by Joanie Butman
My husband cut out an article from The Wall Street Journal recently that claims empirical evidence supporting the theory that attending church might be good for your body along with your soul. They even cited how frequency contributed to their findings. For example, attendance more than once a week was associated with a 33% lower risk for death from any cause, once a week with a 26% lower risk, and less than once a week a 13% lower risk. I don’t know that this is necessarily true, as the people sitting next to me in church suffer from the same terminal illness we all do – it’s called life. Even so, I do believe humans are created for community, so it would logically follow that if they are in it, they thrive. There’s a reason solitary confinement is used as a form of extreme punishment. We long for connection – to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
In the wake of continued acts of violence, I’d say a healthy dose of God would be just the remedy this world needs, whether you receive it sitting in a pew, reading scripture, praying silently at home or participating in a community prayer vigil. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we come together in love because fear and hate only breed more of the same, but love conquers all. Love is the only thing that transcends all borders, whether they are racial, sexual, political, theological, philosophical, or geographical. It is the one common thread that binds us together in our shared humanity. As one of my devotions reminded me this week, only God’s love and grace can free us from the tyranny of malice, hatred, revenge, and resentment and give us the courage to return evil with good.*
The senior author of the report concludes that there is something powerful about the communal religious experience. Really? They had to conduct a study to determine that truth? Believers have known that for thousands of years. My guess, he’s not a churchgoer, or he would have known that already. It’s the transforming power of God’s grace, which is why Jesus emphasized the importance of being in community with one another: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)
All I can testify to is that I feel revived, physically and spiritually, after attending a worship service – especially on those days when sleeping in is the stronger temptation. I leave church with a lightness in my soul. Maybe because that time together with God reminds me that He is in control - not the lunatics who choose to go on a killing spree. We live in a chaotic world. No wonder Jesus instructs us, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
God is meant to be experienced, and worshiping with others enhances the encounter and draws us into community to love, serve and support each other. Based on the number and nature of the prayer requests at my church and in Bible study, I can say with confidence there are plenty of health issues within our congregation, as well as a smorgasbord of other issues.
Being a church-going Christian doesn’t guarantee a problem-free life or a lower mortality rate. What it does promise is that God will be with you through any trial that befalls you in this world. His presence makes all the difference in how you choose to handle whatever comes your way.
He is always the wise choice for whatever ails you.