(By Heather Marshall)
Nourish: this is the word that the Lord brought before me as I was seeking Him regarding how He wants me to approach my whole self — spirit, soul, and body. The Lord is interested in every aspect of our being. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Paul says, “Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus comes again.” God desires wholeness in every part of who we are, and to accomplish this, nourishment is needed in each area.
The word nourish means to supply what is necessary for life, health, and growth. There are many things that our spirits, souls, and bodies need for life, health, and growth. One of the most obvious is nutrition. Food is fuel. We will not grow in our faith without being nourished by God’s Word.
Paul expresses this idea to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:6: “If you explain these things to the brothers and sisters, Timothy, you will be a worthy servant of Jesus Christ, one who is nourished by the message of faith and the good teaching you have followed.” In 1 Peter 2:2-3 we also read: “Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.”
I recall that as a new mother, I wanted to make sure that I was feeding my baby the best possible food for his growth and development. I researched and read many books on the topic and there were a lot of varying opinions. Thankfully, when it comes to spiritual nutrition, there’s no such confusion. “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
So, regular consumption of God’s word is necessary for the nourishment of our souls and spirits. What about nourishment for our bodies? Research into nutrition tells us that some foods are more nourishing for our bodies than others. In general, foods that are less processed and closer to God’s original design have greater nutritional value and will give us longer sustained energy for our daily activities.
That being said, according to New Testament principles, we are not under the law with respect to the food that we eat. Paul, in his discussion with the Corinthians about whether or not to eat food offered to idols, makes the statement “You say, “I am allowed to do anything” — but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything” — but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23). We can apply this principle to the food that we eat today: all food is permissible, but all food may not be good or beneficial for my body. We can actively seek the Lord for his guidance on the types of food that nourish our individual bodies and also recognize that this may be different for each of us depending on our body’s individual needs and stage of life.
Another element that nourishes our bodies is exercise. There are many studies that show that physical exercise promotes good health and wellbeing. God created us this way. Exercise has been shown to help improve strength, endurance, flexibility, and cardiac function. It can also help us manage stress and promote clarity in our thinking. The Bible supports the benefit of physical exercise and calls it a good thing. The apostle Paul says, “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). Physical exercise can encompass many things including walking, running, strength training, stretching, playing sports, etc.
It is important to highlight that I am not training to strive for a certain physical physique as the world promotes, but rather to nourish my body for the ability to effectively engage in my daily activities and serve God with my body. Romans 6:13 instructs us, ”Use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.”
But, as the verse in 1 Timothy instructs, training in godliness is even better and has far-reaching results. How do we train in godliness? An important aspect of training is building our strength and endurance. In the physical realm, one way to do this is by lifting weight. This can also apply spiritually. In Galatians 6:2, Paul says “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” We can train godliness by sharing one another’s burdens and faithfully interceding for them in prayer.
Rest is another vital aspect for life, health, and growth. A concept that is common in physical training and rehabilitation is the idea that we work from rest. This means that we can train or rehabilitate more efficiently and effectively if our starting point is from a rested body or specific muscle group. In the past, I’ve felt that I needed to work to earn my rest, which has led to feeling burnt out. It's important to recognize that to work effectively long term, it has to come from a rested body, soul, and spirit.
Matthew 11:28 is a verse that has brought great comfort to me over the years and I think it illustrates this point well. “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart and you will find rest for your souls.’” The process here is to come to Jesus first for rest, then He allows us to work but with Him carrying the burden with us as we are “yoked” with Him. Taking daily rest for the body, spirit, and soul will nourish us in the best way possible.
We can even consider how we nourish our thoughts and feelings. As humans we have a broad range of emotions ranging from joy and excitement to sadness and fear. These feelings were created by God and they are meant to be felt, but they are not meant to control us and our behaviour or even our thoughts. They are tools that help us dictate our need for grace and lead us to the arms of our Saviour.
A Scripture that I’ve found helpful in this area is 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” So I can examine my thoughts and feelings to see if they line up with God’s thinking in His Word. Practically, I’ve also found it helpful to ask myself, is this activity nourishing my thoughts and feelings today?
I encourage you to think about this idea of nourishment as it applies to all areas of your life. Ultimately, our end goal in nourishment is to grow closer to God in all aspects of our whole being. I enjoyed this quote from Alisa Keeton, which sums up the topic nicely, “We will never achieve the wellness and wholeness that God wants for us until we rest in our identity as His children — and that starts in our hearts and minds.” Let’s be encouraged by the truth that we are daughters who can be nourished in every way by our good, good Father.