Good health is much more than just not being sick. Good health means a harmony of a healthy mind, healthy body, healthy spirit, and healthy relationships. This is what the Bible calls shalom, or peace. Such a balance results in an overall feeling of well-being.
Good health is much more than just not being sick.
God Cares About Your Health & Well-Being
“Would you like to get well?” Jesus asked a lame man by the pool of Bethesda. It seems like a strange question, especially to someone who had been sick for 38 years. Then Jesus said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk!” And the man was healed (John 5:1-9).
God wants us to care for our bodies because the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in us and was given to us by God. “You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
A person’s health and well-being can be compared to the four tyres of a car. When one tyre is punctured, the car cannot continue moving because it is damaged. When one area of life is not healthy, the whole body is affected. If we do not sleep enough, we will not think clearly (affecting our mind) and become irritable (affecting our relationships).
When one area of life is not healthy, the whole body is affected.
God’s Original Health & Wellness Model
Genesis 2 gives a wonderful picture of the health and well-being God intends for us. God provided an abundance of clean water (Genesis 2:10), plant-based food (Genesis 2:16), and minerals and other resources (Genesis 2:12). He gave us a place to call home that was filled with beauty (Genesis 2:8-9). He directed work that required exercise (Genesis 2:15) and creative opportunities (Genesis 2:19) to give Adam fulfilment, companionship (Genesis 2:24-5), and fellowship with God.
In Eden, Adam experienced a harmony of mind, body, spirit, and relationships.
Adam experienced a harmony of mind, body, spirit, and relationships. The wellness that Adam experienced is captured in the Hebrew word shalom. While shalom can mean peace, it also includes the idea of living in harmony with God, others, your environment, and yourself.
A Balance of Well-Being
In Genesis 2, healing was not necessary because sickness and injury were not known. And that is an important point. Health and wellness is not the result of healing our sicknesses and injuries. Health and wellness is a balance of well-being in mind, body, spirit, and relationships.
While shalom can mean peace, it also includes the idea of living in harmony.
The world of health and wellness in Genesis 2 was shattered in Genesis 3. Sin entered the garden when the man and woman disobeyed God. Their sin brought lasting effects on the environment, work, and their relationships with each other and with God. Their sin brought disease, natural disasters, wars, crime, and all manner of evils. Our world was no longer one in which we all live in a healthy balance of mind, body, spirit, and relationships.
Causes of Health Problems in Africa
The famines, wars, diseases, epidemics, droughts, genocide, and slavery we have experienced in Africa are all dramatic challenges to our health and well-being. Stress, greed, and lack of sanitation are less dramatic, but they are just as much a challenge to our health and wellness.
Many of us live a fast life in the world of making money. We live in a world that destroys our wellness.
Many of us live a fast life in the world of making money. We live in a world that destroys our wellness. We have so many messages coming at us from personal interaction, telephones, radio, television, and the internet that sometimes our mind can lose its focus. Sometimes we do not have the time to eat a healthy meal. We may go to church every Sunday, but sometimes we have crowded our lives with so much busyness that we cannot focus on worship and hearing God.
Often we have replaced intimacy with God and others with caring about material things. The fast-paced life we are slowly adopting from the Western world makes it difficult to be healthy in mind, body, spirit, and relationships.
Traditional African Approaches to Health
Traditionally, Africans have understood health and wellness as part of a person’s entire existence. Illness is understood to be an indication of the breakdown in the harmony in relationships with family, villagers, and also the ancestors.
We must not lose our traditional understanding of the holistic nature of health and sickness.
A doctor practising in Angola explained that his patients bring a positive holism to the consulting room. The family is always present and the cause of the patient’s problem is usually explained in a way that includes spiritual and emotional reasons for the problem. Even accidents don’t simply happen. The family tends to see an intricate pattern that is not seen by Western doctors and nurses.
Frequently, therefore, an African response to an illness is to visit a traditional healer in order to help restore good relationships and to treat the illness with herbal remedies. Though we as Christians reject any idolatrous aspects of traditional medicine, we must not lose our traditional understanding of the holistic nature of health and sickness.
Western Approaches to Health
Western medicine developed in an age of rationalism and materialism. Humans were thought of as complex machines requiring maintenance and repair. Western medicine tends to identify and isolate specific problems. It asks what is wrong and how to cure the problem rather than ask “who” and “why.”
The doctor in Angola continues: “When one asks why an illness happened, the answer can be exceedingly complicated. Too often I have failed my patients by not recognising that the healing they need is not simply restoring a broken bone and making sure an arm works correctly without pain. I need to address the deeply rooted question of ‘Why’ as well.” The approach needs to be to restore the person back into relationship with his or her family or community.
Each person’s spiritual, physical, emotional, and social health are interconnected.
Such total healthcare is grounded in two ideas. First, each person’s spiritual, physical, emotional, and social health are interconnected. They all influence a person’s well-being. Second, healthy change happens when individuals, families, and communities are empowered and rediscover their God-given power to take control over the factors that influence their health and well-being.
Specific Health Issues in Africa
Many illnesses and epidemics challenge our health and wellness in Africa.
Diseases & Healthcare-Related Challenges
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is most serious in Sub-Saharan Africa. More than two-thirds of the world’s infected people live there. In some countries the effect has been devastating, especially to children, who may become caregivers for their parents and eventually become orphans.
90% of the malaria deaths in the world occur in Africa, and malaria is Africa’s second largest killer behind HIV/AIDS. About 85% of those dying of malaria are children, a tragedy that is both preventable and treatable.
Many illnesses and epidemics challenge our health and wellness in Africa.
African women are at much higher risk of death during childbirth than in other parts of the world. 28 of the 30 countries with the highest rates of maternal mortality are in Africa. African babies are also at greater risk of early death.
Deadly infections like Ebola seem to emerge from nowhere and cause panic as well as death. “Silent epidemics” from sexually transmitted infections cause nearly all cervical cancer, the majority of infertility in women, and great physical pain for those infected. The good news is that most of these conditions and diseases are preventable with better access to health care and by following biblical principles of sexual morality.
Some traditional African practices or false rumours also damage health and wellness.
Dangerous Cultural Practices & Influences
Some traditional African practices or false rumours also damage health and wellness. The practice of wife-inheritance has contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS in tribes that perpetuate this tradition. The belief that having sex with a virgin prevents AIDS is not true and only serves to spread the infection. Those who participate in certain traditional burial practices risk contracting Ebola or other diseases and spreading the disease. Female circumcision can increase the risk of infection, haemorrhage, and death. It also creates complications with normal labour and delivery and puts newborns at risk.
In more recent times, Africa has faced health and wellness challenges brought on by its adoption of Western lifestyles. Changes in diet and nutrition as well as less active work are increasing the rates of obesity and the resulting diabetes. More individualistic and urban lifestyles increase levels of stress that results in emotional, spiritual, and physical illness.
Africa also faces health and wellness challenges brought on by its adoption of Western lifestyles.
The relative poor state of health in Africa compared to other parts of the world is aggravated by at least four public health challenges: lack of clean water and adequate sanitation; extreme shortage and uneven distribution of health services workers and other resources; inadequate health services leadership and government oversight; and corruption in obtaining medical equipment and medicines.
Improving Your Health & Well-Being
At the individual level, you can do many things to improve your own health and well-being. The problem is we often do not like to obey God’s commands. Instead, we ignore good health practices and then pray for miracles to reverse our lack of responsibility.
God’s desire for how we live is that we should work out our salvation and bring shalom.
In both the Old and New Testament, the words used to speak about healing, health, and wholeness are closely tied to salvation. So they encompass all aspects of being human—physical, emotional, intellectual, relational, and spiritual. Jeremiah 17:14 says, “O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved. My praises are for you alone!”
God’s desire for how we live is that we should work out our salvation and bring shalom to our lives, to our homes, to our communities, to our continent, and to our world.
Points to Remember:
- Live wisely. Be aware of your own physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, and seek wise counsel from a doctor or other health professional to care for the problems and difficulties.
For Physical Well-Being:
- Drink more clean water. Suppose you have a birthday or graduation party and try to clean the dishes with just one glass of water. One glass will not get all the oil and residue off the dishes. So the same is true of our bodies. We fill them with all kinds of food and expect our bodies to digest all that with just one glass of water or no water at all. Water is life.
- Get a good amount of sleep. You need a restful environment to allow your body to thoroughly relax and be restored for a new day.
- Move more. Your body needs regular physical exercise, not only to maintain good muscle tone, but also to exercise your heart and lungs.
- Eat healthy. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had only fruits and vegetables for food. Eating meat may be a sign of prosperity, but eating it in abundance is hard on our bodies. Fast food, junk food, and processed food (even when it appears healthy) is not as good for us. We need to get back to eating a variety of vegetables, including greens, beans, and other legumes.
For Relational & Spiritual Well-Being:
- Improve your relationships. One of the strengths of Africa is its emphasis on being rightly related to family, friends, and community. Do not neglect this.
- Observe the Sabbath rest one day a week. Our bodies and minds require rest. Take it.
- Spend some quiet time with God. Shalom includes being rightly related to God as well as to others, yourself, and your environment. As with any other relationship, you need time together for your relationship with God to grow. Many studies have shown the importance of prayer in health, wellness, and healing. In all contributes to your well-being.
Things To Avoid:
- Say “no” to drugs, alcohol, and other harmful habits. Do not be fooled that drugs are a “Western problem.” They are starting to penetrate African schools and communities. Excessive drinking of alcohol affects not just individuals but also families and communities.
- Say “no” to temptations of sex outside of marriage. Not following this clear biblical advice probably brings more physical, emotional, and relational agony and illness to our continent than any other single thing.