By Heidi Goehmann
Wellness and well-being are not distinctly Lutheran ideas. People from across time have been trying to figure out how to be well and stay well.
And while the search for the fountain of youth may be a vain, worldly pursuit, keeping these jars of clay healthy is a godly task, one given to each of us as part of the work of stewarding all of God’s creation, including ourselves and each other.
Lutheranism does have some unique concepts as part of the fabric of our doctrine and daily teaching that are useful for the pursuit of our wellness.
Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia: Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone
Luther recognized that life without Scripture is simply not lived well.
We can try every new diet, exercise until the cows come home, meet with our therapist, take the proper medications, and use the right skin creams, but without the Word of hope everything crumbles.
We are confronted daily by the brokenness of the world and our bodies as we age.
But Scripture holds mighty promises of God’s healing and restoration in Jesus Christ where we see brokenness. It gives us a place to return after we’ve gone out and researched all the ideas.
Wellness is an industry. There are so many products we could buy and ways we could spend our time. There’s research and science that can be beneficial, but they can also be tied to agendas.
Scripture gives us a place to wrestle with what we read and filter it through the lens of what we believe.
“Faith Alone” reminds us we can meet with God here and converse with Him, ask Him any and all of our questions, gather with His people, and be well in a community built on faith rather than trying to figure it out on our own.
“Grace Alone” is perhaps most important in our dealings with wellness. If we attempt wellness from a law-based lens, whereby we attempt to do more, be better, and choose wisely every time, we will only find ourselves discouraged and meet our failure face-to-face.
The grace of Christ as our lens reminds us that well-being is a gift, some of which we have control over, other parts of which we lay in His hands.
Grace allows us to get back up when we fall, pick up that phone when we need to make that appointment, or get out of bed the next day and start fresh and new.
Well-being is a constant part of our pilgrimage in this life, not a destination.
In addressing wellness in our own life, we allow God to bring His grace into areas we’d rather not look at, and in turn He only expects us to operate with grace for ourselves, in the same way Christ gives grace to us every day.
The sinner and saint duality
Understanding that we are 100 percent holy and redeemed by Jesus, even while we still wrestle with our own brokenness and the brokenness of the world, is essential to our well-being … especially when we are wrestling with well-being itself.
The Apostle Paul’s language in Rom. 7:15 is perfect for any of us who have tried to improve our health and well-being:
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
Paul, I hear you! I want to seek help but often don’t. I want to reach out to a friend to connect but don’t. I want to eat veggies, and I eat cookies.
I mean, I’m a mess. But a loved, bought at a price, forgiven and set free mess. I will live in this mess to some extent my whole life.
But I also know the work is done; nothing need be added to it.
Restoration and the New Creation of non-messiness will be my reality one day. In the meantime, I live in both, free to become a better mess than I was the day before, because the Spirit of our God lives in me to will and to act, bringing wellness.
Our many and varied vocations
Vocation is such a health-giving concept. Imagine if I lived in a world where I only had one purpose, and I wasn’t really sure what it was.
Or imagine if I thought my salvation, or even just God’s view of me, depended on my ability to get a particular job done and done well.
Vocation, instead, reminds us that we are people of many gifts and people whom God has put in many places — of life, family and work — so that His people may be found and His Word brought everywhere.
Vocation helps me see my identity in Christ alone, while serving many and various roles for His good, be it mopping a floor or comforting a friend suffering with cancer.
Any good thing I do in this life and this world, any “well” thing I do, is Christ at work in me.
I’m going to wear lots of hats in life. Sometimes I’ll balance those well, and other times I’ll learn I need to balance them better.
I do my best, and Jesus is enough in every one of those spaces; even in my weakness, there is His strength shining.
I’m not confined to one single role to hold my identity. Worker, mom or dad, pastor, teacher, child, elder — those are vocations.
Child of God! — that’s my identity.
Vocation keeps me grounded and brings an awareness of God’s presence into anything I might do on a given day — at home, at work or in my community.
You don’t need to be Lutheran to be well. I’m sure we can learn from hundreds of people around us who aren’t Lutheran at all. But we have these great lenses, so let’s pop them on and use them.
Take heart, wellness seekers, Jesus Christ guides you, the Spirit lives in you, the Father watches over you.
We cannot boast in our Lutheran heritage (“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast,” Eph. 2:8–9).
But adding a little Lutheran theology to our wellness lens doesn’t hurt anything either.