Some people are the world to us, and others hardly matter at all. Strangers do not compel us to compassion, but rather to caution, fear, and exclusion. But Christ teaches us that our moral obligations extend beyond those whom we know and trust. He teaches us that the mere presence of a stranger, makes him a neighbor, and thus worthy of love. (Bloom, 2013)
The system of mirror neurons stands at the forefront of empathy. It makes us feel what others feel. It is a basic level of connection, of humanity. Take a simple emotion: disgust. When shown videos of people smelling a foul odor, participants watching the facial expression on a screen showed activation in the anterior insula. Observing an emotion in others activates the neuronal representation of that emotion in us (Wicker, 2003). Our own brains connect the gap between us and a stranger.
Book Recommendation: Against Empathy by Paul Bloom
Reference: (Bloom, 2013) (Wicker, 2003)
Adversity has made us who we are, and adversity must sustain us. If God has chosen us in this furnace of affliction, why do you fear and why complain?
Longitudinal studies show a U-shaped curve between adversity and resilience. Extreme adversity is never good, but neither is no adversity (Seery, Holman, & Silver, 2010). Individuals who had experienced at least some lifetime adversity, showed better resilience, mental-health and well-being than individuals who had experienced no adversity.
Moreover, optimism in the face of adversity has been correlated with increased life longevity, even when corrected for health risks. So, who taught you to fear?
“To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair” (Isaiah 61:3).
Book Recommendations: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
Reference: (Seery, Holman, $ Silver, 2010)
Would you want to live forever?
The most common objection is no for fear of boredom. Boredom is indeed an interesting emotion, it expresses an egoistic dissatisfaction with the majesty of the universe. But the desire to be entertained is not a proper gauge for our desire to live. Instead, how socially satisfied we are, often correlates directly to our interest in life. Consider the sad reality of suicides. Why do people end their life? Not because they got bored, but typically because they didn’t feel loved, they felt excluded, or were experiencing heartbreak. We are social beings, and therefore social reasons are at the forefront of suicide. 87% of people who attempt suicide have no adequate social network of friends or meaningful relationships (Magne-Ingvar, et al, 1992). In the elderly suicide attempts begin to rise as time and age wears away precious relationships and social support (Conwell, et al, 2002).
Life is truly about loving and being loved, and we are all responsible for one another. Life is not about what we’re doing, but who we’re with. Interacting with other people. Spending time with those you love, that is what this life is about—and that is what eternal life is about.
So I posit that eternity is not boring, but rather the natural craving of every heart that’s found love. Hearts lucky enough to bathe in love don’t want the world to end, and time to tick away. The promise of heaven rests on this. That where He is, there we may be also (John 14:3).
Book Recommendations: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
*Please note: Not all suicides are due to loneliness, just like depression is not always due to sadness. Our brain is a delicate organ, and the slightest change can lead to thoughts that are not your fault for having. Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
That blessed Wilderness to which my soul fears to go. In its empty lands I see a peaceful dependence on God, which my heart has not known. There my life will be sustained by the simple manna of God’s word. For in this city I lean too presumptuously upon the wisdom of men, on the philosophies and learnings of the aged. In this city my God is shut out like the stars of heaven, which are so vividly seen in those wilderness’ skies.
There is a Light that will draw you in and a Love that will mend your heart. O that we may learn to softly kneel, slowly close our wandering eyes, and with a faith we barely understand and which often goes astray—pray to Him. I don’t know why, but He hears us. I don’t know what He sees, but He does not turn us away. My friends, praise Him for this. Amen.
Book Recommendations: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
While studying the way Israeli judges pass their sentences, Jonathan Levav found that the favorableness of judicial rulings were high after breakfast, then decreased in leniency as the day progressed, only to spike back up after lunch (Corbin, 2011). Serotonin is the neurotransmitter involved in the positive boost of mood after a meal. Being both catalyzed and synthesized from the proteins in your meal, and secreted by the brainIt’s interesting to note what is written in Scripture, that after Christ fed the multitude, their mood changed.
They came to Him for food, and once their bellies were filled, their tongues made haste to proclaim Him King, even by force.
If you think that what you eat doesn’t affect how you think, think again.
Reference: (Corbin, 2011)