What’s the connection? Health experts weigh in


Adventist health leaders weigh in on the connection between spiritual and physical health.

This advantage was not given to us so that we can selfishly keep it to ourselves, but that we may serve others and in so doing, be conduits of His restoring and saving grace . . .

Sibilla Johnson
Director, Adventist Health, Victorian Conference 

Physical and spiritual health work best together. Our motives for following a healthy lifestyle should relate to our relationship with God. If our minds are clear and our bodies are healthy we are better able to understand the will of God and in turn serve others. Good health enables us to be joyful witnesses to truth, love and compassion, and makes us more effective for our wonderful heavenly Father.

I have experienced during my years of service in health ministry that the health work can very effectively break down prejudice against spirituality as nothing else can. Ellen White said this, and I constantly have the privilege of seeing this happen. I praise the Lord every time! 

We can offer people something better than they now have, to be healthy in body, mind and spirit. For me, ministry of health and healing is central to the faith and practice of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Dr Chester Kuma
Associate Director, Adventist Health Ministries, South Pacific Division 

I believe the Bible presents a strong connection between spirituality and health. “Shalom” is one of the most beautiful Hebrew words in Scripture. True, it is a common Hebrew greeting but it has a far deeper meaning. More than a greeting it is a wish for peace on the one being greeted. I believe the word “shalom” comes the closest to defining health in Scripture as it presents the desire for “wholeness” of life and not merely physical health or healing. It connects the spiritual and the physical dimensions together in an intricate way. Shalom means: completeness, soundness, health, prosperity, peace, wholeness and balance, suggesting a state in which all the needs of a person are fully satisfied. It means to be whole, to be complete, to have physical and spiritual resources sufficient to one’s need, and encompasses a state of physical, mental, social and, most important of all, spiritual wellbeing. Thus it enlarges our understanding of health as a “wholeness” of existence in God. 

Dr Peter Landless
Director, Health Ministries, General Conference | Executive Director, International Commission for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency

As a cardiologist and as the world leader of Adventist Health Ministries I get to meet many people who have made the important connection between spiritual health and physical health. Their lives radiate the difference! It has become clear to many that there is more to wellbeing than just the absence of disease. This is not a new concept—it was enunciated by the World Health Organisation in 1948. But many centuries, millennia, in fact, before that, the apostle John writes to Gaius and prays that his health may prosper as does his soul (3 John :2). The scientific and sociological literature is replete with robust evidence that vibrant, physical wellbeing, and mental and emotional health and spiritual connectedness with God (for us, Christian spirituality) are inextricably related. Even when we experience the rigours of physical illness, we can still enjoy wholeness in Christ. Paul so beautifully encapsulates the thought that God’s “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9)—wholeness in our brokenness! This is the essence of the Adventist Health Message—physical, mental, spiritual and social wellness, and we can enjoy this wholeness in Him if we but follow His guidance as we live in relationship with Him. This advantage was not given to us so that we can selfishly keep it to ourselves, but that we may serve others and in so doing, be conduits of His restoring and saving grace—making the real and needed difference and being truly relevant!

Proffesor Gerald Winslow
Vice President, Mission and Culture, Loma Linda University (LLU) Health | Professor, LLU School of Religion

The more we learn about human health in relationship to faith, the more we see that faith and health are inextricably linked. We were created by our Maker as whole persons. Wholeness is the harmonious development of all dimensions of life unified by a spiritually meaningful core. This means that faith has practical significance for health. The Bible teaches us, for example, to “pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16 NIV). The quality of embodied life may also affect spirituality. The Apostle Paul encourages Christians to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1 NRSV). Those who care about human health do well to consider the growing evidence for the importance of the faith factor. As Sir William Osler, one of the founders of evidence-based medicine, said over a century ago, “Nothing in life is more wonderful than faith—the one great moving force which we can neither weigh in the balance nor test in the crucible” (Osler, Lumleian Lecture, 1910). The visionary Ellen White also emphasised this connection when she wrote, “The assurance of God’s approval will promote physical health . . . courage, hope, faith, sympathy, love, promote health and prolong life” (Ellen White, The faith I live by, 229). The faith that awakens in us the hope of eternal life can also prompt us to live more abundantly—more healthfully—now.

Associate Professor Ross Grant
CEO Australasian Research Institute (Sydney Adventist Hospital) | Clinical Associate Professor, University of Sydney Medical School

As a researcher in the neurosciences (especially neurodegenerative diseases) it is very clear to me that if the body is not healthy, the mind and its capacity to perform at its best will be compromised. 

We are admonished by Christ Himself to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). The apostle Paul said “. . . whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). God’s engagement with man always occurs in a way that elicits man’s “intelligent” response. Impaired brain function, especially of those parts of the brain specialising in decision making, will also inhibit spiritual growth. As an inspired voice counselled many years ago: “Whatever injures the health not only lessens physical vigour but tends to weaken the mental and moral powers” (The Ministry of Healing, 128).

Adrielle Carrasco
Director, Adventist Health New Zealand and the South Eastern Pacific

Through my professional life I have seen many changes in the way we approach the treatment of lifestyle diseases. In most instances we have become more aggressive in our approach to using medication and we still place huge importance on diet and physical activity, but it is my belief that more than ever there is a need to focus on the spiritual health of our community. 

Living with a chronic disease can be debilitating both physically and mentally. It is taxing to live day after day relying on modern medicine to keep you functioning and often people find this difficult to maintain. Through the years I’ve often been told by patients that they’ve not been “good enough” or have been “bad” with their management. This negative thinking has resulted in them feeling less accepted by their family, friends, community or health professional—how sad is that? This is where the spiritual element of health is closely linked to physical, mental and emotional health. The resilience one needs for living with a health problem can be strengthened when a person experiences a greater sense of meaning or value in their life. For Christians this is grounded in a belief that we are important in the eyes of God. There isn’t anything we can do that will ever change that (Romans 8:39). How much more powerful a message can be given to those who struggle to see their worth? If we are able to assist those struggling with low self-worth to see how important they are to God we will give them the strength to cope with their chronic health conditions, their overall wellbeing will improve and their belief in themselves will be restored.