It might seem hard to believe now but there was a time – not terribly long ago – when the sight of a group of runners bounding through our streets in cheery unison would have seemed pretty unusual. Not any more, though. Luminous joggers have become quite commonplace, thanks to the proliferation of running clubs, personal trainers and exercise regimes promising to take the lethargic “from couch to 5k” in fairly short order.
As a survivor of two marathons myself, I’m happy to commend such conversions (so long as people make the changes responsibly). There can be a great sense of achievement in setting oneself a goal, working hard to accomplish it and then finally realising it. I’m sure that as January 1st approaches, there will be quite a few people who will have set themselves the goal of “getting into shape” as one of their New Year resolutions.
Physical exercise has become big business. And it isn’t just in the physical sphere that people have been taking stock of their lives. Wander through any bookshop nowadays and I’m sure you’ll be struck – as I have been – by the astonishing growth in one particular genre: ‘mindfulness’. There are countless titles on the shelves, offering to help the reader to get his or her life onto an even keel, and to improve the reader’s mental wellbeing in this frantic world of ours.
It is wonderful to see so many people paying attention to their physical and mental health. "Mens sana in corpore sano", it’s said: "A healthy mind in a healthy body". But there is another dimension to people’s wellbeing which is observed less keenly, nowadays, and that is their spiritual wellness.
Some clearer thinking is needed in society, surely, about the link between spiritual health and mental health. The widespread – and appropriate – concern for people’s mental wellbeing mustn’t be isolated from the part that spiritual practices, spiritual boundaries and spiritual insights can play in enabling human flourishing.
The less consistent pattern of church attendance these days saddens me. I would say that, of course: I’m a church leader, after all. But the sadness is not on my own account, nor even on the Church’s. Rather, I feel for those who might never get to know the kindness and love of our Lord Jesus Christ – an experience that can be truly life-enhancing and life-changing.
So, as the clock runs down on 2018, and 2019 heaves into view, let’s get our lives truly and fully into balance. By all means let’s take care of our physical and mental wellbeing, but let’s not neglect the spiritual. There will be times in our lives when it might be all we have left to cling to, and in such moments we will need to know the breadth and depth of God’s love.
I wish you a happy and prosperous New Year, and the awareness that prosperity is not measured by wealth alone.
Thanks be to God for His gift of Jesus Christ, the light of the world.