In a collection of essays, The Conduct of Life,1 Ralph Waldo Emerson set out to answer the question of the times: “How shall I live?” In it he wrote the often-repeated adage “The first wealth is health.”
Good health is a physical foundation on which to build a life, a family, and a community. God inspired Seventh-day Adventists in the nineteenth century with answers to Emerson’s questions. Simple solutions such as increased access to clean water, personal hygiene, and general sanitation have helped eradicate long-standing ills and promoted better health.
Modern economists underscore the role good health plays in an individual’s or household’s ability to rise or stay above the poverty line, but God desires much, much more for His children. The Hebrew term that best captures the fullness and richness of total health and well-being is shalom.2 God desires that we “be in shalom!”
Unfortunately, what was given as a grace-filled, beautifully balanced message of wholistic health and wellness has been reduced to “food wars” and “vaccine conflicts.” Among many Adventists, health has been whittled down to vegetarianism. “Total vegetarian (vegan),” “ovo-lacto vegetarian,” “pesco vegetarian”—these categories of diet have been discussed, dissected, and debated throughout decades, and have even divided congregations. “Vaccinated” or “unvaccinated”—we’ve heard and even shuddered at these terms following two and a half grueling years of the pandemic. Interestingly, and sadly, these conversations have often been dripping with hyperbolic hubris and even outright unkindness and disrespect. The various factions and divisions between members serve as detractors from our mission and also to the acceptance by many of the health message because of our behavior and attitudes to those who may not see things the same way we do. Yet Jesus is and remains the “Prince of shalom.”
Amid all the discussions and even disagreements, let’s not lose sight of the wholistic hallmark of the Adventist health message. It’s not just food and drink, and/or public health interventions. At times we’re strangely less vocal on the other dimensions of health and well-being. So we’ll highlight here two often-underappreciated aspects of our well-being: sleep and exercise. Both are vital to a healthy and well-balanced life of service and love in the times in which we live! We’ve invited two experts in these fields to share their thoughts with our readers.
Much more can be written about health and well-being than can be summarized in the following two short articles. In reading these articles, however, if you become more aware or more motivated to make positive changes in your usual routine, we thank God and encourage you not to grow weary in doing well (see Gal. 6:9). Shalom!
1 Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Conduct of Life (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1860).
2 “The ancient Hebrew concept of peace, rooted in the word ‘shalom,’ meant wholeness, completeness, soundness, health, safety, and prosperity, carrying with it the implication of permanence.” Cf. https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/inherit/what-is-shalom-the-true-meaning.
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference. Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.