Health, Wellness, and Shalom

January 2nd, 2012

Resolution Checkpoint

A Franklin Covey poll shows that more than 75 percent of those surveyed will break their new year's resolutions within three months. A third of those surveyed will keep their resolutions only until the end of January.

If you are like most people, your list of resolutions for 2012 is a litany of goals related to health, wholeness, and overall wellness. However, what constitutes wellness? Is it weight loss? Is it better nutrition? Is it a clear sense of boundaries? Is it better time management? Is it a deeper sense of joy, gratitude, and blessing? When you imagine being well, what comes to mind?


The dictionary definition of wellness suggests a “state of being in good health.” The definition of well-being is “the state of being happy, healthy, and prosperous.” To take the meanings one step further, consider that some of the synonyms for wholeness include “lacking nothing essential” and “having good health.”

It can be easy to assume that wellness is only about the physical self. We might think of our personal wellness and automatically assess our weight and activity level. While weight and activity level might contribute to overall wellness, the definitions of wellness, well-being, and wholeness point to a multifaceted understanding of wellness: Wellness is where the body, the mind, and the spirit work together to achieve good health.

Our minds, bodies, and spirits are meant to be in sync; and when they are, we are closer to true wellness. Lasting weight loss usually happens more easily when we deal with our deeper emotional issues and make firm mental intention to achieve permanent life changes related to food and exercise. Likewise, emotional and mental wellness often improves when our physical health improves.

Happiness, health, and prosperity will likely sum up any New Year’s resolutions we make in any given year; and it is beneficial to our well-being to pursue mental, emotional, and physical health. We might go to the fitness center to work on the physical self. We might work on our emotional issues with a pastor or a counselor. We might improve our mental health by meditating on positive reflections.

The biblical idea of shalom grounds all of these pursuits in God, in God’s will for our well-being, and in God’s call to pursue such well-being as individuals and as communities.

Defining Shalom

Shalom is the Hebrew word that is most frequently used in conversations about peace and peacemaking. It is also a traditional Jewish greeting that is used similar to how we use the words hello or goodbye. While it is a lovely and sacred practice to exchange peace with one another, to assume the English word peace expresses the fullness of the word shalom is to overlook the greater blessing of God’s gift of shalom. The full meaning of shalom is far more than suggested in the word peace.

A closer look at the definition of shalom may give us a new perspective on attaining our resolutions and living with fullness of health, joy, and peace. Instead of willing ourselves to lose weight, find more joy, or create balance, only to give up and try again next year, we can change our approach altogether. We can seek God first and live each day from a deep well of shalom.

Strong’s Concordance defines shalom as “completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.” The root of the Hebrew word suggests completeness, perfection, or fullness. In other words, shalom is the life God intends for us to have; but how do we get there?

Mental Shalom

Worry, fear, self-doubt, hopelessness, depression, anxiety, and despair––these are just some of the feelings that can poison our pursuit of shalom. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 26.2 percent of Americans who are 18 years or older suffer from at least one diagnosable mental disorder. That does not even count those who are too embarrassed to seek help.

As we pursue a life of shalom, we have to be honest about the state of our mental health and be willing to do the work of healing. God created us for a life of shalom.

Spiritual Shalom

As Christians, spiritual shalom may be the easiest to understand. We learn early on that we can be made whole in Christ. We learn that God will supply our every need and that we are safe in the care of the Good Shepherd. Spiritual wholeness comes when we seek God, find God, and live as Jesus taught us to live. In practice, however, it can be hard to live with intention as we seek shalom.

Physical Shalom

Physical well-being is arguably the most quantifiable aspect of shalom. We know if our weight is in the “healthy” range. We know if our blood pressure and heart rate are where they need to be. We know if our cholesterol is high or just right. We know how it feels to overeat and to be hungry.

It is no coincidence that gyms and weight-loss centers offer membership discounts at the beginning of each year in an attempt to reach those who have made New Year’s resolutions related to physical wellness. We seem to be a nation obsessed with our physical appearance and well-being.

Community Shalom

Jeremiah 29:7 speaks to God’s call for shalom in community: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” In the safety of the community, the individual finds safety. Any pursuit of well-being includes an awareness of the world in which we live. We are called not only to seek shalom for ourselves but also to secure it for those in our community.

The Pursuit of Shalom

Health and wellness do not come by osmosis or wishful thinking. The path to shalom is ongoing. When we see our goal as a journey to shalom and determine that we will take intentional steps to get there, we will be far more successful with our goals of health and wellness. It is an ongoing journey that requires thoughtful decisions, prayer, and intention.

The apostle Paul wrote about this in Romans 12:1-2. He called followers of Jesus “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God” and to “be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is––what is good and pleasing and mature” (CEB).

Our resolutions are fine and good, but they cannot be the ultimate goal. We have to change our mindset and seek God’s shalom, where our bodies, our minds, and our spirits function in completeness. As we present ourselves to God, we discover the transforming power of God.

While physically we may seek weight loss or better nutrition, and mentally we may need help beyond ourselves, the pursuit of shalom is ultimately a spiritual pursuit. When we start with faith––with the belief that God created us to be well with ourselves and with others––we see the whole view of what a life of shalom looks like.

We also understand that wellness involves much more than not being sick. In fact, those who live with chronic illness can live in God’s shalom as well. As we pursue shalom, in all the conditions and circumstances of our lives, we become witnesses to the world of the grace and power of God’s gift of shalom.

Shalom is used as a greeting that means “hello” or “goodbye,” similar to the Hawaiian word aloha. As you exchange peace with others in worship or other settings, remember that you are offering them a prayer for wholeness and well-being. We can exemplify the biblical idea of shalom by living it day by day, in the transforming and renewing power of God.

Be sure to check out FaithLink, a weekly downloadable discussion guide for classes and small groups. FaithLink motivates Christians to consider their personal views on important contemporary issues, and it also encourages them to act on their beliefs. The complete study guide accompanying this article can be purchased here.

comments powered by Disqus