The moment I read it I was reminded of a good friend who became a Christian a few years ago. ‘At last,’ he said, ‘I can finally enjoy a good night’s sleep’. The headline that captured my attention read ‘Ten-year Gallup study highlights positives of having a religious faith’. It would seem that a recent report entitled “Faith and Wellness: The Worldwide Connection Between Spirituality & Wellbeing,” has shown that people of faith often enjoy ‘heightened levels of overall well-being’ and emphasised ‘the positive influence of religion on individuals worldwide’. So let me begin by thanking Duncan Williams and Christian Today for sharing this extremely encouraging information.
It’s a complicated issue of course. There are real challenges facing anyone wanting to gauge the influence of religion and spirituality on well-being at a time when there is ‘a declining interest and involvement in religion on a global scale’ and ‘Traditional religious services are becoming less prevalent, indicating an evolving spiritual landscape’. I guess it must be as difficult as trying to measure the depth of water on the seashore as the tide comes in and goes out! Having said that, my experience as a pastor has shown me that those who have a genuine Christian faith can, and often do experience a degree of peace and well-being that can only be described as ‘God given’.
Take the well-known Bible teacher, bestselling author and disabilities advocate Joni Eareckson Tada. This amazing lady never ceases to inspire me. Joni was paralyzed following a diving accident way back in 1967, and she has been advocating for those with disabilities ever since. As I understand it her book ‘Joni’ has been translated into more 30 languages as well as being made into a feature film. In addition to living with quadriplegia, she has fought cancer twice as well as Covid, and yet in spite of it all she can talk of her ‘unshakable gladness’ in the face of ‘horrible hardships and jaw-biting pain’.
And she would say that there is a very simple answer to her indomitable joy: she is confident that God is in control of her life. This allows her to live with suffering and pain not begrudgingly but confidently, trusting that God allows it for a good reason, not least so that she can learn to completely trust in Christ.
In the same way I will never forget a lady I met when I first came to live in Pembroke. She had just lost her husband and she was devastated. His death was completely unexpected, and it had left her feeling completely bereft and so she cried out to God for help. To her amazement she felt His presence in such a way that she could only describe it as ‘hug’. That amazing experience changed her life so much so that I can’t ever think of her without being reminded or her warm smile and her peaceful demeanour.
I’ve seen Christians demonstrate a deep sense of peace even though they were living in a war zone, and I’ve met others who have been set free from their addictions a result of their faith giving yet more proof that people of faith often enjoy ‘heightened levels of overall well-being’. And so while I appreciate the reasoning that led someone to suggest that there are ‘Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics’ I have to admit these latest findings echo with my experience.