By Maria Fontaine
March 7, 2015
In the course of your life as a follower of Jesus, it’s possible that you engage in some of the following activities as a way to minister to others, either occasionally or regularly. What is the common denominator in each of these activities or scenarios?—Playing cards with seniors; teaching activities such as cooking, knitting, woodworking, or gardening; taking a group of city orphans to play in a nature reserve or park; giving a massage to your next-door neighbor; watching a comedy show with your elderly mother; taking your coffee break at work to help a co-worker with a timely project; listening to a homeless man in a shelter as he tells you his story; playing some beautiful music for someone you visit; holding the hand of a cancer patient and giving them some soothing words and your smile; taking care of someone else’s children when the parents need a break; visiting a depressed friend with your well-groomed, well-behaved cuddly pet.
There’s much variety in the above, but I’m sure you recognize the common denominator in all of them: each action conveys love and kindness.
Giving of your time, above and beyond what is expected, does cost. Many times, only you and Jesus realize how much. But when He asks you to make that extra effort of time or strength or whatever it takes, He doesn’t ask it lightly. He knows that the results in the lives of others are more than worth the extra cost and may have a greater impact than we expect.
Recently I watched a short video presentation of some of our members ministering in an orphanage. I was so moved when I saw it.
These folks were obviously having a wonderful effect on these children as they interacted so lovingly and positively with them, teaching them songs, giving them hugs and providing opportunities for fun and laughter, creating memorable experiences for all of them. I could feel their lives being touched in a tangible way. I was wondering how this interaction could be so powerful when in this situation our members were not able to give any kind of open witness. I asked the Lord, “How does this work?”
Here’s how Jesus explained it:
“You saw My followers reaching out to these children with love that comes from My Spirit. Love is a need. When you are doing deeds of kindness that bring happiness to others, you are giving them love, and you’re giving them Me, for I am love, and I bring happiness. All My creations, made in My image, have a great need for happiness. Happiness is part of Our Spirit. Thus, as you help them experience happiness, they become open and receptive to the touch of My Spirit on their lives, even if they don’t know Me with their conscious mind. You, in a way, create a connection between them and Me.”
Of course, we all know that the greatest and most permanent happiness comes through accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior. When we know Him and live in close communion with Him, we will want to share Him with others and lead them to receive Him. The more openly we can talk about Him and our love for Him, so that people know who we represent, the better. But even when we can’t share verses from the Bible and talk outwardly about Jesus, He can still speak to them through our loving, kind, and caring actions. And those are very powerful!
The compassion and care we show to others, even when we can’t accompany it or follow it up with a solid witness, still transmits His Spirit and love.
The example you are of God’s love is visible to those who interact with you in your everyday work and ministries. As you serve and volunteer, offering hope (a touch of heaven) to people, they often sense a certain “something” that meets a need in their spirits. Even if they don’t know what or who it is, they’re drawn to it!
These loving, caring actions are a manifestation of God’s Spirit in you that attracts people and helps them feel happy and loved. Your actions not only say to them, “I care about you; you are important to me,” but they have other benefits as well. God has created all these tools, empowering and infusing them with remarkable healing and other beneficial properties. Your faith and His Spirit in combination with these tools can be highly effective in bringing a person closer to Him.
Humans, animals, and nature can provide many benefits to those who need emotional healing. The emotional healing can often result in a measure of physical healing as well, as the stress becomes less and the peace of mind becomes greater. There’s an almost endless variety of ways to help people be happier and more at peace as they learn, little by little, how much God cares about them.
Following are a few of the wonderful things that God has created that can bring peace and happiness to a person’s life. These are big subjects and I’m just touching lightly on a few of the positive effects, but if you’re interested in any of these, you can do your own research and find extraordinary benefits that have been discovered as a result of credible medical and scientific studies in these areas.
As Solomon said so long ago in the book of Proverbs, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”1 He didn’t have all the scientific studies to back him up, but he sure did “hit the nail on the head” through the spirit of God.
Besides creating happiness and good feelings between people, laughter has been shown in many cases to:
There have been many credible studies on the benefit of touch that have produced incredible findings! Besides benefiting the immune system, it can lower depression and hostility and even boost survival rates of patients with some diseases. Some findings show that touch signals safety and trust; it soothes.
Neurologist Shekar Raman, MD, in Richmond, Virginia, explains: “A hug, pat on the back, and even a friendly handshake are processed by the reward center in the central nervous system, which is why it can have a powerful impact on the human psyche, making us feel happiness and joy. And it doesn’t matter if you’re the toucher or touchee. The more you connect with others—on even the smallest physical level—the happier you’ll be.” Research suggests that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.
“To touch can be to give life.”—Michelangelo
Dacher Keltner, PhD, when speaking of the benefits of touch said:
The benefits start from the moment we’re born. A review of research, conducted by Tiffany Field, a leader in the field of touch, found that preterm newborns who received just three 15-minute sessions of touch therapy each day for 5–10 days gained 47 percent more weight than premature infants who’d received standard medical treatment.
A pat on the back, a caress of the arm—these are everyday, incidental gestures that we usually take for granted, thanks to our amazingly dexterous hands. But after years spent immersed in the science of touch, I can tell you that they are far more profound than we usually realize: They are our primary language of compassion, and a primary means for spreading compassion.
Studies show that touching patients with Alzheimer’s can have huge effects on helping them to relax, make emotional connections with others, and reduce their symptoms of depression.3
A while back I wrote about the power of listening. Here are some points from that article.
Besides laughter, touch, and listening, almost everything else the Lord leads you to do in ministering to people can have a significant impact on people’s emotional, and in many cases, physical well-being. For example:
Listening to uplifting music can have many physical healing elements, as well as making positive changes in a person’s emotional and mental state.5 There are even many advantages to singing.6
Sharing your pet with someone who is depressed or anxious can, in some cases, do much to help them. There is quite a body of study now by medical science about the advantages of pet therapy. There is a large body of research that points to multiple benefits of “human-animal bonding to promote child development, to aid elderly care, mental illness, physical impairment, dementia, abuse and trauma recovery, and the rehabilitation of incarcerated youth and adults.”7
A professional man who was no longer working due to a heart surgery followed by the onset of a chronic and debilitating disease revealed the protective role of his two Siamese cats. He said:
“When I wake up in so much pain, I really wonder ‘what’s the point of going on?’ Then I’ll see one of the cats or they will jump across the bed and I’ll think. ‘They give us so much joy. They are so wonderful and I am their guardian. I am responsible to keep them alive and safe and happy.’ Even my wife says they respond to me differently—they are really my cats.”8
Creating something with your hands—painting, knitting, woodworking, gardening, and any other activities that involve making or constructing things—is a useful tool for decreasing stress, relieving anxiety, and helping with depression. These types of activities can lead people to an improved state of mind and greater contentment. Someone said, “Functioning hands also foster a flow in the mind that leads to spontaneous joyful, creative thought.”9
Here are a few interesting highlights from some of those who have studied play. Playing with children and even adults bonds people together. An article in Psychology Today, reviewing the studies of the value of play, said, “[Play] also provides a state of mind that, in adults as well as children, is uniquely suited for high-level reasoning, insightful problem solving, and all sorts of creative endeavors.”10
“It is through play that children first learn how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self-control, and follow rules. … Most importantly, play is a source of happiness.”11
Play for adults can relieve stress, promote an overall sense of well-being, and can even temporarily relieve pain. Playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression, stimulate the mind and boost creativity. Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Playing can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you feel your best.12
There have been many studies on the power of nature, as discussed in the articles in the links in the footnotes. There are numerous mental, emotional, and physical benefits in experiencing nature: It can encourage imagination and creativity, cognitive and intellectual development, and social relationships. As well, it can help to restore the mind when it’s fatigued from work and studies, contributing to improved performance and satisfaction.13
Whatever methods you implement to manifest the Lord’s love for others, the Lord can work through these to provide something priceless, with the experience of happiness here and now and the opportunity for happiness in the hereafter. God cares for the whole person, and has provided many different methods to take care of their individual needs. Offering people the opportunity to specifically receive Jesus when you can is a must. But if at times that isn’t possible, His Spirit can still touch them through your words and actions that will lift them closer to the source of life and love. Therefore, “Let your light so shine before them that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven.”14
1 Proverbs 17:22.
2 Jennifer Welsh and LiveScience, “Why Laughter May Be the Best Pain Medicine,” Scientific American, September 14, 2011; Melanie Winderlich, “10 Reasons Why Laughing Is Good for You,” Curiosity (Discovery Channel).
14 Matthew 5:16 KJV.