Love Never Dies

August 3, 2013

by Maria Fontaine

Let’s say you’re going through a desperate time and have lost your bearings, or are experiencing loss, suffering, grief, or big changes in life, to the point that you question how you’re going to go on. What can you do? We all know the spiritual solutions: pray, read the Word, go to the Lord for His help. Calling out to God for His help in desperate situations should always be our first recourse.

However, sometimes in the midst of such problems and hopelessness, we can barely even have faith that God will hear us. The Lord understands. He does not condemn us for that. In fact, He knows that’s when we need Him most. So even if you have a hard time believing that He will answer, it’s still important to cry out to Him and call on His name. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

God has not only provided the strength which comes directly from His Spirit through our prayers and through the Word speaking to us; He has provided other methods that will help to sustain our physical strength and our emotional stability during such difficult times.

There are physical steps that can be taken (widely recognized by many experts in mental and emotional health care) when facing grief, depression, loss, chronic pain, etc.—things like communicating with friends and family, taking time to relax, getting proper exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, refraining from things like alcohol, caffeine, drugs, etc., and limiting TV viewing. All of these things help to reduce overall stress levels, both physically and emotionally, leaving your mind more able to cope with what you’re facing and your body more capable of building strength and stamina.

There is a wealth of help and counsel on this topic available from a range of sources. However, there is one healing tool that particularly stands out to me that I took special note of. It repeatedly comes up in the extensive research that has been done on this all-too-common human condition of extreme discouragement. Besides, it is something you might find you’re already in the habit of doing. I think that it is exceptional because it is something that not only benefits the one implementing it but also others.

It’s the simple act of giving to others in whatever way one can.—This is known to improve mental, emotional, and physical health in measurable and sometimes profound ways.

Studies have been done by numerous institutes, such as the National Institutes of Health, Harvard Business School, and the University of California, Berkeley, and published in such journals as the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. One such study found that the areas in the brain that are activated by giving are the same as those that are activated by other positive stimuli—such as in response to sexual pleasure, monetary rewards, enjoying a meal, exercising and a number of other activities. Contributing in some form to help others actually triggers the release of chemicals in the brain called endorphins that are sometimes called “feel good” chemicals because they promote social bonding and a sense of belonging.[1]

In another study a researcher found that this principle of reaching out to others who are also suffering had definite, positive benefits for the one reaching out. This applied to people suffering from a range of conditions, including depression, chronic pain, and AIDS. As she expressed it, "When humans help others regardless of a shared condition, they appear to live longer and happier lives."[2]

In another study, Paul Arnstein of Boston College and his colleagues evaluated the effects of volunteering on chronic pain patients. Their findings show that pain, depression, and disability consistently decreased after volunteering.

One researcher discovered some unexpected results in her study of a group of long-term sufferers of multiple sclerosis who made phone calls to encourage others suffering from this affliction. While their calls had some benefits for the recipients of the calls, the greatest beneficiaries were those lending a supportive ear through their calls. In fact, those who offered support experienced dramatic improvements in their quality of life, several times greater than those they were helping.[3]

When familiar basic principles that we have learned in our lives for the Lord are confirmed by scientific research it can serve as a witness to those who have yet to discover the truths of the Bible. It’s wonderful to see such confirmations in actual research and studies and it provides a good means of introducing the principles of faith to those we witness to.        

Getting out of our comfort zone by helping, encouraging or supporting someone else may be the last thing we feel like doing when we’re suffering, but it is a way to turn the negative into something positive for ourselves—and in the process, for others. The principle of getting busy helping others as a way to overcome the struggles and loss and hardships that we all encounter in life is something that I think, as I mentioned above, many of you have seen or experienced at some point. You have followed the biblical principles of “give and it shall be given unto you” and have been blessed as a result.

Here’s a little story that illustrates this point:

There had been an accident and the husband had died, leaving a young wife and a three-year-old child. One day in the midst of her deep grieving and feeling that life wasn’t worth it anymore and that she didn’t know how she could go on, she was reminded of a list of goals and dreams they had made together for the next five years—things they would do with their son, places they wanted to take him, a cruise they would go on together, etc.

As she looked over the list, her eyes fell on a goal that her husband, Jim, had come up with. His face had lit up when he thought this one up: “Find one needy person each month to help. Do something special for them to cheer them up.” They had had only one chance to do it, but it had brought such a wonderful response that they had been eager to repeat it. Jim had said, “Sweetheart, it takes so little on our part to bring great happiness to others.” But now, what could she do? “I’m the one in need. I’m the one hurting,” she thought to herself. She heard Jim speak again in her mind something he had always told her: “If you’re ever feeling blue, always remember there may be someone more needy than you.”

That day she made the decision to look for the needs around her and bring encouragement to those whom God laid on her heart. She knew that God had given Jim to her as a special gift of His love and care. She knew that she had been privileged to live with him for several wonderful years, that his passing wasn’t to mean an end of her joy, nor was it a sign that God had now withdrawn the gift that He had given her. The gift of Jim’s love was meant to forever live on in her heart, and, in fact, would grow as she gave it away. Her grief was gradually replaced with a purpose through which she was able to bring much joy and the love and knowledge of Jesus to many others who were lonely and needed a friend.[4]

When we encourage others, we ourselves are encouraged!

I love quotes like the following, which remind me of the biblical principle of how much more blessed it is to give than to receive, and how important a role giving plays—or should play—in our lives.

It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. Serve and thou shalt be served.[5]

To ease another's heartache is to forget one's own.[6]

Giving is true having.[7]

The surest way to have happiness and peace of mind is to give them to somebody else.[8]

Kindness is twice blessed; it blesses him who gives and him who takes.[9]

The remedy for loneliness is to love more.[10]

Kindness makes a fellow feel good whether it's being done to him or by him.[11]For the solution to all your problems, forget yourself and think of others.[12]

You can't give without getting; you can't reward without receiving in return.[13]

The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.[14]

Art thou lonely, O my brother?
Share thy little with another!
Stretch a hand to one unfriended,
And thy loneliness is ended.[15]

Forget thyself; console the sadness near thee;
Thine own shall then depart,
And songs of joy, like heavenly vials, shall cheer thee
And dwell within thy heart.[16]

"My burden is too heavy, Lord," I tremblingly said.
"I can no longer carry it!" And tears I shed.
Then came a sudden cry for help from one sore pressed
I ran to seek him, gladly gave him of my best.
Then thought I of my heavy burden—but, lo, 'twas gone
The gloom and doubt had vanished quite and Love's light shone.[17]

If we spend our lives in loving, we have no leisure to complain, or to feel unhappiness. [18]

Give and it shall be given thee.[19]

Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you.[20]

Giving is the secret of a healthy life. Not necessarily money, but whatever man has of encouragement and sympathy and understanding.[21]

As you give so shall you receive. Contribute more and you will receive more. If you want a stronger rebound, throw the ball harder. [22]

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.[23]     

Giving works! God gives us blessings in life not only for our benefit, but so that we can share them with others, and in the sharing we’re blessed yet again. At times we suffer loss, but in that loss there are new blessings—those of sharing the love, the fullness, the happiness that we’ve experienced with others. As we share our blessings with others, they are renewed and continue to live on in our life.[24]

[1] Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health 2006.

[2] Maria E. Pagano, PhD, of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

[3] Carolyn Schwartz, research professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

[4] Source unknown.

[5] Ralph Waldo Emerson.

[6] Abraham Lincoln.

[7] Charles Spurgeon.

[8] Unknown.

[9] Shakespeare.

[10] Unknown.

[11] Clark A. Frank.

[12] Unknown.

[13] Unknown.

[14] Proverbs 11:25.

[15] John Oxenham.

[16] George Thomas Coster.

[17] J. F. Gibb.

[18] Joseph Joubert.

[19] Luke 6:38.

[20] Madeline Bridges.

[21] John D. Rockefeller Jr.

[22] Unknown.

[23] Emily Dickinson.

[24] Unknown.