Healthy Decisions

This January, I resolved to eat right and exercise. I’ve been resolving to do so every January since I can remember, but this January was different. I finally admitted that I am not getting any younger and that my health is largely my decision. Eating cheeseburgers daily and sitting on the couch watching TV nightly are not the kind of decisions that make for a long or healthy life.
The Book of Proverbs outlines several decisions each of us must make that also contribute to healthy living.[*] These don’t fall into the realm of eat right and exercise, but they are insightful nonetheless.
The first decision we must make regards our relationship with God.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones (3:7-8).
Notice the logic of these two verses. The right understanding of who we are and who God is leads to correct action which results in a healthy body. The ultimate sources of health, in other words, are spiritual and moral in nature, not just physical—as if the good life were only a matter of calories, vitamins, and cardiovascular activity. The good life is first and foremost a godly life.
The second decision we must make regards our most intimate human relationship: our spouse.
A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown,
but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones (12:4).
Remember, Proverbs is largely a book of fatherly advice to sons, so the husband-centered nature of these remarks shouldn’t surprise us. But they are true nonetheless, and equally true when roles are reversed. Whom you choose to marry—whether wife or husband—profoundly shapes your sense of wellbeing. So choose wisely!
The third decision regards our emotional life.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (13:12).
A heart at peace gives life to the body,
but envy rots the bones (14:30).
A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (17:22).
A man’s spirit sustains him in sickness,
but a crushed spirit who can bear? (18:14).
Philosophers debate the extent to which emotions are under our control. I believe our choices can shape our emotional well-being. For example, we can take action to fulfill our desires (and we should, as long as those desires are moral). We can work to eliminate envy from our lives. When depressed, we can watch the Three Stooges and laugh until we’re cheered up. While our emotions are not completely under our control, they are largely under our control, so we should make choices that lead to joy.
The final choice regards our choice of words.
A cheerful look brings joy to the heart,
and good news gives health to the bones (15:30).
Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (16:24).
How we speak to others affects their wellbeing. But I also think our choice of words affect our own. Praise uplifts, while criticism depresses. So, criticize others sparingly (and only if really necessary), but praise lavishly.

[*] I derived this grouping of Scriptures from Tremper Longman III, Proverbs (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 558-559.

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