A recent psychological study suggests that people “who are more actively religious are more likely to report low levels of anxiety, depression, and fatigue–and feel that they cope with stress better and that their lives have meaning.” This is one of those things that church-goers have known for a long time, but it’s just nice to have scientific proof of now. It supports a ministry motto I like to use: “Church is good for the soul.”
The British psychologist who did the study said, “As the pace of work and life accelerates, people long for meaning, and the younger generation in particular is looking for more than just a big paycheck at the end of the month.”
That is very encouraging to hear. Usually we just hear the bad stories or assume the worst about how greedy people are (like the current movie The Wolf of Wall Street, or this stock broker’s crazy story, for example). So Christians sometimes feel like they have to batten down the hatches to prevent the epidemic of sinfulness from infecting their flock. But that mindset walls us off to the people who most need to hear about the love and meaning that come from connecting with God and following Jesus.
So to hear that people really do crave that meaning energizes me, because it reminds me we have a job to do. One of the church’s jobs is to help people find that meaning in life (through teaching, engagement, service, worship, etc.).
Yes, many people have had bad experiences with churches that have sadly increased their anxiety, depression, and stress. But churches that do that are unhealthy congregations. While we at Hickory Rock admit that none of us are perfect, that awareness and acceptance is part of what makes us a healthy church that really does want to help people–to build them up (toward God) instead of knocking them down.
So the next time you’re talking to a friend or relative who doesn’t go to church, feel free to mention the science that connecting with a church helps you lower stress and anxiety as it raises your meaning in life, because it helps you connect with God. Or you can just say “Church: it does a body good”!