What do you think of when you hear the phrase ‘spiritual wellness’? I think of Jesus and the way that He came to earth to “proclaim good news to the poor… to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19). I think of the way that when He looked at people and had compassion on them. He didn’t just see their physical or societal problems, but the root cause. He looked into their souls and released them.
The Greek word “Sozo” is used over 100 times in the Bible and has been translated as saved, healed or delivered. It has also been translated as make whole. When the woman with the issue of blood heard about Jesus, “she came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch His clothes, I will be healed (sozo)” ” Mark 5:27-2.
When Jesus met the woman at the well, He didn’t condemn her. Instead, He respected her by taking time to talk to her, and showed her the way of salvation, by explaining that He was the Messiah she had been waiting for. He sent her back into society, to bear witness to Him. Jesus restored her emotionally, spiritually and socially.
Sometimes it can feel that there is a fissure in our lives, a disconnect. This can be triggered by feeling that we are a different person on a Sunday to the rest of the week; by feeling that our work colleagues see a different us than our church buddies; that our family always see the worst in us. I have often felt this and when there is pressure, in a situation that is already buckling, the fissures start to show and the cracks can open up even more, potentially causing a volcano.
Spiritual wellness is about living the life that you have been called to live, in the place that you are, without contradiction. It is about balance and holding everything in an open palm. It is about being true to yourself and living out your calling with all that you are, wherever you are. As translated in the Message, Jesus said; “I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28 – 30 (MSG)
Spiritual wellness isn’t polite
Look at the example of Jesus. Remember He was sent from heaven to teach us how to live, here on this earth. There are examples when He appears rude and uncaring – remember the time He didn’t go to see Lazarus and then He got there too late, after Lazarus had died? Remember that time when He was in a fury in the temple and turned over the tables? But Jesus was true to Himself and His calling at all times. Being a Christian isn’t about being polite – whoever got that idea? It is about defending the weak and fatherless, it is about righteous anger and it is about staying on the path that you are called to, no matter what those around you may think.
In the gospels, the most obvious example of spiritual sickness is that of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were known for nitpicking, wordplay and pedantic behavior, whereas what Jesus wanted was love. It was simple. Remember those who complained at Mary’s extravagance, wasting a month’s salary on the perfume that she used to anoint Jesus’ feet?
“While He was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on His head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” Mark 14:3-4
Jesus told a parable about two men who went to pray at the temple: “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 18:10-14
Jesus hated the way the Pharisees were such hypocrites, saying one thing and doing another. In Matthew 23 Jesus says: “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs” and “blind guides”. Dead on the inside, and trying to lead without seeing.
It is what is inside that counts
Jesus came to do away with this way of living. The message He came to bring is that it is what is inside that counts. He speaks of the importance of the unseen – just like a tree, we cannot produce good fruit if our heart is bad, and we cannot produce bad fruit if our heart is good: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45
Jesus says that when people listen to His words and put them into practice, “They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” Luke 6:46-49
Like a stick of rock with the letters running all the way through, Jesus wants us to be true through and through, authentic and at one with ourselves.
Spiritual wellness check-in
Think about your spiritual life, your vocation, your family life and your work life. Do things feel out of balance? Is one thing dominating? Is there an area that you would love to feel more at peace with?
Warning signs that there is a problem could be flaring up at the slightest provocation or crying without reason. Do you feel more stressed or anxious than usual? Are you relying on external things to calm you down (a glass of wine, a Netflix binge, a whole chocolate bar)?
A great idea for a spiritual wellness check-in is to make your own wellness wheel. Follow the link to a tutorial that walks you through the simple process. It is a pictorial device used to represent how you feel about different areas of your life. It highlights areas that are out of balance.
Once you have made your wellness wheel, write down some practical steps to try to restore balance.
A little word on evangelism
To live with our faith integrated into our life doesn’t mean we need to be evangelizing at all times. We’ve all heard the saying “actions speak louder than words”, and it’s so true. We don’t have to be spouting the gospel all the time to have integrity in the way that we live. Rather, people will remember how we treated them, how we spoke to them and how we made them feel.
So walk in step with the Spirit, caring for your whole self, body, mind, and spirit. Be true to your calling and your faith. Just as Jesus said that bad fruit cannot come from a good tree, there are fruits of spiritual wellness that we read about in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Do you see these in your own life?
If yes, then thank God. If there are some areas that feel out of balance for you today, then come back to the Father. Be kind to yourself, take some time, and allow yourself time to find that spiritual wellness again.
Be sure to check out our other blogs on wellness here.