Like most people I hope to live a happy, long and healthy life. As a believer I pray for this privilege. Admittedly, I do not exactly understand how this kind of prayer works—for it is a fact of life that for many believers life may just as unexpectedly take a nasty turn as it may for non-believers. Of course, I do realize that, with regard to health, I must also do something myself. For that reason I take, as often as possible, an hour-long walk in the morning. I do not smoke, and do not consume any alcohol and drink only very few soda’s. And I seriously limit my visits to the ‘golden arch’, and to similar institutions. I thank God I am still in reasonably good health and still dispose of a fair amount of energy. Unfortunately, I am just not very successful in shedding a few excess kilo’s.
I faithfully take the medication my doctors have prescribed in order to keep my blood pressure and my sugar at the right levels. But, I just heard a few days ago on the news that medicines may have an undesirable effect if you reach a certain age, and you may want to accept the risks that result from fewer pills, since these very medicines may cause other serious problems in elderly people which may shorten their lives. Well, what can I say? (And another bit of news—but not so relevant for me: women are on average less healthy than men, in spite of the fact that they live longer. One of the reasons for this, it was reported, is that most medicines have been tested only on men and not on women and may simply be less effective for women.)
I know very little about medical maters, but I take many recent reports on medical discoveries with a grain of salt (although, of course, not with too much salt, as that may negatively impact on my blood pressure). Often the findings contradict other findings. Is it healthy to drink a few glasses of milk per day? How healthy is ‘healthy’ margarine? How much fruit should one ideally eat? And does (as was also reported last week) eating a daily dose of 20 grams of nuts prolong your life? Is swimming a useful exercise? (My specialist in internal medicine told me that swimming is the least productive form of physical exercise!) How good or bad is a daily glass of wine, or regularly eating a piece of lean meat (besides the ecological aspects)? And, of course, there is the inevitable question: how many cups of coffee can one drink per day without any negative consequences?
Living consciously healthy has religious implications. As (christian) human beings we are responsible for how we treat our bodies. It also has social implications: how can we contribute to keeping healhcare affordable? Or, perhaps even more importantly: keeping healthy will add to having a pleasurable life, and it may postpone the moment that we become dependent on other people for care and other forms of assistance. But, when all is said and done: food must also remain a source of pleasure! The Lord has not without reason given us the sense of taste. And, finally, one of the most important aspects of a happy and healthy life is: finding meaning in our life and cherish our relationships.
And then, there is this fabulous thought in the Lamentations of Jeremiah (3:22,23) that should stop us a few moments every morning: ‘The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.’