Encouragement it’s been said is like ‘oxygen to the soul’ and I couldn’t agree more - which is why I felt so uplifted when I learned that Justin Brierley has published a book entitled The Surprising Rebirth of Belief in God.
Brierley, who is the presenter of Premier Christian Radio’s ‘Unbelievable?’ Podcast and Senior Editor of Premier Christianity Magazine clearly believes the tide is turning away from atheism: “As New Atheism faded from view it left behind a lot of secular people still looking for intelligent answers to life’s deepest questions” he writes. “Indeed, the rise of social media and the culture wars has also hastened the emergence of a ‘meaning crisis’ in today’s generation.
“Despite our material comforts and technological advantages, anxiety, depression and mental–health problems are at an all-time high, especially among the younger generation. People are desperate for a better story to live by.”
This has to be an encouraging development given all we’ve seen happening over the past half century or so. I reckon it’s really exciting too, because I know what can happen when someone has a genuine encounter with God. I have witnessed the liberating effects of forgiveness for example as people have discovered that God is willing to wipe the slate clean and give us a completely new start. Jesus called it a new birth! I have had the privilege of seeing shattered relationships restored, and as we all know reconciliation can make such a difference to our lives.
I suppose my experience is best summed up in the words of a former atheist who came to me for help, I suggested that she should pray because God has promised to help anyone who needs it. A few days later she came back and said ‘It’s just like magic. I turned to the God I didn’t believe in, and ever since I did that the most amazing things have happened.’
I witnessed this again last week when I was chatting to someone who told me of the wonderful way God had healed her very painful shoulder when someone prayed for her in church recently. Faith then is not a figment of the imagination; it is the channel through which God can pour out His supernatural power into our lives so that we can experience a richer and infinitely more fulfilling life.
Interestingly, I came across more evidence of this in a recent news report that claimed that unpaid carers who have a faith are more likely to be in better health and more likely to report better mental health too than those who don’t. Research from Carers UK it would appear has found that having a religion or faith can support the health of those who care for the elderly, disabled people, or seriously ill friends or relatives.
Indeed, recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that many unpaid carers in England and Wales have a religious belief, with some 49 per cent identifying as Christian. Is it any wonder then that Carers UK has stated that religious or spiritual belief may play a valuable role in helping carers to cope with the challenges of caring for others?
It’s good to stop and take a deep breath sometimes. An intake of oxygen can often prove extremely beneficial which is why I encourage folk to reflect on stories like these. They can prove oxygen to the soul - well, to my soul at least – and I hope they do the same for you too.