It’s hard to absorb the steady stream of negative local, regional, national, and international news and not feel powerless in a world of seemingly endless despair, corruption, violence, and war. We have to work overtime to resist the twin temptations of hopeless cynicism and self-focused escapism. Even if we realistically accept our limits to effect world-wide changes, what can we do as we think locally about global challenges? I’d like to overview one line of positive action that we can all pursue.
Since 1938, the Harvard Grant Study, the longest running research study ever conducted, has attempted to answer the question, “What is the single most contributing factor to a happy life?” The results of 85 years of data, in a nutshell: warm, intimate relationships are the best predictor of human happiness and flourishing. To paraphrase Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for humans to be alone.”
Your response to this 85-year-study may be, “Well, duh!” But you probably also realize that sustaining warm, caring relationships is much harder than it looks. We all know the importance of good relationships and yet according to a 2018 Cigna health study, 46% of survey respondents often or always felt alone or left out, 43% felt sometimes or always isolated from others, and 47% admitted to not having meaningful daily interactions. I seriously doubt these numbers improved during the pandemic!
So what’s our response to such loneliness as followers of Jesus? I would remind us that we are called to be the church! We are called to embody and practice God’s love and kindness in our homes and communities. We are called to bear one another’s burdens, to confess our sins to one another, to forgive one another, to encourage and build each other up. We are called to care for the poor, the hurting, and the needy near us.
One of the most practical ways in which we can show love for each other is through the practice of caring conversations. During the next four weeks, we’ll share in a sermon series titled “Talk With Me,” in which we reflect on how to engage in meaningful conversations in which we value one another, listen well, and express genuine friendship. I believe that practicing loving conversations is deeply rooted in the life of Jesus and the New Testament writings and am looking forward to sharing together in this practical and very timely series!