Healthy Tips for Elders

Choices for Life: The Faith/Health Link

As we begin a new year and start writing on the blank pages of this new “book” God has given us, we must consider whether the “words” we write by our actions will lead to life. Scripture tells us that God has shown to us the “path of life” (Ps. 16:11, NKJV), but it is up to us to choose to walk on it.

As elders, you likely wear many hats—at church, at work, at home, and in the community—and it may often be difficult to find the balance to make choices for life. God invites you today to be intentional about “choosing a full life” by making the healthiest choices possible for physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being.

We will cover some choices for life in future articles, but here is Choice #1: Before trying on your own to live healthfully, you must choose to connect with the source of life Himself. When you choose to “spend more time alone with God in prayer and Bible study,” you are making a choice not only for spiritual health but also for mental and physical health.

How do we know? First, the Bible tells us, “He is your life and the length of your days” (Deut. 30:20, NKJV). Second, the majority of studies on religion and health suggest that people with high levels of religious/spiritual involvement tend to enjoy the following health benefits:1

Mental health—Less depression, less suicide, and less negative attitudes toward suicide; less cognitive impairment or slower progression of dementia; less alcohol use/abuse/ dependence and less drug use/abuse/dependence; greater well-being and happiness; greater meaning and purpose in life; more positive attitudes such as forgiveness; significantly higher rates of volunteering/altruism; and more gratitude, compassion, and kindness.

Social health—Greater social support and social capital; greater marital stability (fewer divorces, greater marital satisfaction, and less spousal abuse).

Physical health—Lower rates of coronary artery disease, more positive cardiovascular functions; lower blood pressure or lower rates of hypertension; lower rates of stroke; better immune function and better endocrine function; lower rates of cancer or better prognosis after a cancer diagnosis; lower mortality and longer survival rate.

Health behaviors and disease prevention—More physical activity; safer sexual practices; less cigarette smoking (especially among the young); better diet; lower cholesterol; greater likelihood of participating in disease-screening behaviors such as mammography, blood pressure checks, glucose, or prostate screening and a greater likelihood of complying with treatment.

While the above associations are true for the specific people studied, they are overwhelmingly on the positive side, and from them we can draw two conclusions:

1. By putting God first and strengthening our relationship with Him through prayer and Bible study, we will not only renew our spiritual vitality; we may also increase our chances of experiencing improved mental and physical well-being.

2. Through the Holy Spirit, we can have the will and the self-control to make healthier choices on a daily basis.

These conclusions are biblically sound and evidencebased. No matter how intentional we are in improving our health, if we don’t have a daily measure of God’s Spirit, we will not achieve our optimal whole-person health. But if we intentionally choose to spend more time with God, experiencing the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, faith, meekness, and self control (Gal. 5:22, 23, NKJV), the result can be a full and abundant life as we‘ve never experienced before. This vibrant life will enable you to lead others to health and well-being by example with a compassionate and discerning spirit, allowing you to extend to the world God’s love and His restorative power.

1 H. Koenig, D. King, and V. Carson, Handbook of Religion and Health (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Katia Reinert is director of the Health Ministries Department for the North American Division