You’re not as healthy as you think you are.
That’s a presumptuous sentence for the start of a book, but if you’ve continued reading to sentence two even after reading sentence one, then you’re exactly the kind of person I want to be reading along. Because the conversations that we’re about to have throughout the chapters of this book need to be had with people who are not easily offended. They need to be had with people who are ready to reflect, to question, to grow. People who aren’t afraid to be challenged or pushed out of their comfort zone. People who are ready to redefine their view of themselves and who God has made them to be. People who are ready to face the hard questions and dig deep to answer: Are you really okay?
And if you’ve made it this far, you’re likely that kind of person. You’re ready. I can just feel it. You’re ready to stop being content with the skewed version of health that has rubbed off on us from this culture—the version that can look so good on the outside yet fail to actually deal with what’s happening on the inside. The version that has gotten so good at presenting its picture-perfect self on Instagram yet fails to acknowledge its flaws and struggles and failures. The version that presents the façade that everything is fine, when really, everything is not. I’m beyond ready to stop playing this game and to acknowledge that just because we’re Christian doesn’t mean we’re healthy. No, not even close.
According to a long line of psychological studies, we humans have a tendency to see ourselves as better than we are. Social scientists call this the better-than-average-effect. When asked how well they drive, how good of a friend they are, or how morally they behave, the majority of people will rate themselves as better than the average. Mathematically speaking, this can’t be the reality—half of all people will fall below the median. So, not only do people think of themselves as better than average, but they think better of themselves than they actually should. In other words, they think they’re doing okay when, in fact, they might not be.
It was hypothesized that people view themselves as above average only when they’re higher in socioeconomic status or only in certain groups that actually are above average in certain areas, so another study was performed to test the effect on a group of prisoners. Prisoners were asked to assess their view of themselves with regard to their kindness and morality, comparing themselves to nonprisoners in their personal assessment. Sure enough, the prisoners affirmed the better-the-average effect shows no bias: They saw themselves as above average in both kindness and morality in comparison to nonprisoners. It doesn’t matter if you’re a pastor or a prisoner because according to human nature, you likely think of yourself as better than you actually are. And this applies to every area of our life. It applies to our actions and choices, our feelings and emotions, our behaviors and interactions, our thoughts and ideas, and everything in between. Just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean we’re healthy. And just because we think we’re doing okay doesn’t mean we really are.
We live in a culture that has set us up to put our best face forward. A culture that deceives us into believing that the better we appear, the better we are. But just because we seem to have it together on the outside doesn’t mean that we have it together on the inside. And just because we’ve come to Jesus at some point in our journey doesn’t mean we’ve magically achieved perfection. We need to stop assuming health and start pursuing health, living intentionally toward health on every level.
Heart, Soul, Mind, Strength
In the book of Mark, Jesus was asked to explain what the greatest commandment was out of all the commandments. Jesus answered, “The most important one…is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’” (Mark 12:29-30). One thing I love about His direct answer is that it covers every single base. Loving God is not just something we do in our hearts. Loving God is something we have to do with every layer of who we are: with our emotions, our spirit, our thoughts, and our body. Loving God is a holistic experience. It requires every part of who we are to be in alignment with every part of who He is.
As Christians, we have a tendency to put all our focus on loving God with our spirit. We have spiritual conversations, we hear spiritual messages, we sing spiritual songs, and we read spiritual books. We can get so focused on our time in God’s Word, our prayer life, and our weekly church gatherings that we fail to take inventory of the health of every other part of our lives. What about our emotional health? What about our mental health? And what about our physical health? Are we making space in our lives for these important considerations? Because if we’re not loving God with all of those aspects of ourselves, can we say that we’re loving Him well? If we’re struggling in one or two of those areas, could that struggle be impacting the rest?
I always say that healthy people make healthy relationships, but you know what? The reverse is also true. Unhealthy people make unhealthy relationships.
Becoming A Christian Doesn’t Fix Everything
In the church culture we’ve created, we falsely assume that becoming a Christian fixes everything. Maybe we don’t actually say those words out loud, but we have this latent belief that we’re going to have it together emotionally, spiritually, and mentally just because we’re walking with the Lord. Yet we don’t apply that mentality to our bodies, do we? We don’t assume that just because we come to Jesus, all of a sudden we’re going to have just the right BMI, our blood pressure will be just right, and all of our physical flaws will disappear.
My friend Pastor Levi Lusko, affirmed this when I visited Fresh Life Church: “We don’t get a six pack when we get saved or biceps when we get baptized.” We’d never make that crazy assumption with our physical health, and we often do the work that needs to be done to meet our physical health goals. But then why do we make that assumption with regard to our emotional and mental health? Why do we fail to get educated and set goals from the inside out? Why do we so severely neglect taking inventory of what is actually going on inside of us?
Taking Inventory of Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength
If we’re to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we need to align ourselves with His best for us in all these areas. Taking inventory of each of those areas is of vital importance, and that’s the work we’ll be doing throughout the chapters of this book. Chapter by chapter, page by page, we’re going to take the time to dig deep and ask ourselves how we’re really doing in our emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical health. We’re going to start living intentionally toward health, and not just assuming we’re okay.
That doesn’t mean we’re ever going to reach perfection, but we do need to have a proper perspective of who we are versus who God has called us to be. We need to see the gap between our flesh and God’s Spirit and do whatever is in our power to move in His direction. Our personal health and development impacts absolutely everything. It impacts the quality of our life, it impacts our relationships, it impacts our marriages, it impacts our families, it impacts our ministries, and most importantly, it impacts our callings. We need to be strengthened and empowered to do what God has called us to do with no hindrance.
How often have we seen Christians in the media fall from the height of leadership and into sin and struggle? How often do we see seemingly strong people wreck their marriages and their families and their ministries because they’ve chosen adultery or addictions? How many more suicides, how much more drug abuse or alcoholism do we need to see before we realize that maybe we ourselves are susceptible to sin and struggle?
Going from unhealth to health is a journey, just as going from health back to unhealth is a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight. It’s all about the small steps we take each and every day. Those steps create the roads that shape the maps of our lives. We don’t go from 0 to 100 in a day. And that’s good news for all of us because if we can’t go from 0 to 100 in a day, then we also can’t go from 100 to 0 in a day. The journey toward health is slow, steady, and stable. It takes our unrelenting awareness and our unhindered intention to do the next right thing, after the next right thing, after the next right thing. We do what we can do, and trust God to continue doing the rest.
God has been lighting a fire in my bones lately regarding the message of personal health among Christians and the importance of coming to terms with who we are and how we’re really doing mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. But just recently, this fire got to a place where it singed me. Sometimes the very thing you are passionate about is the very thing that ends up causing you the most pain. Because usually, our passion is birthed out of our pain. That statement was beyond true for me one recent summer as I found myself walking through a level of anxiety and depression and physical illness that I’ve never experienced before. I have so much more to share about this life-altering experience through the chapters of this book, but I want you to know that being a licensed professional counselor doesn’t make me immune to emotional and mental distress, just like being a pastor doesn’t make you immune to spiritual attack, or being a doctor doesn’t make you immune to physical illness.
If we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, then it makes sense that the enemy—the father of lies and destruction—would do whatever He can to ensure that we face struggle in our heart, soul, mind, and strength (John 8:44). The core areas in which you are to love God are the core areas that are susceptible to struggle. We shouldn’t be surprised by the struggle. Instead, we should be prepared! The enemy is going to use whatever he can to get us down and out, but by God’s power and through His strength, we have what it takes to face those struggles and come out stronger on the other side—mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically in Jesus’s name.
Coming to Jesus doesn’t fix everything. It doesn’t fix our high cholesterol levels, and it doesn’t fix our lonely childhoods, and it doesn’t fix our proclivities toward fear and anxiety. That fix will only come when the trumpet sounds and when all things are made new. But in the meantime, in this life, the Spirit gives us what we need to come face-to-face with our struggles and declare that Christ will be victorious in the end (1 Corinthians 15:57)!
Over the course of the next 12 chapters, we are going to dive deep into every aspect of personal health. We’re going to talk about preparing your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength. We’re going to take inventory of your emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical health. We’re going to ask the hard questions and face the raw answers because we’re ready to stop pretending that just because we’re Christians means we have it all together. We’re ready to begin bridging the gap between who we actually are and who God has called us to be. We’re ready to live intentionally toward emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical health.
I know you’re ready too. You’re exactly the kind of person I want to come with me, and I’m honored to be taking this journey by your side. So, here we go. Let’s do this.
Pre-Order Are You Really OK? today and receive two bonus gifts including: the FREE AUDIOBOOK read by Debra, as well as a FREE Are You Really OK? JOURNAL filled with all the questions you need to answer as you begin the process of getting healthy from the inside out! CLICK HERE TO PRE-ORDER
DEBRA FILETA is a Licensed Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of Choosing Marriage and True Love Dates, and Love In Every Season and Are You Really OK?. She’s also the host of the hotline style Love + Relationships Podcast. Her popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, reaches millions of people with the message of healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter or book an online session with her today!
 Rosie Meek, Mark D. Alicke, and Sarah Taylor, “Behind Bars but Above the Bar: Prisoners Consider Themselves More Prosocial than Non-Prisoners,” British Journal of Social Psychology 53, no. 2 (June 2014): 396-403, doi: 10.1111/bjso.12060.