Conventional medicine does not always include a spiritual component to healthcare. When Complementary and Alternative medicine does, the methods can be questionable since spiritual practices have origins in various worldviews. However, most people of faith regardless of their background recognize the importance of spiritual wellness for overall health. Below is an overview of the spiritual component of healthcare from a Christian perspective.
Recognize the Connection
Whether or not we realize it, we have all experienced a connection between mind, body and spirit. We have had pain in the chest from a broken heart, sickness even to the point of vomiting when we find out bad news, maybe urination upon being frightened. Ulcers can develop from being upset, and an asthma attack can be triggered from anxiety or shock.
Are not the Spirit and Mind the Same?
The word heart in the Bible often means "the center of the spirit, emotions and understanding" because that is how the Hebrews viewed it. It may be tempting to blend the spirit and mind together, but the Bible reveals that there is a separation between them.
Mark 12:30 reads, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."
Contained in the above verse, there are four specific elements listed: heart, soul, mind and strength.
First, let's look at the heart.
The Bible teaches that from the heart flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23) Another version says it this way: “…for everything you do flows from (your heart).” In the Bible, the heart was not referred to as just an organ, but rather the heart refers to our spiritual life (including our will.)
Next, let's look at the soul.
Soul in the Bible refers to “living person” or “being.” In other words, our soul is our human life. When God made Adam, the first man, he became a “living being” or “living soul,” according to some translations. Our soul is everything about us as a person, our emotions and intellect. It excludes those things that can only be spiritual.
Next, let's look at the mind.
As stated earlier, the Hebrews seemed to have viewed the mind as the same as the heart. But unlike the Hebrews, the Greeks viewed it as separate. Since the command in Mark 12:30 was written in Greek for Greek readers, "mind" was included whereas it is not in other companion verses. Mind here refers to understanding. But the mind component of health is really the same as our soul - our emotions and intellect.
Finally, let's look at strength.
The word strength in this instance refers to “ability” or “in the highest degree.” The same word is used when describing God’s creation in the beginning of time as “good” – in the highest degree. So, our strength is our ultimate very best ability in all things. In the passage, a person's strength also included their riches or resources.
Hebrews 4:12 further demonstrates a separation of mind and spirit by telling us that the Word of God is sharp enough to even divide soul and spirit.
As we can see, according to the Bible, the word "heart" can be used interchangeably with "spirit," while our "soul" refers to our emotions and thoughts.
How Important is the Spiritual Component for Good Health?
The Mark 12:30 verse also reveals something else. God has listed the “heart” (the spiritual component) first and the “soul” second. What we learn from this is that we are to put God first in all things, including healthcare and caring for our physical needs.
…For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (I Timothy 4:8)
(Note: This doesn’t mean that caring for your body is not important to God. I Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”)
The Bible tells us that the reason we should place the spiritual component first is that it results in a trickle-down effect, and “all other things” will be taken care of by God.
When Jesus said this, He was teaching His followers to entrust their lives into God's hands. Previously, they were concerned with their basic needs, sustenance and clothing. Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life,” and “Do not worry about your body,” and “Do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’”
If we are not careful, we, too, can spend too much time worrying about our health regime and miss some incredible news.
“Your heavenly Father knows that you need (these things),” says Jesus. Do not make them your very top priority. Rather, if you seek Him as your very top priority, the One who knows all your needs will provide for them.
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-34)
What Happens if God is not First?
Not putting God first translates to doing things our own way and thinking we know better than He does. Since God allows us to make our own choices, we may experience the results of those choices.
This can be demonstrated by two accounts of Hebrew kings of Judah who struggled with sickness. Each king made a different choice concerning his healthcare and whether he would put God first.
1) In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians. Then in the forty-first year of his reign Asa died and rested with his ancestors. (II Chronicles 16:12-13)
It does not say that physicians are bad. Rather that Asa did not seek help from the Lord. He chose to rely solely on the physicians, ignoring God.
2) In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, “This is what the Lord, the God of your Father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life.” (II Kings 20:1-6b)
God doesn’t always do what we expect or hope. But His way is always better than ours.
How to Maintain the Spiritual Component of Healthcare
First, since all relationships need to be maintained to remain healthy, a Christian spends time reading and meditating on the Bible (God’s words to us) (Matthew 4:4) and in prayer (our words to God) (Luke 18:1). This communication allows the Holy Spirit, living within us, to teach, guide, encourage, comfort, and remind.
Next, disobeying God's commands is harmful to the spirit (Isaiah 59:2). Christians regularly allow God to address areas of sin in their lives so they may repent (confess to God and turn away from that sin). Other things could be weighing heavily on their hearts as well. The Bible teaches that "hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12)." Therefore, it's important to give our burdens to Jesus. (See Psalm 55:22)
Finally, the Bible also tells us that we are not meant to do this journey alone. Fellowship with other believers is important for spiritual health (Hebrews 10:25). This can mean attending church Worship services, being involved in a church family, having an accountability partner and praying with others. All Christians are imperfect, and we need each other. (I Corinthians 12:12-27)
What about Mental Health?
Although closely related, the soul or mind is a separate component of healthcare from the spirit. At times, mental and emotional issues are related to physical issues. For example, there are studies showing a gut-brain connection. Stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress or depression.
But at other times, mental and emotional issues can also be connected to the spiritual component of healthcare. When that is the case, please know that Jesus can reveal anything needing addressed in your life. He will lead you to the right treatment and bring healing and restoration in His way and in His timing. (Proverbs 3:5-6) If counseling is appropriate, this could mean speaking with a pastor, friend, or a professional. The Bible reveals healing can often be obtained through talking or “confessing your sins” with others (coupled with prayer). A good counselor will get to know you and your particular situation and be able to recommend the next step.
It's also important to remember that healing doesn’t always mean an ailment will go away; healing can also mean restoration into a right relationship with God, or with others, or more. In my experience, mental and emotional issues can sometimes persist for long periods of time. If you are on that journey, please don’t be discouraged. Healing is often a process.
I also recommend all Christians learn about their spiritual enemy, for our battle is not against flesh and blood, but evil spiritual forces. (Ephesians 6:12) Satan is a thief who seeks to steal our joy, kill our love for Jesus and destroy our relationship with Him at all costs. (John 10:10) Christians should not only be aware of Satan's lies, tricks, and traps, but also be aware of their power against him. His battlefield is our mind, and we must learn what the Bible teaches about this kind of combat. Resisting Satan by any other means is futile.
Finally, regarding clinical mental illness, if you are walking that road, you are not alone. If you have not yet found the right help for you, it is out there! In the meantime, know that your Father loves you and is not far from you. Any bondage that results from mental illness is not God's plan for anyone, so don't give up! Hope is a person, and His name is Jesus. It is possible to walk in victory because Jesus says it is. (1 John 5:4) If you need prayer, please reach out.
That’s it for Step 1! On to Step 2. God bless!
Meg Grimm writes biblical studies and research articles that help set women free from impractical expectations of the world. Her goal is to unveil true beauty and provide sensible body care principles from a godly perspective.
Note on why the "love the Lord with all your heart" verses are different in the Bible:
The reason these verses are not written exactly the same way as one another is because when they appear in the New Testament, which was written in Greek, it was to quote the original command given in the Torah - Deuteronomy 6:5, which was written in Hebrew. Remember, for the most part, our Old Testament has been translated to English from Hebrew, and our New Testament has been translated to English from Greek. The Hebrews understood the “heart” to be central in all things, and it was not separate from the mind or “understanding” as we (and the Greeks) make this separation. Therefore, whether all four words (heart, soul, mind and strength) are listed or not, all four verses contain the same meaning. They do not contradict one another. See Bengol’s commentary.)