This morning’s Wall Street Journal had an interesting review of Rina Raphael’s new book “The Gospel of Wellness: Gyms, Gurus and Goop and the False Promise of Self-Care” (the review is here, but it’s behind a paywall). In the piece, Megan Cox Gurdon, who is a regular Journal contributor, agrees with the book’s author that the $4.4 trillion “Wellness Culture” industry is simply profiting from an observation G.K. Chesterton made years ago when he said that people who choose not to believe in God will believe in anything.
Maybe you haven’t heard the term “Wellness Culture.” Google it. If you do, you’ll find that Ms. Raphael isn’t alone in her critique. “Wellness Culture Won’t Save Us. It’s Only Making Us More Sick” says one online source. “Wellness Culture Is Destroying Our Bodies And The Planet” says another. Still another writes that the so called Wellness Culture is toxic.
For her part, Ms. Raphael says the idea of wellness in our culture has become an “aspirational obsession for some and close to religious dogma for others,” promising ways to help us be the best “us” we can be, to delay or disguise aging and to postpone death.
According to Ms. Raphael, millions of us are looking to “wellness” to supply something it simply can’t. In her review of the book, Mrs. Gurdon says that people are searching for “refreshment in deep places that have been left parched in the long, slow withdrawing (from) organized religion. Two decades ago, 70% of Americans belonged to a church, mosque or synagogue; today, it’s fewer than half.”
Famously, St. Augustine described his own experience of spiritual emptiness this way: “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.” The 17th century French mathematician Blaise Pascal said “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only by God the Creator, made know through Jesus Christ.”
And yet, since the beginning of time, people have looked for something – anything – that will fill that hole or bring peace to their restlessness. Just as long as they don’t have to bow the knee.
The quest for personal “wellness” is simply the idol de jour in a culture that is full of false deities. I sat with a friend recently, talking about the universal human quest for joy and peace and meaning and purpose in life, the thing the ancient Hebrews called shalom. I proposed to him that if beauty and fame and wealth and power were the cure for a restless soul, then the Hollywood A List should be the most contented, most well-adjusted population on earth. Instead, they overperform at over-medicating and checking into rehab. Apparently, fame, beauty and wealth can’t fix what ails the soul.
Living in the age of instagram doesn’t help. Our airbrushed and filtered lives present a flattened, one dimensional image that intentionally distorts our reality. Last week I read about men who have learned that unless they lie about their height on their social media profile, they can expect to be dismissed quickly by any women who they might hope to take to coffee. As a result, some men have resorted to a costly and risky “limb extension” surgery to add three to six inches to their height. The procedure involves minor breaks in the leg bones, adding nails and screws, and months of rigorous physical therapy. In spite of their efforts, there are a number of psychologists who say that these kinds of “cosmetic procedures don’t have a lasting effect on people’s positive body images nor their general well-being.”
The human heart, John Calvin observed, is an idol factory. Whether it’s wellness or wealth, power or prestige, sensual pleasure or a sculpted and toned body, the quest to fit in or the quest to stand out, moral goodness or being a bad boy, we run from one pursuit to the other hoping to find that for which our soul longs. The end result is always the same. There is a way that seems right to a man, for a while. The end is death.
In her book “The Gospel of Wellness,” Ms. Raphael quotes the late poet and novelist David Foster Wallace who said “there is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships.” The only question is who or what we worship.
The Bible says that at the end of the day, chasing after any idol is a worship disorder. The prophet Samuel in the Old Testament warned God’s people “do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty” (1 Samuel 12:21). “Dear children,” the Apostle John says, “keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
I’m all for wellness. It sure beats sickness. But the only cure for what troubles our restless souls is the God who came to us as one of us and said “come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden. I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus’ promise of peace for your soul is the only place where real wellness is found.
I am really excited to let you know that after much prayer and conversation, Cole and Hannah Perkins have decided to come and be part of what God is doing at Redeemer. Cole will be joining our church staff as the Pastoral Associate for Student Discipleship. I can tell you that this is Cole’s heart and passion for ministry. His own life was profoundly impacted though a local church youth ministry while he was a high school student. He is looking forward to working together with us to expand our ministry to students.
As most of you know, Pastor Matt has been overseeing student discipleship for a long time now. Over the next several months, he will be handing off that oversight to Cole. This will free Matt up to focus more on how we can provide more and better opportunities for spiritual growth in our body and serving our city. We will be providing you with an update on our goals as a church family early in the new year.
Cole and Hannah will be moving to Little Rock in late October. We’re talking now about ways we can welcome them and bless them as they move here. More on that later. But for now, how about sending them both an email? Tell them who you are and let them know you’re praying for their upcoming relocation. Cole email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join me in thanking God for connecting us with Cole and Hannah and for this next chapter in our journey as a church.
|We had a great afternoon on Sunday as we baptized 12 people as part of our combination potluck, pool party and baptism. What a wonderful opportunity to hear from people of all ages whose lives have been and are being transformed by the gospel!|
|Men – don’t forget, next Tuesday night, we’ll be meeting at church at 6:15 for a little Cajun etouffee, followed by a Q&A with Dr. Crawford Loritts about leadership. Crawford has taught courses on leadership at Trinity Evangelical Theological Seminary in Chicago and has written a book called “Leadership as an Identity: The Four Traits of Those Who Wield Lasting Influence.” Dinner is at 6:15 (bring $5 for your etouffee) followed by the conversation with Crawford at 7:00.|
| We’re continuing to see new faces and growing enthusiasm about Awana! Thanks to all of you who are pitching in and helping out!|
We still have opportunities for you to serve as part of the Awana team. If you’re willing and interested, Laura White would love to talk to you. Send her an email at email@example.com.
| Once again this year, we will be participating in the Legacy Coalition’s annual Grandparenting Summit – a virtual event to help equip those of us who are grandparents in how we pass on a legacy of spiritual vitality to our grandchildren. The one day event will take place on Saturday, October 22 from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. |
To participate, you need to register. And here’s the reason to register this week. You can save some money! The regular registration is $59. But if you register now and use the promo code THANKYOU on the last page of checkout, you’ll save $24! That offer is good until the end of the month.
Be sure to pass this on to any grandparent you know. Register now for a great day of equipping for grandparents.
|Our Roots student ministry will be heading to Hot Springs for our fall retreat soon. If you have a high school or middle school student, click here to sign them up for a fun weekend, October 7-9. Contact Pastor Matt with any questions or for more information.|
In His closing words for His disciples in the Upper Room, just before He prayed for them, Jesus presented a riddle of sorts that left them scratching their heads. In the end, He pointed them to the path that would lead them to joy. We’ll explore John 16:16-22 this Sunday.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!