Behavior change of any kind is very difficult to make. We are faced with many choices every day, and the healthful options are not always the easiest ones to make. This reminds us of Paul’s confession: “For what I want to do I do not do” (Rom. 7:15).
It’s important to have health knowledge that is reliable, sound, and balanced. For example, we know we should engage in physical exercise daily. We need to process this, consider the needed changes, and prepare to start the new health habit or behavior. Knowledge now informs the choices and actions to be made according to our physical and environmental circumstances.
We need to select a form of exercise: walking, jogging, water aerobics—any or all these or many others. The next step is implementation. These stages have been described by Drs. James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente as precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, and action.1 The new action needs to be practiced for three to six months and then maintained as a habit.
We are blessed to know and understand the importance of whole-person health, even in our inevitable brokenness. The scientific literature in general and the physical and mental facets of the Adventist Health Studies confirm that people of faith indeed have a health advantage. People who attend church services live longer; have less depression, hypertension, cancer, and suicide; and generally enjoy better mental and physical health.
Twenty-year-olds who attend services once a week or more live 7.5 years longer than those who never attend; this benefit virtually doubles to 13.7 years in African Americans. Religious attendance reduces the negative effects of stress, promotes healthier behaviors, provides social support, provides meaning, and fosters forgiveness. A general disposition to forgive is associated with decreased levels of depression, anxiety, anger, stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), along with increased levels of well-being. Careful Sabbathkeeping is associated with better mental health; it may be that the Sabbath ends up “keeping” us. What a thought!
Yes, it is all worthwhile! There are benefits to be enjoyed now, as well as the promise of eternity with our heavenly Father and Best Friend. We make choices and changes not to make Him love us, but because He loves us, and because we have accepted and love Him.
Be encouraged and reassured by these words penned by Ellen White: “As the will of man cooperates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings.”2 As always, she underscores the Greater Light: God’s Word.
Paul’s prayer is applicable to our House Call today: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).
It is worthwhile and possible—by His grace!
2 Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1900), p. 333.
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department. Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.