On an innocent stroll through the grocery store or a scan through our TV channels, we are constantly bombarded by advertisements promoting diet and exercise. At the tips of our fingers are strategies for getting or staying in shape, as well as recipes for healthy living. On top of that, our eyes are overloaded with images of physical “beauty” and “perfection.” And, what do we do in response to all of these stimuli? We ignore them, right? WRONG!
The truth is that we consumers fall prey to information obtained through our senses. Some consumer research reports indicate that 22% of women spend the most money on healthy foods, and the percentage increases to 30% when organic foods and diet plans are included. In addition, roughly 6% of women spend the most money on gym membership or personal training, and that percentage climbs to 11% when fitness and workout clothes are included. On the surface, this is not a bad thing, particularly when we consider significant increases in obesity, obesity-related illnesses, and poorer physical health outcomes throughout the United States.
Yet, upon review of the statistics related to physical health and wellness, Christian women must ask the question: “Are we worshiping at the altar of the gym, all in the name of physical health?” To answer this important question, let’s turn to God’s word. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reads:
“… didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So, let people see God in and through your body” (MSG).
Placed within context, Paul was addressing sexual immorality with the church of God in Corinth, to “… those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, …” (1 Corinthians 1:2; NIV). We can, however, extrapolate from scripture the importance of edifying Christ by the actions we engage in within our bodies. So, back to the gym we go.
On the surface, the gym is a retreat, with the sole aim of refining the vessels God provided at birth and continually nourishes. Yet, Christians cannot simply explore life’s affairs on the surface (that is, the natural/physical level) alone; we are tasked with engaging on a much deeper level.
Exploration of God’s “below the surface” forces us to explore a few things. First, Christian women must consider the purpose of our physical health activity. Are we using physical exercise as a means of escape from life’s realities, or attempting to mask deeper emotional or spiritual pain? Is our physical activity honoring God, or is it a mere reflection of our own pride or vanity? Finally, does our engagement in exercise provide us with fulfillment, where it might otherwise be absent? Second, we must explore the outcomes of our physical health pursuits. One question that comes to mind here is: Are we bearing fruit, in connection with Jesus? In John 15:5, Jesus clearly states:
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will
produce much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing” (NIV).
Essentially, Jesus expresses that in order to do what we need to do (in this case, exercise), we must remain closely attached to Him. Another pertinent question here is: Do others benefit from our physical pursuits? Now, this is not to say that there must be a direct relationship between our activity and others. However, might our physical activity equip us with greater strength to be able to serve others? Matthew 25:41 (NIV) highlights the importance of “looking after” the sick, a mandate that clearly requires physical abilities on our parts. Last, but certainly not least, we must consider the spiritual consequences of our physical activity. In pursuit of exercise, do we make more room for fitness than we do for quiet time alone with God? Talk about getting to the heart of the matter! In our attempts to better our physique, we may just miss the point altogether and fall prey to an idol … the gym!
What’s the bottom line? As Christians, we have a responsibility to ask the deeper, spiritual questions. It’s paramount! So, here are some final thoughts …
Take stock of your present physical state (through consultation with your primary care physician), then seek God for guidance about how to best proceed (Psalm 32:8)
Continually ask God to search your heart and seek out any anxieties or fears related to your physical health status (Psalm 139:23)
Engage in adequate physical activity (as needed), while continually assessing your motives, as well as your “fruit” (John 15:5)
Seek God first as a priority (Matthew 6:33), even if that means reducing time spent at the gym. As you seek Him, He promises to add “all these things” unto you — including physical health
Blessings to each of you on your journey towards spiritual, emotional, and physical health!