by John W. Ritenbaugh
Health care, a major issue in the recent election, is a topic that concerns everyone. Is good health a priority in your life? Have you taken steps to ensure that you remain healthy?
The recent Feast of Tabernacles will go into my memory as the "best ever." Unfortunately, it had a down side that concerns me greatly, and should concern you too. I cannot compare this Feast with others regarding the health of those attending, but it seems that we experienced a great deal of sickness. Perhaps the small number of people attending made it possible to keep better track, but even discounting that, quite a high number were sick.
Good health received a great deal of attention in earlier days of the church. As the years passed, however, it received less and less attention until one was considered picky—and even fanatical and unbalanced—if one researched into diet and other important health areas with more than a passing concern.
But good health is important. The Kingdom of God may not be meat and drink, but there are vitally important spiritual principles involved in disciplining oneself to produce as good health as possible. God says in Revelation 11:18 that He will "destroy those who destroy the earth." What kind of signal does it send to God when we abuse or neglect our bodies, the most fantastic mechanism of all His physical creation?
Life has two aspects, the physical and the spiritual. The spiritual is undoubtedly the more important but that does not mean the physical is unimportant. They affect each other. When one suffers, so does the other. When the one improves, so does the other. These may not be absolute laws, but at least they are true generalities. How often have you said something similar to, "If I just felt better, I could do more"? When we do not feel good, we are likely to spend more time thinking about ourselves. This works contrarily to godly love which expresses concern for others. Therein lies one of good health's major benefits. It enables one to be better prepared to give godly love.
I am not qualified to give specific health advice. Over the years, I have learned general principles of good health, and with the help of God and my wife, have applied them. God has blessed me with good health, though I do not come from good, healthy "stock." Yet as far as I know, I am in better health than any male member of my ancestry on both sides. My good health has come because of God's blessing and striving to follow good health principles. There is no reason you cannot do the same.
Several steps must be taken. First, spend serious time rethinking your attitude toward health. Our culture pressures us to think that we cannot do anything, or that "others are blessed with good health, but I am a victim of poor ancestry." This thinking flies in the face of God's whole process of conversion. What if one took the same attitude toward spiritual things? Nothing would ever change for the better! God's whole purpose is to get us in harmony with His laws so we can live full and abundant lives. We are familiar with advertisements about quitting smoking. They tell us the body begins to repair itself immediately upon quitting, and better health is not far behind.
Second, educate yourself in the principles of good health. This can be a confusing and time-consuming pit if you are not careful. Solomon said, "Of making many books there is no end" (Ecclesiastes 12:12). He must have had health books in mind when he said this! The problem is that only a small segment of the population is reading them. If more people were taking good health seriously, the soft drink counter at the grocery store would not be longer than the milk counter! Educating yourself is a major step, but I suggest you avoid the time-consuming trap by rereading booklets like The Seven Laws of Radiant Health. Another helpful book is Catharyn Elwood's Feel Like a Million. Look for books that approach this subject in a general way. Avoid books that offer a cure-all approach to good health by eating a certain food or taking a certain vitamin or mineral supplement.
Included in this point is to study yourself. Books, and doctors too, deal mostly in generalities. However, there are specific differences between people. This is why some react to medications or certain foods that do not affect others. Some of us have very a low tolerance for certain spices, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, chocolate, sweets or alcohol. Yet we eat them, enjoying their flavors, and take the punishment! Somehow, that does not seem very smart, does it? As a personal example, I have a low tolerance for nuts. I love them, but they quickly give me a stomachache. I have had to learn to live with the fact that I must limit myself to just a few. There is no reason you cannot do the same with the products that cause you trouble.
Third, and this may be the most critical point, be patient. We live in an age of the "quick fix." That is why going to the doctor is so popular. People are looking for an instant solution without having to change their manner of life. But how long did it take you to get into the condition you are in? It may take years to recover what has been lost. If you apply yourself diligently and patiently, your body won't take as long to repair itself.
One final note: the American diet has been described as "too much and too little." We get too much sugar, too much salt, too many refined grains, too much meat, too much fat, too much alcohol, and conversely, too few fresh fruits and vegetables, too few whole grains, too little exercise, too little pure water, too little self-control. The major result is a national problem with obesity and all the specific health problems it generates. Twenty diseases are directly attributable to obesity, some of them major afflictions. I saw many overweight people in San Antonio. Remember, self-control is a fruit of God's Spirit (Galatians 5:23).
Herbert Spencer, a nineteenth-century English philosopher said, "The preservation of health is a duty. Few seem conscious that there is such a thing as physical morality." It is interesting that he considered good health as in the area of morality. Morality, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is "the quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct." This is in harmony with what the apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 6:20: "For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." Let us all begin to work on this far more seriously so that by next Feast we can present ourselves to God in a more glorifying way.