The myth of Achilles teaches a valuable lesson: true strength is not determined by our strongest areas but by our weakest areas. Where are your weakest areas? This post will show you how to identify and strengthen areas of weakness.
As countries begin relaxing quarantine restrictions, we will all face life with a new reality: COVID-19 may be around for a long time. While quarantine may end, returning to life as normal may take some time.
Right now there are no confirmed medications to kill the virus. Depending on our job, ministry role, or travel needs, we could be placed at higher risk for exposure. The question that this blog post addresses is this: other than following the precautions given by health care professionals to limit our risk of exposure, is there anything else we can do?
I believe there is. The one thing we can do is strengthen our immune system. Having a healthy immune system is a huge preventative measure against the virus. Those with compromised immune systems are most vulnerable.
Why is improving health important?
Even if we are not facing COVID-19, I believe that working to improve our health has temporal and eternal ramifications.
Over the past decade I have faced many health issues:
Each of these has affected my ability to minister well. One by one, God allowed me to find solutions to remove or manage the problems. This has opened ministry opportunities that were previously not possible because of health problems. As we ask ourselves the question: “What else could I do?” we may find health solutions that improve quality of life and enable a few extra years of life and ministry.
God is sovereign over all things, including our health. He could take health away in the blink of an eye, but we are responsible to do what is wise and best. He has given each of us a body to steward in the best way we can. We will have to give an account of how we used our talents...which includes how we take care of our body.
If I owned a business and an employee was unable to work because of their lifestyle, as an employer I would not say “Well done.” In the same way, if there are things I do that sabotage my health and affect my ability to minister, they will affect my “Well done!” I want to do everything I can to live in a healthy way so that I can serve the Lord as long as possible. This does not refer to the instances of illness or disease that God allows to happen and we can’t avoid. However, it does refer to health that I bring upon myself through neglect or bad choices. If my immune system is weak because I don’t do the things I know I should do, it makes me more susceptible to illnesses like COVID-19. If I know the right thing to do, will I do it? What will I value more? The “Well done”, or living how I want? I can’t hide behind my belief in the sovereignty of God as an excuse to treat my body poorly.
I want to finish well. I want to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” If the Lord wills, I want to keep ministering in some way long past normal retirement age. If my body is going to last that long, I need to make adjustments now to do so. I want to be faithful to do my part and to remove things that sabotage my health.
Recently, I was reading a book on ways to strengthen our nervous system. While reading, I realized that I NEVER did anything to strengthen my nervous system. One way of doing this is by gradual cold exposure. Since most of us live between our climate-controlled house and our climate-controlled vehicle, our body is never challenged to adapt and the ability of our nervous system begins to atrophy to the level of usage.
As I pondered this, I realized that previously, I had measured my health based on my strengths. I had worked very hard to grow stronger, but my cardiovascular system, respiratory system, and nervous system were underused and therefore underdeveloped.
The phrase “Achilles Strength” came to mind. In the myth of Achilles, his heel was the one part of his body that was vulnerable and that is what led to his downfall. Our body has many systems that all work together to form a defense against illness, but our strongest areas do not determine our level of health. Our weakest areas do. We may mount a great defense muscularly, but if our respiratory system or digestive system is weak, we may succumb to many illnesses. Or we may have a strong respiratory system but have a very weak nervous system and be unable to handle environmental changes and succumb to colds, allergies, and other illnesses.
Remember when King David overtook Jerusalem? How did he do it? By attacking the strong walls? No. Rather, he went through the small water tunnels, the one area of weakness.
We are only as strong as our weakest link.
I would encourage you to evaluate your health not from your strengths, but from your weaknesses. Remember the myth of Achilles.
I am not a medical doctor. Everything I share here are things I have learned from others and from personal experimentation. I am simply sharing what has helped me. Hopefully, there are a few nuggets that help you on your personal journey to become healthy and serve the Lord with all your might. If you have pre-existing medical conditions, check with a doctor (a functional medicine doctor if possible).
Where To Start?
Here are a few practical suggestions to keep your immune system as strong as possible:
Remind yourself daily of God’s power and might.
Drink plenty of water.
Get enough sleep.
Remove inflammatory foods.
The book It Starts With Food explains how certain foods create systemic, low-grade inflammation in our body. When this happens, our body is constantly working to reduce this inflammation (using a lot of our available energy). Because so much of our energy is going into removing this low-grade inflammation, there is not much capacity left to heal injuries or illnesses as quickly.
By removing these foods from our regular diet, we allow our body to focus on healing.
Some of the key foods that cause inflammation are:
This is not a cure-all, but it definitely helps the immune system to focus its full capacity on the primary problem.
Getting the RIGHT foods to help you repair is also important, but removing the bad foods is MORE important as a first step.
Regular exercise builds a stronger cardiovascular and respiratory system. Having capacity in both of these can be beneficial when fighting off illness. Exercise is also good for reducing stress...and boredom.
Find exercises that help:
If you are feeling sick, don’t push yourself. Exercise is short term stress on the body. If you are healthy, pushing the limits expands your body’s capacity by becoming stronger.
Deep, slow belly breathing helps relax your body and mind. It also slows down your heart rate and blood pressure, which can allow your immune system to work optimally.
By focusing on slowly breathing through your belly it helps you to fully oxygenate your body. To test if you are breathing into your belly verses using your chest, place your hand on your belly to see if it rises or falls. Most people only use a small percentage of their lung capacity and must breathe more rapidly to maintain their oxygen saturation in their blood. Doing this causes the body to work harder and be under more stress than necessary.
By using deep belly breathing to fully oxygenate your blood, it de-stresses the body. It also fuels your body which primes your immune system to fight off illness.
Simply focusing on breathing deeply through your belly to fully expand your lungs will help with greater oxygen saturation, which in turn could help with the respiratory side of COVID-19.
Want To Dive Deeper?
I have created an evaluation tool that I use to identify my areas of weakness. This is the accumulation of over 20 years of personal study and self-experimentation.
The tool covers these main areas:
Parts of our Being:
This tool evaluates our Body, Mind and Soul. God has created us to function as a whole, integrated being. When one part is unhealthy, it affects the others because each part functions together as a unit.
Principles of Health:
In each of these areas, you can evaluate 4 ways to improve your health:
Practices of Health:
I have shared my current practices to strengthen each area. Some of the specific practices that I use may not work for you. Feel free to experiment for yourself on the practices and do your own research.
People far smarter than myself have shared their knowledge through books and videos. I will list the resources that I have found helpful. (I will keep adding summaries as I finish them and include those as links.) The summaries will also include specific examples of how I have self experimented with the knowledge gleaned from that resource. Hopefully this will help you identify the areas that would be most beneficial to focus on. There are tons of other resources available, but these have been the most helpful to me personally.
If you really want to find your weak links, take time to evaluate yourself. (see link below)
I pray that these thoughts and tools will aid you on your journey as you seek to serve the Master and be useful to him for many years to come!
May we each hear “Well done” for keeping a healthy heart...both spiritually and physically.