Our culture is in the throes of a crucial effort to de-stigmatize mental health needs with the reminder that “mental health is health, too.” We’ve learned that our mental health directly effects our physical health and our thought patterns directly impact our cellular makeup.
As we continue to validate the importance of seeking appropriate care for mental health needs, emerging trends in the study of how our faith practices impact our brain on a cellular level challenge us to identify a clearer definition of spiritual health as well. We prioritize spiritual maturity in the church but how do we define spiritual health? If we want to be healthy overall, we must explore what spiritual health is and how it is manifested in our lives, churches and communities. As I began to study this topic, I delved deeper into my two favorite research modalities… scripture and science. Here’s what I found…
In a study conducted by 22 experts in the field of spiritual health, a number of factors were listed as the primary indicators of spiritual health.
I’ve listed the top 4 salient ones in the Christian faith below.
1.) Spiritual health affects physical, mental, and social health.
2.) Spiritual health is preferred over the other aspects of health.
3.) Spiritual health is presented in an individual’s behavior.
4.) Spiritual health is a dynamic state and can be promoted. Scripturally, we see these research-based states echoed in the corresponding verses below:
1. Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” – 3 John 1-2
We know that spiritual health translates into a more peaceful soul. John mentions here that our soul health impacts physical health. This is validated by science as we’ve learned that repeated negative thought patterns increase stress hormones and inflammation in our bodies. A healthy spiritual life also affects our social relationships as it empowers us to treat others with added grace, compassion and patience. Our spiritual health truly impacts every other aspect of our lives.
2. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:33
When we prioritize our spiritual health, we begin to see our soul and body in light of eternal priorities. We recognize the eternal purpose of being physically and emotionally healthy. However, it’s important we don’t end our pursuit of health in the spiritual realm. We focus on Spiritual health first, but we follow it with emotional health and physical health. If we avoid painful emotions by focusing only on spiritual dimensions instead of day-to-day application (a term specialists call spiritual bypassing) we miss out on deeper opportunities to embody our faith through our behaviors, which is the next indicator of spiritual health.
3. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” -Galatians 5:22-23
When we operate from a place of integrated health, we live out the fruit of the spirit in our behavior. When we don’t value spiritual, mental and physical health together, it can be more difficult to walk in these attributes. Have you ever tried to be patient with someone while physically ill? It’s not that easy. Do you offer yourself kindness when the mental battlefield of self-shaming rages on in a depressive episode? On a scale of 1-10 how easy is it to practice self-control when we’ve developed unhealthy coping mechanisms for anger? The interconnected nature of spiritual, physical and mental health plays out clearly in our daily behaviors. Thankfully, our spiritual health is a fluid process that isn’t stagnant.
4.”Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” – Phil 2:13
Spiritual health is not a place in which we’ve “arrived”. It’s a dynamic, ever-changing, flexible approach to a God who reveals His character to us in various ways. When we focus on spiritual health as a primary component of holistic health, we are committing to a lifelong exploration of who God is and how He is revealed both to us and through us. We are choosing to allow Him to prompt our “will” to follow Him and giving Him the reigns to “work” in all areas of our lives. One way we choose to walk this out is by considering our unhealthy thoughts and exploring ways to invite Him into our emotional struggle, not just seeking Him as an attempt to numb or avoid our pain. We can wholeheartedly acknowledge that He can transcend our reality without avoiding what He’s asking us to face mentally and emotionally. At Clear Path, we value your story and we want to help you learn how to invite Jesus into your place of pain. If you’re ready to take the first step toward emotional healing, fill out our 10 minute assessment to help determine your next steps.