In the course of our lives as followers of Jesus, there are always ways to minister to others, either occasionally or regularly. The common denominator in each such activity or scenario is that the goal is to convey love and kindness.
Giving of your time above and beyond what is expected has a cost—often, only known to you and Jesus. But He doesn’t ask us to make that extra effort of time or strength or whatever it takes lightly. He knows that the results in the lives of others are worth the extra cost and may have a greater impact than we expect.
I was recently moved by a short video presentation of some Christian workers ministering in an orphanage. These folks were obviously having a wonderful effect on the children as they lovingly and positively interacted 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. God’s love shone through them.
Of course, the greatest and most permanent happiness comes through accepting Jesus and getting to know Him, and we will want to share Him with others and lead them to receive Him. But even when that’s not practical or feasible, He can still use our loving, kind, and caring actions to brighten the lives of those around us. These loving, caring actions are a manifestation of God’s Spirit that attracts people and helps them feel happy and loved.
Following are a few things that can bring peace and happiness to someone. This is a big subject and I’m just touching lightly on a few of the positive effects, but you can do your own research and find extraordinary benefits that have been discovered as a result of medical and scientific studies in these areas.
- The benefits of laughter
As Solomon wrote in the book of Proverbs, “A merry heart does good, like 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.
Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Besides that, laughter has been shown in many cases to:
- Decrease stress
- Alleviate pain
- Reduce aggression
- Boost your immune system
- Boost your social skills
- Impact blood sugar levels
- Exercise many muscles in your body
- Enhance your coping skills 2
- The value of touch
Besides benefiting the immune system, many studies have shown that touch can lower depression and hostility and even boost survival rates of patients with some diseases. Neurologist Shekar Raman, 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 fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.
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.”
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
- The power of listening
Listening to someone can have a powerful impact on their health, attitude, sense of self-worth, and whole perspective on life. You can show that you care by taking the time to listen, to understand someone’s heart, and that can do so much!
- Listening is a sign of respect.
- Listening makes people feel valued.
- Listening is a sign of love.
- Listening provides opportunity for change.
- Listening validates people.
- Listening breaks down barriers and draws people together.
- Listening can provide emotional healing.
- Listening to people can motivate them to get up and try again.
- The impact of music
- The benefits of human/animal bonding
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 multiple benefits of pet therapy and “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.” 6
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.” 7
- The joy of creating something from scratch
Manual work—painting, knitting, woodworking, gardening, and any other activity that involves 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. It has been said that busy hands can lead to spontaneous, joyful, creative thoughts. 8
- The value of play
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.” 9
“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.” 10
Play for adults can relieve stress, promote an overall sense of well-being, and can even temporarily relieve pain. Playful activities with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression, stimulate the mind, and boost creativity. Playing can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you feel your best. 11
- The healing power of nature
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. 12
Whatever methods you implement to manifest God’s love for others, He can work through them to provide something priceless. God cares for the whole person and has provided many different methods for His Spirit to touch them through your words and actions. Therefore, “Let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.” 13
- Proverbs 17:22
- 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)
- http://www.exhibithealth.com/general-health/health-benefits-of-human-touch-1345, http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/hands_on_research.
- Matthew 5:16 CEB