Sometimes to succeed, you have to consider what is counterintuitive.
Counterintuitive – contrary to common sense expectation (but often nevertheless true).
When something is counterintuitive, it goes against our preconceived expectations and assumptions.
Think about your favorite pop star. What are your assumptions about the pathway to their pop star status? If you are anything like me, you are picturing a somewhat musically talented teenager that started a garage band that gradually worked their way into a large enough fan base to be taken seriously.
But did you know that many rock stars, such as Steve Perry and Axl Rose, have spent years being classically trained in singing?
It’s counterintuitive. If your goal is to be a pop star, then why would you spend years studying opera? Because developing a successful and sustainable career as a pop star involves more than meets the eye.
Singer John Ondrasik (Five for Fighting) explains, “Training in how to sing classically has been crucial to my career because I sing so much in the falsetto, and you have to know what you’re doing or you’re not going to be singing for very long.”
Falsetto (singing high notes above one’s normal range) is known to be hard on the vocal cords and forcing the vocal cords often causes singers to end up losing their voice, or even worse, developing vocal nodules.
For the pop star that wants a successful and sustainable career, the investment of time and energy in classical training helps them to learn and practice the skills and disciplines to maintain healthy vocal cords that can withstand the challenges of singing in the falsetto.
The connection between opera training and pop star success is counterintuitive. To many, classical training would seem to be counterproductive. But it’s necessary to sustain a successful music career.
Successful and sustainable Christian service also sometimes requires doing what seems counterintuitive.
Why? Because just like the pop star:
What opera training is to the pop star,
self-care is to the Christian servant.
On the one hand, the skills and disciplines of self-care are needed to:
On the other hand, the skills and disciplines of self-care seem:
As a Christian, the Spirit of Christ lives in you to equip and enable you for every good work. But the vessel that the Holy Spirit works through is no different than that of every other human being. Just as the pop star needs to attend to the health of his vocal cords to share his music with the world, the Christian needs to attend to the health of the vessel through which the love of Christ is shared with others.
Or didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works.
So let people see God in and through your body.
(1 Cor. 6:19-20 MSG)
Sometimes to succeed, you have to consider what is counterintuitive. Though the idea of self-care may go against the preconceived expectations and assumptions that we have about the Christian life, the following is nevertheless true:
Good Health for Good Works Challenge:
Consider this questions:
What is your relationship to self-care? Is it confusing, complicated, and counterintuitive to everything you have been taught? Maybe it’s time to renew your mind about the role of self-care in the life of a Christian committed to sharing God’s love with the world through service. The things that we view as counterintuitive are not necessarily always unwise or untrue.
What is one act of self-care that would be most impactful on your ability to glorify God through a successful and sustainable lifestyle of service? How could you take one step forward in that area of self-care today?
Image: Sora Shimazaki on Pexels
The American and global workforce is in transition! Some are calling it the wave of the Great Resignation. I prefer to call it the Great Post-pandemic Re-evaluation. Recent studies have shown that up to 41% of workers are doing a re-evaluation of themselves and their jobs.
Employees are asking questions like:
Where do I want to be now?
Who do I want to be now?
In my role as an employee wellness coach, I’ve talked with many employees who are considering transitions - new roles, new jobs, and new seasons of life.
There is one coaching question that I routinely ask those in transition:
“What kind of impact will this change have on your personal
health and well-being and how will you manage that?”
It’s an important question because our job does have an impact on our health. For example, research has shown that the length of an employee’s daily commute has an impact on their health as measured by blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, cardiovascular fitness, sleep, depression, and anxiety.
Over the years, I’ve made three interesting observations about the responses to this question:
First, it’s a question that most people have never considered. The most common response is, “I’ve haven’t really ever considered my health as an important factor in making decisions about job transitions.”
Second, people consider their family’s health more often than their own when making job-related decisions. And that's a good thing. But here’s an important news flash:
Your health is not just about you!
Your decisions about your health impact everyone around you. Considering the health of your family requires that you consider how your own personal health and well-being impacts your family and community.
Third, most Christians wonder if it is right for them to ask this question. After all, we’re supposed to follow God’s calling for our life, no questions asked. Right? Here’s an important thought for every believer who hesitates to ask this question:
Good servants are good stewards!
The parable of the bags of gold (Matthew 25:14-30) reminds us that good servants are good stewards! Good servants make wise investments to make the most of the resources entrusted to them by God. Your health is a resource that God has entrusted to you! Your health is just like time or money or any other resource that God provides to survive, thrive, and do the good works that you are called to do.
As you re-evaluate your work life as we enter this post-pandemic period, where is God calling you to go and who is He calling you to be? The Where? and What? of God’s calling for our life may be non-negotiable. But the How? is an important question if we are going to be a good steward as we serve.
Here are some important questions to consider:
How, in the past, have I sacrificed my health in the name of Christian service?
How can I structure my work life so that I can stay well as I serve well?
What needs to change so I can be a good servant and a good steward?
It’s important that we ask ourselves these questions -
Not because we expect to be treated like the Queen of Sheba, but because we want to be good stewards of our God-given resources.
Not because we want to be fit, attractive, and accomplished, but because we want to be functional, available, and full participants in God’s calling for our life.
Good Health for Good Works Challenge:
If you are an employee, pray about this question: “What kind of impact does my work have on my personal health and well-being and how, going forward, will I manage that?”
If you are an employer, work through your employee wellness committee to discover what kind of support your employees most need to stay well so they can serve well.
I see it all around me - on the highway, in the grocery store, in my neighbors’ backyards - people are returning to normal routines. And that’s a good thing! Why? Because as the mom of a former Cross Country runner, I can tell you that without a doubt, races are won because of routines.
Paul reminds us that we are running a race:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?
Run in such a way as to get the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV)
This race of faith enables us to be and do and have all that God has planned for us. And this race of faith requires engagement of our whole being - our body and our mind as well as our spirit.
Every one of my son’s racing achievements was fueled by the consistent practice of a few simple, well-chosen routines that only his family ever saw - daily stretching, pre-race meals, daily runs, rest days, good nutrition, 10 PM bedtimes, and swearing off soda pop for 4 years (it’s bad for a runner’s stressed bones).
After a year of having our routines disrupted, most of us are envisioning what we want this next season of our lives to look like. As this pandemic period winds down, what do you want your life to look like and what routines need to be readjusted to support that?
According to a recent survey, 42% of adults reported gaining more weight than they had intended, gaining an average of 29 pounds since the pandemic started.
For many, more time at home meant:
What do you want your eating routine to look like going forward? What does the contents of your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry need to look like to support that?
Pandemic exercise was a mixed bag. On the one hand, shutdowns shut out many people from their exercise facilities. On the other hand, remote work gave many greater freedoms to incorporate regular exercise into their daily life. Plus, the pandemic work wardrobe of sweatpants, leggings, or PJ’s may have left us out of touch with the changes in our body that happen when exercise consistency declines.
Have your routines around movement been an energy gain or drain? What kind of movement does your body need as you transition into this post-pandemic period? What type of exercise do you want to slowly get back to? What type of exercise do you want to explore?
It’s been a tough year and coping with pandemic stress has impacted our health both physically and mentally. Nearly 1 out of 4 adults report drinking more alcohol to help cope with stress. For essential workers, 54% report that they relied on unhealthy habits to get them through the pandemic.
Living together in close quarters and working together within new parameters have a way of bringing out unhealthy ways of coping with unresolved issues, strained relationships, unpleasant truths, and unprocessed grief.
Addressing these issues is a key to moving into the next season of life with the freedom to flourish. Whether through prayer or professional intervention, now is a good time to deal with any unresolved difficulties. What do you need to talk about?
Rest: In recent survey findings, 70% of Americans between the ages of 35-44 experienced sleep disturbances during the pandemic, primarily caused by anxiety and disrupted routines.
With all the isolation and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. staying connected through our devices seemed important. Now that pandemic anxiety and isolation have lessened, it is a good time to establish some healthy boundaries around your late evening routines, especially involving the use of devices. What time will you commit to “winding down” by turning your screens off?
The past year may have been one big disruption, but the time has come to get back to those hidden, healthy routines that are an important energy source for us as we run the race in this next season of life.
Good Health for Good Works Challenge:
Eat, Move, Cope, & Rest - transitioning out of pandemic living and into your next season of life will require readjusting some routines in these 4 key areas of health.
In what area of health has pandemic living taken the greatest toll on your health and well-being? What actions do you need to take to establish some hidden, healthy routines to help you run your God-given race?
When we think of good health and well-being, we think of how we live. Those daily routines, repeated day in and day out over a lifetime - heart pumping exercise, healthy eating, getting to bed on time - are all good and necessary daily investments for maintaining good health. But as I enter my 60th year of life, I realize that
My health and well-being have been impacted by what I’ve learned as much as by how I’ve lived.
In my 20’s, I learned that you can’t push down emotional pain.
Yes, you can medicate it, run from it, and try to distract yourself from it.
But much like how our body grows new vessels to compensate for a blocked one so blood can continue to flow, emotional pain always finds a pathway for expression. After a few years of emotional stuffing, debilitating panic attacks became my body’s way of letting me know that I had emotional pain that was festering. I was falling apart and that feeling led me to seek healing that God provided, over time, through many different sources, both spiritual and secular. Falling apart led me to a hopeful future and to a deeper relationship with and dependence on God.
Dear 20-year old self,
Sometimes God will let you feel like you are falling apart so you will seek Him for healing from the inside out. Will you go into the deep waters and cooperate with God as He heals your hurts?
In my 30’s, I learned that it is counterproductive to sacrifice self-care in the name of serving others.
Yes, I wanted to bless my husband, give my children more than I’d been given, and invest in the lives of others.
But a few years of sacrificing self-care taught me that service is not just about what we do. Our service to others is also about our “who.” How we show up in the world and in our relationships matters as one of our Kingdom roles is being an ambassador for Christ. A lot of doing does not compensate for damage done by showing up as the opposite of Christ-like. “Why is mom so grouchy? What does it take to make my wife smile? Why is she so difficult to work with today?” Everything is connected and how I feel physically and emotionally impacts how I express the gifts of the Spirit in my attitude, my words, and my actions.
Dear 30-year old self,
Taking care of yourself is as much about your “who” as it is your “do.” Who do you want to be?
In my 40’s, I learned that my pursuit of health outcomes can sometimes overshadow the true reason for staying healthy.
Yes, I wanted to practice what I preached about healthy living, do what it takes to meet the “good health” metrics, and go after some goals.
But my pursuit of outcomes led to some pretty unhealthy behaviors that led me away from the real objective of healthy living. My focus on outcomes resulted in painful injuries from unwise workouts like trying to do yoga like someone in her 20’s. It also resulted in wasted mental energy devoted to perfecting my nutritional profile when my eating habits already supported everything God was asking me to do. Healthy living is not intended to be an end in itself. It is a means to be the person God wants me to be and do what He asks me to do.
Dear 40-year old self,
Focusing only on outcomes takes you away from the best motivation for healthy living - to maximize and manage well what He has given you to serve and shine! What are you really trying to accomplish?
In my 50’s, I learned the loving without limits creates stress that will make you sick.
Yes, I want to love the unlovely, prioritize mercy over consequences, and believe the best about bad behavior.
But there is only so much drama a person can take without compromising their own health and well-being. A stress-induced autoimmune disease taught me that. Some people stir the pot just to get a reaction from the cook who has dinner coming along just fine. Some people upset the apple cart and expect others to clean up the mess. We are called to love those with words, actions, and patterns of behavior that fill the room with drama and distress. Part of being healthy is deciding when, where, and how we will use our limited amount of energy to serve those who desire ascendancy or attention more than real answers.
Dear 50-year old self,
The greatest lover of all time (Jesus) served sacrificially while setting limits as He served. What limits might help you to expend your energy more wisely?
Good health is about how we live.
Good health is also about what we learn
(sometimes the hard way).
Good Health for Good Works Challenge Questions:
Where might emotional pain be expressing itself in your body today? How are you dealing with it?
Who are you after a season of neglecting self-care? Who do you want to be?
What is the motivation behind your latest health improvement effort? What are you trying to accomplish?
Where, in your life, might loving without limits be having a negative impact on your health and well-being? How might you use your energy more wisely?
Image by John Hain on Pixabay.com
Wherever God leads us, we go! But we often forget that this includes all of us - our body, our mind, and our spirit. Leveraging good health for good works involves equipping ourselves for effective service in all areas of health, including the ones that, though not visible, can be very impactful.
Our mental state at any moment is governed by our thoughts and emotions - things that are invisible unless we are paying close attention to body language. And just like our physical state, our mental state has an impact on all that we do, including the effectiveness of our Kingdom service.
As I am walking forward in my calling, I am often brought to the edge of some uncomfortable and unknown places. Just like Abraham, I may be following, but I’m not always sure exactly where I am being led and opposition seems to be everywhere. (Hebrews 11:8)!
Welcome to the stress that often accompanies servanthood!
In our Kingdom service, we all have times when where we are being led feels, at best, confusing and, at worst, potentially catastrophic. How we handle that stress mentally determines whether we cower or take the next step forward with calm and confidence.
I was given an opportunity to attend a Zoom meeting with those described as the creme de la creme of their area of expertise and influence. I almost decided against participating. I overcame my hesitation and signed on to the meeting with my heart pounding in my chest. I didn’t speak up.
I received an invitation to an event designed to support leaders. I signed up and walked across the threshold of that room where I promptly wanted to shrivel up and die. I stayed in the shadows as I watched experienced leaders sharing leadership experiences with each other.
In both of these situations, me not taking control of my mental state resulted in me not being a full participant. My thoughts - What are you doing here? You don’t belong here. Who do you think you are? - did not serve me in my Kingdom service.
As Jesus followed His calling, He was calm and confident in who He was and what God created Him to do despite a level of opposition that would challenge the mental state of most of us:
All this resulted in Jesus having to manage His mental state to continue going forward in His calling despite the opposition from all around him saying, Who do you think you are? (John 8:53)
Who do you think you are?
This is a powerful question!
Through John 7 and 8 we see Jesus explaining who He thinks He is through a series of “I am…” statements that ultimately conclude in His most courageous and truthful claim:
Very truly I tell you...before Abraham was born, I am! (8:58)
These preliminary “I am…” statements can best be summed up in four proclamations:
I am not here on my own authority; I am sent by the Father. (7:28-29)
I am submitted and responsive to my Father’s instructions. (8:28)
I am sensitive to and have overcome self-centered motivation. (7:18)
I am supported by the Father. (8:16)
These four “I am…” statements are the precursor to Jesus calmly, confidently, and courageously stepping into a turning point in His ministry.
These four “I am… statements can be the way that we move past the stress of insecurity that threatens to sideline us before we take the next step forward in our Kingdom service.
What are you doing here? You don’t belong here. Who do you think you are?
When these thoughts leave us stressed and shrinking back, we can use these four statements as a prayer for conviction and clarity. And after any needed course corrections, we can use these four statements as a proclamation to give us confidence to, like Jesus, step forward into the next turning point of our ministry.
I am not here on my own authority; I am sent by the Father. (7:28-29)
I am submitted and responsive to my Father’s instructions. (8:28)
I am sensitive to and have overcome self-centered motivation. (7:18)
I am supported by the Father. (8:16)
Good Health for Good Works Challenge: Has God brought you to the edge of your next step within your sphere of Kingdom service? Is the discomfort of the uncomfortable or unknown causing you to cower? Is the enemy hurling that accusing question, “Who do you think you are?”
Make these four “I am…” statements your prayer prompt and proclamation to help you manage your mental state so you can move forward in your calling with calm and confidence!
Image by: Evan-Amos, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
It was my moment of truth with a Snickers bar. I was deliberately tearing open the wrapper when that still, small voice in my head whispered, “What are you doing?”
Welcome to the season of Lent! A season that, in all honesty, I have often found hard to understand.
The whole self-denial experience often seemed a little tainted to me. Tainted by the expression of meaningless religious duty. Tainted by the pursuit of trying to bargain with God for something more strongly desired.
But my moment of truth with a Snickers bar suddenly brought the spiritual practice of self-denial into a clear and understandable view.
“What are you doing?” was a valid question as I was not the least bit hungry. In fact, the timing of my last meal was not on my mind at all as I was upset after having a heated discussion with my husband.
“What are you doing?” I’m going to eat a Snickers bar!
“Why would you want a Snickers bar?” Because I am upset!
“What will that Snickers bar do for you?” It will make me feel better, obviously. Besides, I deserve it!”
“How about if you drop that Snickers bar in the trash can and we go on over to the living room and sit on the green couch and talk about it....”
I’m happy to report that that prayer session on the green couch gave me a peace and a path forward that a Snickers bar never could have provided.
The very simple God-given prompt to self-denial opened up the possibility of getting what I really desired: peace and a path forward.
The Samaritan woman was focused on quenching her thirst with physical water (H20) when Jesus wanted to give her living water so she and others would never be spiritually parched again. (John 4)
The crowds sought out Jesus because they ate the loaves and had their fill of bread when Jesus wanted them to experience the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world so they would never be spiritually hungry again. (John 6).
In both of these cases, Jesus focused not on the quick fix, but on the provision that would bring peace and a path forward.
In the observance of Lent when we choose, for a time, to give up a pleasure (which in times of stress often becomes a quick fix), we open ourselves up to God working in our life to give us what we really want: peace and a path forward.
And in the celebration of Easter which is the culmination of the season of Lent, we recognize God’s gift of forgiveness that gives us what we really need: peace and a path forward.
Pleasure is, well, pleasurable and I like that! But peace and a path forward is something I desire even more. A moment or a season of self-denial may train us to desire and open the door to the provisions of the abundant life that we are promised.
Good Health for Good Works Challenge:
Where, in your life, has a pleasure silently become a quick fix when you are stressed?
Where, in your life, might a moment or a season of self-denial help you to focus on the One who can provide you what you really want and need: peace and a path forward?
Image by Anna Shvets on Pexels
As we navigate the complexities of our current pandemic and politically charged environment, are you finding yourself with some strained social connections?
Maintaining social connections is an important health habit. In fact, it is just as important, if not more so, than the activities we most often think about when it comes to staying well, such as getting exercise and eating vegetables.
According to a recent Harvard Health article, social connections influence our long-term health in ways every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet, and not smoking. Positive social connections bring us more happiness, fewer health problems, and longer life. A study with more than 300,000 participants found the impact of lack of strong relationships on the risk of death comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes per day and greater than the impact of obesity and physical inactivity.
If we want to stay healthy, we need to remember that wellness begins with We!
I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that staying socially connected has become more and more difficult due to circumstances beyond my control, such as pandemic restrictions and passionate political divides.
Just this week, I’ve had to walk the tightrope of trying to maintain a positive social connection in a difficult circumstance. I have a friend of many years who is both dear to me and very politically opinionated. I wondered what to say in response to a voice message that started with a friendly greeting, but turned into a 10-minute passionate, but not so positive, tirade about our political differences. I’ll admit that some of the words were on the edge of insulting and I wanted to answer with an equally passionate and not so positive tirade.
This circumstance made me think about how much I really value my social connections:
It’s not without good reason that James encourages us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19). This type of relational approach not only displays the righteousness that God desires, but also strengthens our social connections that impact our health and well-being.
Listening is powerful. And a training exercise in listening was one of the most powerful and impactful learning experiences I have ever had.
This training exercise came in the form of a challenge where I was instructed to carry on a 10-minute conversation with another person by only reflecting back to them what they said and asking for more information. That means offering no personal information or opinions.
Initially, I thought the challenge would be impossible. How can you carry on a conversation with someone with only reflections and questions? I decided to try it out with my daughter and the conversation sounded something like this:
Daughter: It was a tough day at work. My boss derailed our project plan for the third time this week!
Me: It sounds like it's frustrating when your boss doesn’t stick with the original plan.
Daughter: Yes! We spent a great deal of time carefully organizing this project.
Me: Organization is important to you.
Me: How did you handle that?
Daughter: Well, I……………………………………………………
I was amazed that the challenge actually worked. Our conversation went on for over 10 minutes and it flowed very easily with no awkward silences. Why? Because by offering reflections and questions rather than information and opinions, three things happened:
When we listen, we strengthen our social connections
by creating an environment where dialogue can
grow in length and depth.
This is the truth that I will use as the foundation of my next conversation with my politically opinionated friend.
Good Health for Good Works Challenge: Do you have some strained social connections? Listening, rather than talking, may be the best initial response. Try out the 10-minute listening challenge described above and see what happens.
Let’s not undervalue the impact of the quality of our social connections on our physical, mental, and spiritual health. The simple act of creating a positive environment through listening is a way to temper the emotions that accompany passion and make a way for positive, constructive dialogue to begin.
Happy Thanksgiving, friend! What are you doing for Thanksgiving this year? If you are anything like me, your plans have changed several times and may change again before Thursday! With all the uncertainty and chaos that are part of pandemic living, trying to find a way to connect with our loved ones is very, very challenging!
The truth is that things don’t always go as planned, but the impact of that is never felt more than during the holiday season. It is during these times that we realize that good health goes far beyond the physical. Our social connections have a great influence on our level of overall physical and mental/emotional well-being.
When plans fall apart during the holiday season, it’s important to remember that maintaining relationships is more important than maintaining traditions!
This Thanksgiving may feel a bit overwhelming as we are focused on not only the food, but on creative ways to stay connected.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving that is focused on sharing and giving thanks, I’d like to share with you my “go to” Thanksgiving food solution for when things don’t go as expected - Thanksgiving in a Pan! This recipe was a lifesaver on the Thanksgiving that our plans fell apart due to a family crisis. This simple recipe allowed us to celebrate and stay connected while still enjoying some of the traditional flavors of Thanksgiving, but in a very efficient way.
Thanksgiving in a Pan is easy to make for yourself and easy to deliver to loved ones who you may not be able to see face to face this year. The recipe contains many Thanksgiving favorites, such as: turkey, stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, and green beans. All you need is a can of gravy and you have a great Thanksgiving meal.
Thanksgiving in a Pan is both simple and efficient, leaving you with the necessary time and energy to think of some creative ways of staying connected whether that be by Zoom, a socially distanced visit, or a phone call or letter.
Thanksgiving in a Pan
Source: adapted from https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/thanksgiving-casserole/
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small white onion, peeled and diced
1 large, sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced, and diced
2 cups chopped fresh green beans (about 4 ounces), ends trimmed off
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3 stalks celery, diced
fine sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
6 cups of stuffing bread cubes
1 pound diced cooked turkey
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (such as rosemary, thyme, sage, etc.)
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Turkey gravy (canned or homemade)
Optional: chopped toasted nuts, for sprinkling (such as pecans or walnuts)
1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Mist a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large non-stick sauté pan. Add the onion and sweet potato and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato is mostly softened. Add the green beans, garlic, celery, and season the mixture with a few generous pinches of salt and pepper. Sauté for 2 to 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant.
3. Transfer the cooked veggies to a large mixing bowl. Add in the stuffing cubes, cooked turkey, dried cranberries, and fresh herbs. In a separate bowl, briefly whisk together the stock and eggs, then pour the mixture into the large mixing bowl. Very gently, use a spatula to toss the mixture until it is evenly combined. Transfer it to the 9 x 13-inch baking dish and spread the casserole out in an even layer.
4. Bake the casserole uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes, or until it is cooked through and the top is nice and golden (if the top turns too brown, gently lay a layer of aluminum foil on top of the casserole until it is done baking.)
5. Remove the dish from the oven and top with turkey gravy. Sprinkle with chopped nuts, if desired. Serve warm, drizzling each individual serving with extra gravy, and enjoy!
Image by Congerdesign on Pixabay.com
Being misunderstood because I was not willing to abuse alcohol with college friends….
Being ridiculed for not participating with co-workers in an after-work get together that included a visit to a psychic…
Being labeled “unsophisticated” by family members with a more progressive worldview…
These are some of the minor hardships that I have faced in living for Christ over the years. As we look around us at the continued deterioration of Christian influence in our culture, it is easy to become concerned about the types of hardships we may face in living out our faith in the future.
We will need to be overcomers. And the good news is that overcoming is exactly what Christians are designed to do!
In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul gives this description of what the experience of an overcomer looks like:
Hard pressed on every side, but not crushed
Perplexed, but not in despair
Persecuted, but not abandoned
Struck down, but not destroyed
Paul makes it clear that God is the source of the strength and power that allows us to overcome.
This all-surpassing power is from God and not from us
If you have any doubt about that, just take a look at what God is working through in bringing the light of the gospel to the world.
...we have this treasure in jars of clay
What is a jar of clay? Think about the common clay flowerpot.
Clay pots are:
Clay pots are nothing special, but they are purposeful in housing and displaying something beautiful to the world outside.
In spiritual terms, clay pots are the vessel through which the light of Christ shines into the world. The light of Christ shines through our physical being as common, fragile, and inconspicuous as it may be. And all that is required of the clay pots is to be available and functional.
As a clay pot Christian, have you ever considered that your health habits have something to do with being available and functional for God’s use?
If we neglect our clay pot by neglecting our health, we run the risk of becoming limited, both in our availability and in our ability to function. The consequences of a lifetime of poor health habits may limit us in what we can do and where we can go.
In your life as a clay pot Christian, are your health habits supportive of you being able to enthusiastically answer “yes” in response to God’s calling or next assignment for you?
Some may resist giving serious thought to this question by making the argument that if God receives glory by fulfilling His purposes through humble clay pots, then the condition of the clay pot is irrelevant. In fact, the more cracked the clay pot, the better, so that God can receive the most glory. Putting this in human terms, neglecting our health is seen as an opportunity for God to be glorified by displaying His strength through our weakened state.
This argument is similar to the one made by Paul regarding the contrast between sin and grace in Romans 6. If the presence of sin magnifies the abundance of God’s grace, then why not continue to sin so that God’s grace can be displayed?
But Paul emphatically answers, “By no means!” God’s glory shines through our weakness, but this is not an excuse for sin and poor stewardship.
As Christians, we are called to be overcomers. Hardships will come, but through God’s light and power working through our humble clay pots, we can continue in our God-given assignments day after day.
God provides the treasure - the gospel, gifts, and good works.
God provides the means to overcome adversity - strength and power
God provides the clay pot - your physical being - designed to be both available and functional so that His glory can be displayed to the world through you.
As a clay pot Christian ministering to others, your health matters!
It matters because:
Good Health for Good Works Challenge: In light of facing increasing hardships living out our faith in a godless culture, ask yourself these questions about your readiness to be an overcomer:
How are you stewarding the clay pot that God has given to you?
How are you taking care of and maximizing whatever degree of good health God has given to you?
Is the condition of your physical being making you available and functional for God’s use when He calls?
Has the neglect of your physical being placed limitations on your ability to say “yes” to God?
Stay Well to Serve Well!
Living within the Body of Christ and the consumption of casseroles seem to go together. Many of us have benefitted from the delivery of casseroles (and other practical helps) when facing loss of a loved one or physical health. But when was the last time you heard of a meal being delivered to someone undergoing treatment for depression, addiction, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or some other type of mental/emotional health issue? There’s a reason why mental illness is often called “the no casserole disease.”
I’m convinced that the absence of casseroles doesn't stem from a lack of caring. Rather, it stems from the lack of awareness as many in the Body of Christ keep to themselves about mental/emotional problems out of embarrassment and shame.
In the years that I experienced the difficulty of panic attacks that impacted my life in many ways, I felt very alone outside of the support of a very few people in my inner circle of family and friends. In some ways this was my own fault as I gave into the fear of being vulnerable with others. In some ways, it made perfect sense based on the kind of talk that I often heard from people within the church regarding how Christians view mental and emotional problems.
Let’s explore some of our assumptions and beliefs by comparing two common health problems - Diabetes (physical) and Depression (mental/emotional) and taking a look at ways in which we view these two problems differently.
Diabetes is often viewed as commonplace - not abnormal given the fact that we are Christians living in a broken world.
Depression is viewed as something that should be rare for Christians living in that same broken world.
The response to news of a diabetes diagnosis is most often, “Go see your doctor and be faithful in following the treatment protocols.”
The response to news of a depression diagnosis is “Go see your pastor and be skeptical about anyone who recommends treatment options involving psychological counseling or medication.”
Personal Responsibility & Accountability:
For the diabetic, we overlook, excuse and are hesitant to suggest accountability for personal behaviors that may contribute to the problem, such as overeating and sedentary living.
For the person with depression, we often feel compelled to suggest taking a personal spiritual inventory and encourage them to be intentional about dealing with possible contributing factors, such as an undisciplined thought life, bitterness, negativity or thoughts of doubt or unbelief.
This dichotomy of responses to the person with diabetes versus the person with depression may expose a hidden assumption that the physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual can be compartmentalized and are independent of each other. This type of thinking leads us to act as if the root cause of physical health problems is primarily physical, while the root cause of mental/emotional health problems is primarily spiritual.
In this world, our existence is physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual. These three aspects of our being are part of our existence everywhere we go. In this life, they cannot be separated and each aspect has an impact on the others.
Taking a whole person view of health helps us to challenge the unhealthy ease of acceptance of physical health problems and the unhealthy embarrassment and shame that often surrounds mental/emotional health problems.
The rise mental/emotional health struggles have been well documented during this pandemic period. In fact, the coroner in my community has issued a dire warning about the upcoming fall and winter based on a 23% increase in suicide compared to last year. Consider the following action steps that will help us to demonstrate the love of Christ by better supporting ourselves, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and our employees struggling in the area of mental/emotional health.
As a child of God who is struggling right now:
As a member of the Body of Christ who knows someone who is struggling right now:
As a leader in a Christian organization with employees who may be struggling right now:
Good Health for Good Works Challenge: Look around in your world and identify someone who you think may be struggling with mental/emotional health issues right now - it may be you, someone close to you, or a co-worker. Take one of the action steps listed above to demonstrate the love of Christ by supporting them in their struggle.
If your Christian organization could use some assistance in examining and creating a work culture that is supportive of employee well-being, please contact me.
About the author:
Ginger Hill is a Christian wellness speaker, coach and consultant and the founder of Good Health for Good Works where she helps the earnest, but often exhausted, workers in Christian organizations to take steps toward healthier living so they can fulfill their organization's mission with energy, excellence and endurance.
Psalm 92:12,14 (NLT)
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