by John Dunlop, MD
What is wellness, anyway? At first blush most of us would answer in terms of our physical health. But is physical health all there is to wellness? If wellness requires us to complete a marathon at one hundred, most of us won’t make it.
Thankfully, wellness is much more than physical health and freedom from distressing symptoms. Wellness involves the whole of our being, which includes six distinct areas: physical, mental, social, financial, spiritual, and emotional. These areas of wellness are not independent but are all interrelated. Each area contributes to the well-being of each of the others. At the same time, struggles in one area may detract from wellness in each of the others.
I define wellness as that blessed state of experiencing all spheres of life functioning in harmony with God’s ordained purpose. Let us unpack that statement:
- blessed … is a word frequently used in both Old and New Testaments. It speaks of a state of good fortune, being well off and happy. True blessing is a gift from God, not something we earn. We have some responsibility to create an environment where He can work, but fundamentally it is God who graciously blesses us. Even the things we do to pursue wellness are possible because He give us the wisdom, motivation, and ability.
- state of experiencing … emphasizes that wellness is not just an objective fact but a subjective experience. It allows us to say not only, “I am well,” but also, “I feel well.”
- all spheres of life … indicates that wellness involves the whole person. It includes all six areas we are considering.
- functioning … implies that wellness is not only a state of being but is also what we do.
- in harmony with … suggests the deep, satisfying peace that comes from sharing together and being united with something that is much bigger than ourselves.
- God’s ordained purpose. To be well we need a purpose that gives meaning and significance to our lives today and will continue to do so until the day we die. What better purpose could we have than being part of God’s eternal purpose and allowing Him to dictate how every part of our lives will contribute to His overall plan? Right from the start we need to appreciate that being in harmony with God’s ordained purpose does not mean everything will be sunshine and roses, since His plan will include difficulties. When I struggle in life I often quote from one of my favorite psalms: “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving” (Psalm 62:11-12 NIV). If I affirm that God is able to do what He wants (He is strong) and that He is loving, I can joyfully conclude that everything that happens is under His control and will result in what He knows is best. This is the gist of what Paul writes: “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Once I am in harmony with God’s purpose, I can be well, regardless of my circumstances. I can know I am in the right spot, and I can rest comfortably.
If we are to aim for the unity in our lives that allows for true wellness, we need to consider each part of our lives and examine how it fits into this big picture. We need to consider our physical, mental, social, financial, spiritual, and emotional states and determine how they could better allow us to live to the glory of God.
Adapted excerpt taken from Wellness for the Glory of God, © 2014 by John Dunlop, MD. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org
John Dunlop is a practicing geriatrician and holds a master's degree in bioethics. He serves as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University.