The Bible and your well-being

By Warrick Lattibeaudiere

Sunday, August 18, 2019

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“A joyful heart is good medicine…”

— Proverbs 17:22, English Standard Version

HAPPINESS remains, for the most part, elusive to man — try as hard as he may. Could it be that, after centuries, we are still overlooking the basics? And could these small steps to happiness unlock greater access to health?

One of the oldest books and the world's best-seller, the Bible, importantly weighs in on our happiness, health, and overall well-being.

It is often said that different things make different people happy. Achieving a well-worked-for goal, such as a new car, a university degree, or taking a vacation, may cause many to experience a measure of 'happiness'. However, shortly after the goal is achieved this surge of happiness wanes. This is because happiness is different from pleasure.

While pleasure centres more on temporary gratification — enjoyment and entertainment tied to specific activities — happiness is a state of well-being marked somewhat by permanence and emotional contentment that is fuelled by the joy and pursuit to live. So while pleasure is comparable to a destination or goal, happiness is a journey.

Similarly, while a tasty fast food meal brings pleasure, a way of life that involves proper dieting and exercise best describes this journey to happiness.

Again, do we have the indicators to happiness wired incorrectly?

Giving or receiving?

People tend to measure their success or happiness based on their wealth or what they can get. In this regard many will toil for the last dollar — determined to be rich at all costs.

The Journal of Happiness Studies states that once basic needs are satisfied, added income marginally improves happiness or well-being. It would be foolhardy to say money is unimportant and that it is the cause of unhappiness, since the Bible speaks of money as protection (Ecclesiastes 7:12).

The journal, Monitor on Psychology, observes that the pursuit of money is what is linked to unhappiness. The apostle Paul long noted this fact, saying, “The love of money is the root of all evil, and by reaching out for this love some have… pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:9,10).

So, why is adjusting our mindset where the love of money is concerned beneficial to our pursuit of happiness? Because, for one, the love of money occasions greater anxiety, which only robs one of sleep — a bodily function indispensable to our well-being — as the greater the resources one has, the greater the worry to protect it. Solomon says: “The sleep of the worker is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of the rich man permits him no sleep” (Ecclesiastes 5:12).

Secondly, we set up ourselves for disappointment when we expect money to bring happiness. This will never happen. The fact is, the disappointment ends up worsening our emotional state.

Proverbs 13:12 says: “Expectation postponed makes the heart sick,” as one finds himself on a never-ending path in the pursuit for money. While0, “whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income”, cautions Ecclesiastes 5:10.

Thirdly, the situation may just worsen into grief and frustration if we lose that money or if it were to drastically depreciate. Proverbs 23:4 and 5 asks that we exercise balance: “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be wise enough to restrain yourself. When you glance at wealth, it disappears, for it makes wings for itself and flies like an eagle to the sky...”

Rather than always seeking to gain or get, Acts 20:35 says: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”

When people give of their time, energy or money, they make others happy, and that in turn makes them happy. Theirs is the joy or abundant satisfaction which is not measured in monetary terms, but in terms of respect and love from others.

Wealth or health?

The love of money does not lead one to happiness. That we have seen. Greater focus on one's health is more likely to do so.

One man who immersed himself so hard in work managed to gain much but his stomach paid the price, and a pretty one at that for he failed to eat. He now laments that he would pay any price to be able to enjoy just a simple meal.

Endeavour, therefore, to take reasonable measures to reduce the risk of falling ill!

The Bible encourages moderation. While failing to eat is problematic, eating or drinking too much messes up our health and our finances. No wonder Proverbs 23: 20-1 says we should not “join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags”.

Secondly, we should endeavour not to contaminate our bodies. The apostle Paul speaks of cleansing ourselves of every defilement of flesh and spirit (2 Cor 7:1). The chewing and smoking of tobacco and the abuse of alcohol affect our well-being and happiness.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention categorically states that smoking leads to disease and disability, and harms nearly every organ of the body. If we view our body as a temple and a treasured gift from God, we'll not engage in life-threatening sports and recreation, and we will be cautious when using the road. Yes, we acknowledge that “by God, we have life and move and exist” (Acts 17:28).

Fourthly, while you fight to control negative emotions, be positive in your thinking. Your mind and body are inseparable. When we do our best to stay away from negative energy, people and emotions we fare better, we are happier.

So rid your life of bitterness, anger, envy, hate, and strife! Yes, “refrain from anger and turn from wrath”, says Psalm 37:8.

In the same breath, “a calm heart gives life to the body” and “a joyful heart is good medicine”, notes Proverbs 14:30 and Proverbs 17:22. Be at peace with nature and smile more. It is well touted in the medical field that individuals who are happy are less likely to be prone to physical illnesses than those who are unhappy.

Your happiness and health is your responsibility. Both share a direct correlation: The happier and healthier you are, the greater the quality praise you can give to God, the ultimate Giver of health and strength.

Warrick Lattibeaudiere (PhD) is a minister of religion who lectures full-time in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Technology, Jamaica.


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