Am I Staying in Spiritual Health?

Every day we get messages from the media about what we must do to be in good health.

We must (1) feed our bodies a proper diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and modest portions of carbohydrates; and (2) exercise vigorously for 30 to 60 minutes each day.

There seems to be, in theory at least, a culture-wide consensus on this, so at our house we try to eat healthfully and exercise, though the latter is hard to do “vigorously” at 91 years of age.

But what about spiritual health? After all, we are not only physical creatures. As the Scriptures say, mankind was formed by our Creator from the dust of the earth as were the other animals.

But God also breathed into mankind’s physical bodies the breath of life and “man became a living soul” – spiritual, immortal, deathless.

So, how is that soul to be kept in health? I must (1) nourish it and (2) exercise it daily just as I do for my body.

The food we need is Christian doctrine, which means organized Christian thought. J. I. Packer writes in his book, Knowing God: There can be no spiritual health without good doctrine.

This is in a sense the “food” for the soul and we must therefore regularly seek to nourish our understanding of the Christian faith. We look seriously into the Bible daily.

But, what about spiritual exercise? Along with ingestion of spiritual “food” the exercise side of this formula calls for prayer, service, church attendance — but also for meditation, an easily neglected element in the formula.

Meditation, Packer writes, is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God.

Meditation, like pleasant dining, takes time. It’s often suggested that it’s ideal to set apart 30 minutes in the morning for the feeding and exercise of the soul.

If that’s not feasible a lesser time can be set – even as little as 10 minutes — rather than just leaving this spiritual exercise to happen when convenient.

Morning is the best time. Just as the orchestra tunes its instruments before the concert begins, so it is better for us to take time for meditation at the outset of the day, rather than after the day’s concert has been played.

A college student once complained to me that she couldn’t make the early morning hour work because she still felt too groggy from sleep.

She was a very sociable person and I learned she usually took an-hour-and-a-half for lunch. I suggested she cut that time in half and use half for meditation in a quiet corner.

On this matter, as the adapted saying goes, for all of us, “Where there’s a will, there are twenty ways.”

Meditation usually works best when it is used to refocus on God, not on our problems. This can be done helpfully when we set ourselves to reflect on Scripture, such as a portion from the Gospels, a Psalm, The Philippian Letter, etc., holding ours thoughts to the passage.

In our fast-moving culture stopping to meditate may strike us as wasting time. We just want to plunge into the business of whatever we are doing – including even our meditations.

But there’s no getting around it — spiritual health means the daily feeding of soul and body with Christian truth. And it also means the exercising of the soul by taking time to reflect, digest and apply that truth.

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