole being for good health.
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