Jesus Died to Save My Body

by Corella Roberts

Today I am annoyingly aware of my body. Just to get to these words I have moved to the dining room table (the tall desk in my room just felt too, well, tall today), brought a pillow from the couch to go behind my back (these wooden chairs have no contour), settled in to write only to pop back up again to find some socks (who can write with cold toes?), munched on a bowl of tortilla chips while rereading the last chapter I wrote (salt cravings are real, my friend), and found about a dozen other environmental adjustments to make before finding the words of this incredibly long sentence.

I am clearly more than a mind doling out thoughts to entertain you. I am dependent on my fingers to type, my eyes to see what I’ve written, my achy back to support my frame, and my heart to keep the blood flowing through it all. This is me: the living, breathing Corella Roberts.

I consist of a regenerated spirit that will live for eternity with Christ, but also an earthly body that will someday become a resurrected, heavenly body. The two are intricately interwoven.

In fact, Jesus values our flesh and bones so much that he was publicly humiliated and physically tortured that we might also have resurrected bodies. This can’t be understated, though the implications of it aren’t always preached at Easter (or any time, for that matter).

Jesus died to save my body. 

Ever heard that one? Souls, yes, but bodies? Paul seems to suggest so in his letter to the church in Rome—a church comprised of people who freshly understood the transition from a life of bodily sin to a life of bodily worship. He writes, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22–23).

How do we live out an embodied faith while we wait, groaning inwardly (sometimes outwardly, too), for the redemption of our bodies? And what does that look like in this healing journey we’re on?

First of all, it’s easier than we dare to think. Simple, physical acts such as bowing your head in reverence or gazing skyward in joy, moving to music or kneeling in silence, hugging a sad friend or crying our own tears in God’s presence are all ways to integrate our faith with our bodies.

Sometimes, too, the mind is weak, or the heart is broken, and these expressions are all we have.

“In the midst of this, though words failed me, prayer without words—prayer in and through my body—became a lifeline. I couldn’t find words, but I could kneel. I could submit to God through my knees, and I’d lift my hands to hold up an ache: a fleshy, unnamable longing that I carried around my ribs. I’d offer up an aching body with my hands, my knees, my tears, my lifted eyes. My body led in prayer and led me—all of me, eventually even my words—into prayer,” shares author Tish Harrison Warren.[1]

Several years ago, a friend gripped my arm and said that God was asking her to do something scary. Would I please pray for her? Concerned, I agreed. And then, to the astonishment of the nearly one-hundred other women in the room, my friend stood up and began to dance.

Through her beautiful Portuguese accent and a well of tears, she told us how she was born to dance. She loved it with every fiber of her being, but when she came to Christ, she was told it was sinful, so she stopped. She hid and shamed this gift of hers until that night, when she set it free in worship to the song “Agnus Dei.”

“Alleluia, Alleluia,
For the Lord God Almighty reigns…
Holy, holy,
Are you Lord God, Almighty.
Worthy is the Lamb, worthy is the Lamb,
You are holy…”

Those of us present knew we were witnessing the healing of a soul. A foretaste to the redemption of a body. It was beyond beautiful. We all wept, and then, something equally miraculous happened: several other women began dancing, too. Their motions, graceful or otherwise, swept around the room with the purity of a daughter twirling in her daddy’s arms.

Embodied worship. The healing of a soul. The delight of the Father.

If you find yourself dry, discouraged, defeated, or even burned out, I want to remind you of this: Jesus died to save all of you, including your body. As Dallas Willard said, our physical bodies are the “power pack” for our spirits.[2] We live out this life with Christ through our bodies; therefore, soul restoration must be holistic.

So what can you do? Where can you begin this healing in your own, real-life body? Here are a few of the basics.

Worship. Lift your voice, raise your hands, lay face down, clap, dance, play an instrument—however you like to praise God, engage your whole self in it. If this is awkward or uncomfortable for you in your church setting, do it alone. You’ll know, like my friend did, if God is urging you to bring freedom to others by doing it in public. But for now, get your own heart, mind, and body fully engaged in praising God. After all, it is what you were created to do; worship is coming home for the human soul.

Rest. A life filled with stress, demands, frustrations, and heavy responsibility is often a body flooded with cortisol, aka the stress hormone. And you may not want to hear this, but the number one way to lower those cortisol levels is to get enough sleep. Getting out in nature and moving your body gently by hiking, walking, or biking are helpful, too. Meditating on scripture, especially when paired with slow, deep breathing, is an excellent, integrated way to reduce stress. Try this one: Breathe in slowly while thinking, “Peace of Christ,” then breathe out slowly while thinking, “Guard my heart.” Also high on the list are laughter, a whole-foods diet (think lots of fruits and veggies and limited sugar and processed snacks), and quality time with loved ones.[3]

Exercise. Slow, moderate exercise is wonderful for lowering cortisol levels, but a more rigorous exercise routine can help you sleep better, boost your mood, improve your heart health, and strengthen your muscles. Remember, we’re not doing these activities out of vanity; rather, we’re desiring to honor God with our bodies and trust that He cares for our whole selves.

Create. We are crafted in the image of a creative God. He has hard-wired that creativity into our DNA, and exercising your creative gifts is a sure path toward healing. Maybe you create meaning with words, paint, melody, or clay. Maybe you create beauty through gardening, photography, woodworking, or sewing. Maybe you create order through organized drawers, spreadsheets, or lesson plans. Or maybe you create sustenance through cooking and baking. Our endless God has given us endless modes to reflect His creativity. Which one has He given to you?

Now, two days after beginning this chapter while restless at home, I end it at a quiet café tucked in the hills of Northern Thailand. A fan cools my back, a Thai milk tea soothes my throat, and out the window I watch leaf-sized birds dance from one flowered tree branch to another. Beyond them, a breeze stirs the verdant hillside, and heavy clouds spill over the mountains on the horizon. I feel refreshed from my earlier workout and shower, and here, in this space, the words flow freely. The simple contentment of this moment for my mind, heart, and body is tangible.

As it should be.

This article is an adapted excerpt from Corella’s new book, Catch the Rain: Soul Restoration for the Dry and Weary Christian.

References:

[1] Warren, T. H. (2016). Liturgy of the Ordinary. InterVarsity Press.

[2] Willard, D. What is Our Body? Retrieved January 28, 2024 from https://www.facebook.com/dallas.willard.0717/videos/587141839057176/?mibextid=rS40aB7S9Ucbxw6v

[3] 11 Natural Ways to Lower Your Cortisol Levels. Retrieved August 31, 2022 from, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ways-to-lower-cortisol

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Corella Roberts is the author of Colliding with the Call: When Following God Takes You to the Wilderness. She serves at an international school in Thailand with her husband and three kids—two biological, one adopted. She loves music, mountains, and walking with people toward soul restoration. Find out more at corellaroberts.com.

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A Life Overseas is a collective blog centered around the realities, ethics, spiritual struggles, and strategies of living overseas. Elizabeth Trotter is the editor-in-chief.

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