Keeping the Faith: Faith-Based, Positive Living Is Priceless
Faith sustains when circumstances fail. Christians have celebrated this reality the world over; but perhaps never in recent times in quite the way we have seen during the Covid pandemic. Calling the virus "novel" also characterizes the way society has responded, with unprecedented measures, quarantines, laws, and regulations seriously disrupting everyday life.
Many have written about the power of faith, and how it impacts well-being. Harold G. Koenig (2020) in an article specific to the pandemic, "Maintaining Health and Well-Being by Putting Faith into Action during the Covid-19 Pandemic," discusses a variety of different faith traditions; but they tied the discussion to the adverse impact of negative emotions on the body.
Koenig (ibid.) notes that emotions like fear and anxiety adversely impact our physiological systems that are designed to protect us from infection. Consequently, he notes that practicing our religious faith can protect us from contracting Covid 19 to begin with, and help us manage the symptoms if God-forbid we become infected.
One of the points he makes is that emotions such as anxiety and fear can actually heighten our susceptibility to contracting the virus due to the adverse effects such emotions can have on immune functioning. On the other hand, he notes that positive emotions have the opposite effect on the immune system—which is why the goal is to stay hopeful and optimistic.
Faith Generates Hope
Koenig (supra) notes that positive emotions generated by religious activity such as reading Scripture and practicing faith benefits to the immune system, a finding that he notes is increasingly corroborated by scientific research. He identifies religious faith as an important resource that many people use to maintain health and well-being.
Faith and Agency
Other researchers have tied positive mental health to type of religious beliefs held.
Yingling Liu and Paul Froese explored this issue in "Faith and Agency: The Relationships between Sense of Control, Socioeconomic Status, and Beliefs about God" (2020).
They found that although a person’s sense of control differs depending on their degree of religiosity, the relational direction appears to vary based on the person’s image of God as well as social status. Types of religious beliefs appear to explain how religion positively or negatively impacts sense of control.
Specifically, they found that "secure attachment to God and belief in divine control will compensate for social and economic deprivation." In addition, they found believing in a judgmental God to be negatively related to agency, indicating that "a traditional fire‐and‐brimstone God" to be associated with a lower sense of control, in contrast to people who have more contemporary and individualized beliefs about God — which was associated with a sense of greater agency — which was particularly true for believers who were in need.
Liu and Froese (ibid.) explain that prior research establishes that sense of control, which is a measure of mental health and human agency, depends on a person’s socioeconomic status (SES) as well as religiosity. They also note that because it is a fundamental human need, sense of control is a significant factor contributing to both mental and physical well‐being, and also overlaps with other mental health measures: "such as agency, internal locus of control, and mastery."
A stronger sense of self control appears to have other benefits as well. The authors note that it is linked with lower mortality rates, less symptoms of depression, and quicker recovery from illness.
In explaining their results, Liu and Froese note that secure attachment to God resembles other psychological measures of relational closeness — such as closeness to others, and accordingly, produces a variety of social and psychological benefits. They recognize that in terms of being a measure of theology or religiosity, secure attachment to God "highlights the positive aspects of belief — those feelings of security and love that can come with faith."
They note that consequently secure attachment to God reflects individualized and therapeutic benefits of faith.
People who experience low secure attachment to God, on the other hand, may nonetheless be what they term "highly religious." But subscribing to a belief in a judgmental God reflects a very different type of religiosity, reflecting a system of beliefs based on "moral strictness and fear of retributive justice," which is very different from the comfort and closeness experienced through a sense of secure attachment to God.
The Power of Prayer
Both research and experience indicate the power of faith and prayer to positively impact believers both physically and psychologically. Especially during uncertain times, faith sustains, comforts, and provides a sense of control in an otherwise uncertain, seemingly unpredictable time in history.
Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, PhD, is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of "Live with Dr. Wendy" on KCBQ, and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance, and style. Her over 4,500 media appearances include major news outlets including CNN, Fox News Channel, HLN, FOX Business Network, and weekly appearances on Newsmax. She is author of Red Flags (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the New York Times bestseller Reading People (Random House, revision). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin professionally with a rock band. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patricks's Reports — More Here.
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