Listen To Your Body
Often, our bodies seem like a liability to our emotional, relational, and spiritual health. After all, our flesh is weak. Yet Jesus beautifully sanctioned the bodily experience when He came to earth in the flesh. He showed us that our bodies should not be scorned but instead listened to and exercised to the glory of God. In this episode of Breaking Bread, Brian Sutter and Isaac Funk help us see the role our bodies play in our emotional and spiritual health.
- The biological body is irrelevant. Your feelings tell you what is true.
- Your flesh is a liability. The body is corrupt and will defile you.
- Healthy spirituality separates itself from the body.
- The biological body is relevant. It informs our reality.
- God had good in mind when he created the flesh. We should learn to listen to it.
- The flesh has been affected by “the fall”. It can be used for wrong.
- Healthy spirituality is always done in the body.
- By listening to our bodies, we can learn to detect our emotions.
- By learning to live in our bodies, we can positively affect our emotional experiences.
We have in many ways lost touch with our bodies and therefore we’ve lost a lot of information that I think is quite helpful.
Welcome everyone to Breaking Bread, the podcast brought to you by Apostolic Christian Counseling and Family Services. Excellent to have you along and Merry Christmas. I’m looking forward to this conversation because it really celebrates Christ’s incarnation, I think in a beautiful way.
I think if we were to say, give a word out there in the flesh. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? What does the Scripture say about the flesh? I think most of us would place it in the negative category like works of the flesh come to mind, right? And yet Jesus came, and we have it written in the Scriptures, Jesus came in the flesh.
Alright, so there is a very redeeming quality that we learn at Christmas time by the incarnation of Jesus, and I want to talk about it. Brian, you really bring clinical practice to the show. And I know body is big in the work that you do. I want you to bring that out. Yeah. And Isaac, I know you think a lot in the space of formation and how people grow in Christ.
And I know that has a very bodily element to it, right? Okay. So, who wants to go first? Maybe just from a clinical standpoint, one of the things I think that’s really fascinating about the human mind that we tend to group things and we’d like to make things really simple, and it makes sense to some degree, but it also then makes connections that aren’t actually connections.
So, when we read in the Scriptures, the flesh and the predominant message about the flesh is in correction or, it’s not positive. Then what we tend to think of is, oh, the flesh, oh, body. And those aren’t the same things. And I don’t think that’s the draw that the Scriptures are making, but in our minds, we make those categories and we’re off to the races and maybe haven’t started in the right place.
I think that’s excellent. And Isaac, what happens, what’s at stake if we have a misconstrued perception of the flesh? And if we get it wrong, it’s really easy to come into understanding that maybe the flesh, meaning the body, is an evil thing, is something that is going to be a real problem for us in our spiritual life. And we start to make that differentiation between our spiritual life and our bodily existence.
And that causes a lot of problems. You know, when you say that, Isaac, I get a sense like when the when the flesh is speaking very often in my own experience, that’s a negative thing, but you really cast this concept that the body isn’t necessarily always speaking ill, it’s not always speaking vice.
Brian, you talk a little bit about what the body is telling us. Exactly. And I think that’s a really important key here is to recognize that our body, I think in many ways is, really a neutral thing, but it also is a very helpful thing that gives us really important cues that we need to listen to our bodies when they say they’re hungry. Now we don’t see that as the thing that should rule always. Paul tells us to make sure that our belly isn’t the ultimate ruler. So, I think that’s important to keep in mind. But we are designed that we need to eat. We are designed that we have to rest and that our bodies are usually the first things that give us indication that we maybe need to consider these things.
Press a little bit deeper, Brian, because I know that you help individuals listen more to their body and their body says more than what we can imagine at first. We have, in many ways, lost touch with our bodies and therefore we’ve lost a lot of information that I think is quite helpful, or we’ve come to this place to condemn the body.
When actually it’s a very helpful resource. And so, it’s amazing, even just in the counseling setting, when you think about just using the body and it’s showing you what the emotions are that are going on internally, and just by shifting somebody’s body posture or the way they’re presenting changes the thoughts inside. It starts to change the emotion and you start to see this connection between, oh, maybe the body is actually quite helpful in shifting us towards a spiritual mindset or thinking about how to do things that are honoring to the Lord, that the body is a very helpful resource in that if we pay attention to it and can know how to use it in a helpful way.
Isaac, take us back, maybe even to the early chapter of Genesis. How should we understand the body? Yeah, that’s exactly where my mind went. As Brian was talking was it’s the good creation that God made and he’s like, this is where I want to dwell with, with my creation and I’m going to give them flesh and I’m going to give them bodies and that’s going to be perfectly good and fine for them to live life with me forever.
And so, we started there. And sin came into the picture, and it started to do some really terrible things to our flesh. Paul talks about the sin in our members in the parts of your body and beyond that then there’s this coming resurrection. And Jesus showed us that that even in the resurrection he has a body. He currently has a body And we are promised also a resurrection body and so all the way along from the very beginning of our life with God as he created it in perfection in goodness we were given a body to experience that life and throughout eternity we will continue to have.
I really like that and Isaac, I get a sense that there’s a lot more that you could say on that and the point that I really was blessed by was you talked about God wanting to live with us in our bodies and that’s a tremendous incarnation of sorts, isn’t it?
Yes. Jesus came to the earth. But he has not only come to the earth, but God’s Spirit intends to dwell in us. Imagine how shocking and bizarre that teaching from Paul would have been to his listeners. Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit of God’s dwelling? I think the answer is probably like, no, I didn’t know that.
Yeah. Right. Because that’s kind of hard to imagine. But that literally is the case that God has chosen human flesh to dwell in. And he shows that perfectly in Jesus. And it does seem like Paul is trying to get them to wrap their minds around the body isn’t bad or negative, that certainly it can be used for difficulty and certainly there’s corruption in our bodies. But also that would be true of our Spirits, right? Our spirit isn’t wholly pure either. We’re hoping that it is refined and that it becomes aligned with the Spirit. And I think it’s true of both the spirit within us, as well as the flesh or the body that we carry, both need to be refined and brought in submission under the Lord.
I want you to speak more to how does our culture view the body? Do they see it right? No, I don’t think so. I think one of the predominant messages, whether it’s overtly or more subtle is that the body doesn’t matter, that you can do whatever you want to the body. And it’s yours, and it doesn’t really have any meaning, or it doesn’t really have any impact. So, do with it what you like, and there’s not really any consequences. Which, I think, we can see the evidence that that’s not actually accurate, but I think that’s the predominant overriding message, and it has an impact on our culture as well as on the church.
What’s an example of that? Well, I think one example would be is that we would like to think that we can be superhuman. And one of the ways I think that manifests itself is if you look over time, they used to look to the sun to basically help dictate sleep. And once the sun goes down, you go to sleep.
And when it comes back up, you get back up. Now, by God’s design we’ve been given a lot of insights on how to make light when it’s dark. And therefore, we think, well, I don’t need to sleep. So, you see the numbers, sleep has decreased significantly, but with that, anxiety numbers come up, depression numbers come up, all of these negative impacts of not listening to the body and thinking that, oh, I don’t have to sleep.
I really like that concept that the body is speaking to us and often the body is speaking truth to us. We should listen to it, there are a lot of voices in our life. There is the voice of emotion. There’s the voice of my peers. There’s the voice of the culture. There’s the voice of my environment. There’s also the voice of my body and really, you’re raising and tuning our ears to listen to that voice, right? Right. Another example, Matt, would just be the reality that in a day and age where we so value science, we have come to the conclusion that biology doesn’t matter when it comes to sexual gender.
And again, we want to be sensitive to this. We want to recognize that there are challenges, but our world has basically said that what your body is biologically does not matter. You are what your mind or emotions say, and we would say, that’s not true, that biology says what your gender is and that really matters. Even if that’s a struggle, that’s a really important thing to be attuned to and respond to accordingly.
Yeah. Listening to your body is not divided from God’s will or his intention for your life, but it is very much in line with his will for your identity and in that I think certainly we recognize that this earth is not our home that this body we’ve been given isn’t our final body that we’ll have but I think that sometimes that can lead us to say well it doesn’t matter or our hope is just to get away from it
But I think you bring up a really important point that this has been the dwelling that the Lord has given to us and for us to honor it, to listen to it, to take care of it and to see that this is part of God’s. This is playing by the rules that he’s created and really embracing that and even enjoying that I think would be a really delightful thing.
Even in this Christmas season again, we reflect on the reality that Christ came and he came in the flesh. What a beautiful thing. Isaac, question for you, spiritual growth, growing as a believer, growing in our communion with God, does the body have anything to do with that? Or can I do that separate from the body?
So, I’m going to come at this from the angle of just being a disciple of Jesus, which we’re all called to be the disciple of Jesus. And if we’re going to do that, then we look at his life as that ultimate example of what we’re modeling, patterning ours after. And if Jesus lived life in the flesh and he lived it perfectly, then if I’m going to learn to be like Jesus, following him as a disciple, I’m going to be looking at the things that he did in his life.
So that I can grow to be more like that too, or grow spiritually, as you said. And so a lot of times I think we’re really good at giving people kind of, like, you ought to believe these things, and these are really good teachings and things that you ought to be paying attention to but there’s also like a how to component of our spiritual growth. It’s like, okay, so what do I actually do with my life, with my body, perhaps with my schedule that’s going to propel me forward in my growth towards Christ likeness? And so, this is where you end up getting things that, in church history, came to be known as spiritual disciplines.
What’s interesting about that term spiritual disciplines, is that none of them are absent from the body, but each of them are bodily activities that we would do, things like prayer, fasting, fellowship, celebration, study, and the like. And all of those are just things that, yes, we do with our body because they are perfectly designed to give us the life that Jesus delivered to us in his own flesh, through his own body.
I think if we start to divide our bodies from our spirits, then we end up having just a really impractical faith, a really impractical spiritual walk that doesn’t actually result in any real deep change, but just stays at a cognitive mental level of, you know, I’m giving mental assent to these ideas that I believe certain things. Exactly, rather than I have become a certain type of person in Christ and that very much will involve your body. And so, if we can adopt an understanding of our life with God that includes both spirit and body together, I think that’s very helpful and I think too of some activities as honoring to God or spiritual and some as not.
And accidentally, again, it starts to create this divide that when I’m reading my Bible, I’m doing something that’s spiritual or I’m doing something that honors God. But when I’m doing my work, let’s say you’re building a house, like that’s not spiritual work. That is, you know, my job.
And I think to be able to say, no, I think all of those are deeply spiritual and to see that connection, I think is really important. I love that. And going back to Jesus, would we ever divide Jesus’s life up into, oh, that’s when Jesus was acting carnal and that’s when he was acting as God. No, he was fully God all the time. Isaac, give us some examples of the bodily things Jesus did that we could follow in.
Yeah. One of the things that Jesus is often found doing throughout the Scriptures is going and being in community, engaging, oftentimes even celebrating meals and festivals and things like that with people and practicing joy.
That’s something that he did with his body and with other people. But we also see him then oscillating between that and other times of being alone and withdrawing and being still and quiet before his Father and fasting from food, right? Um, yeah, it reminds me of a quote. It was something to the effect of we don’t know how to feast because we don’t know how to fast.
And so, there’s a balance between all of these things that we find too. So, Jesus was very much going and living a bodily life that enabled him to be able to do the things that he did, I was going to say spiritually, but that would have been confusing. It’s hard.
Yeah. Oh, but that makes sense, right? We understand that spiritually, but I think you’ve well articulated, both of you, that these things mingle together and it’s not to our advantage to always separate them. I think that I’ll just add this too, I think the body is a really interesting thing. And there is a reason I think why people see it in a negative light, particularly if you’re a Christian, you’re saying, well, Scripture says this and that about it.
I think something I would add about the body that makes sense to me why there would be this negative light sometimes cast on the flesh because if the flesh left to itself, left to natural powers alone does become a real problem for us. Because, if it’s run solely by desire, we’ve seen that we’ve turned in on ourselves and we’re just going to be self-gratifying and that’s not a godly thing. That’s not a good thing.
But if we can picture our bodies as an engine of sorts that runs on a spiritual resource, runs on the Spirit of God and on his grace, his involvement with us. That being the fuel, then everything that we do bodily to your point earlier, Brian, becomes spiritual because it is in action by a spiritual resource.
And as long as we can learn to do that and continue practicing things that enable us to do that more and more frequently then that’s going to put us on a trajectory of spiritual growth. I think that’s important. And that’s where I think really to see the body, in my opinion, as a resource to help grow, living according to the Spirit rather than the spirit of the flesh. So an example of that would be when we kneel and pray, that’s a very physical thing to do, but when our bodies take on that posture, it is like a physical manifestation of, okay, I’m not in charge and I’m coming before who is in charge and doing that physically, I think, does something internally to our spirit.
And those working together can build some really powerful momentum. Whereas if we see them as separate and we don’t use them together, then I think we’ve lost a great deal. Yeah. Thank you. Thanks, Brian. Thanks. Isaac, and as we reflect on this Christmas season as we celebrate, maybe this conversation is elevated and gives us more to celebrate and that being Christ with us taking on our bodies to show that there is dignity, purpose, value, and truth in our bodies if we should learn to live in them like he did.