Wellness for the Glory of God: Living Well after 40 with Joy and Contentment in All of Life by [MD Dunlop, John]

What does wellness look like after 40? Why should we care? We find helpful and practical answers in Wellness for the Glory of God: Living Well After 40 with Joy and Contentment in All of Life by John Dunlop, MD. The author focuses on wellness in the second half of life.

In the introduction, he explains what the book is about:

What strategies can we who are getting older adopt that will maximize our chances to endure the challenges of our later days and continue to be well? The essence of this book is expressed in the title. Wellness depends on living with a purpose that goes beyond the here and now. Over and over I have seen that one way in which Christians can stay well in their twilight years is to keep their focus on God, his greatness, and his glory.1John Dunlop, Wellness for the Glory of God, Crossway, 2014, p 12.

The suggested strategies call for changes that can make a difference as we age. Consequently, starting at age 40 is not too early.

Defining Wellness

Dr. Dunlop takes a wholistic approach to wellness. He writes:

. . . wellness is much more than physical health and freedom from distressing symptoms. Wellness involves the whole of our being, which includes six distinct areas: physical, mental, social, financial, spiritual, and emotional. These areas of wellness are not independent but are all interrelated. Each area contributes to the wellbeing of each of the others. At the same time, struggles in one area may distract from wellness in each of the others.2Dunlop, p 21.

Consequently, he defines wellness as:

. . . that blessed state of experiencing all spheres of life functioning in harmony with God’s ordained purpose. 3Dunlop, p 21.

Formatted for Growth

The book is designed to help the reader grow. With this in mind, each chapter includes questions for reflection and a prayer for God’s direction and strength. Additionally, the conclusion of the book provides space for the reader to write down plans for change with a starting date. Clearly, the author is not content with providing information but wants to change our lives. After the chapter on defining wellness, there is a chapter on each of the six areas of wellness.

Wellness Strategies for God’s Glory

Throughout the book, the author discusses the areas of wellness not as ends in themselves, but as means to glorify God in our lives. For instance, in writing about physical wellness he notes:

If we understand that life is not about us but about God’s glory, we will want to pursue health and endeavor to use it to do things that will bring God glory. That, after all, is the reason we want to stay healthy – making good use of our bodies. All too often, we think in terms of preserving our health so we can enjoy long years on this earth. That is rather short-sighted, for using our health to advance God’s eternal kingdom is much more important than simply prolonging life on earth.4Dunlop, p 46.

Priority of Spiritual Wellness

The author also shows how the different areas of wellness connect with one another. An example would be how one of his strategies for social wellness integrates with spiritual wellness:

While you are still middle-aged, settle in a church in which you can be comfortable throughout your life, continue to grow, and exercise your spiritual gifts.5Dunlop, p 93.

Dr. Dunlop is realistic in his approach to wellness, recognizing that our planning and efforts will not guarantee wellness in all areas. As a result, he prioritizes spiritual wellness:

The fact is, though, that ultimately many of these strategies will not pay off. Your body will age, you will become more forgetful, you will lose your social support, and your nest egg will get smaller. But when we consider our relationship with God, we get to the one domain of wellness that need not deteriorate over time. Our relationship with God can continue to grow no matter what is happening in the other areas of our lives. We can find God’s presence and love just as invigorating on the day we die as we did on the first day we came to know him personally.6Dunlop, p 124.

Stories of Wellness after 40

Throughout the book there are stories of the doctor’s patients (identities protected) that provide tangible examples of wellness and add color to it. I will not soon forget the story of the woman who, when told she had only weeks to live, responded, “well, you don’t get to heaven by being healthy, do you?”7Dunlop, p 19. Other bits of humor show up here and there such as the author reminding his patients:

. . . getting older means two things: first, we are not old yet, but we are getting there; and second, we’re not dead yet!8Dunlop, 12.

Wellness for the Glory of God not only provides helpful, practical information about living well, but invites you to plan action steps that will guide you as you age. I am processing changes I need to make as I get older.