Our Faith Make Us Want to Live
by Pastor George Van Alstine
John Swanson called my attention to an article by USA Today columnist Oliver Thomas, entitled “Why Do We Need Religion?” In it Thomas reviews three very powerful functions of religion in our lives:
- (1) Worship – Our acknowledgment of a Higher Power than ourselves.
- (2) Community – Our need to belong to a unified extended family, fellowship.
- (3) Service – Our opportunity to make a positive difference in our world through good works.
All of these are very important, says Thomas, but the major effect of religion is even more strategic and critical—IT MAKES US WANT TO LIVE!
Thomas reminds readers of the pioneering work of Victor Frankl. An Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, Frankl lived through the Holocaust, spending two years in concentration camps, where his wife and his parents were murdered. This traumatic experience profoundly affected his writings and his work as a therapist until his death in 1997. He observed that those who survived that awful experience were not necessarily the youngest, or the strongest, or the smartest. They were the individuals who had found meaning in their lives. This included not only those who were sincerely religious, but also people who found meaning in other ways: by sharing their meager rations with someone weaker, by determining to find dignity and grace in the face of suffering, or by developing challenging mind games that could give them a sense of accomplishment. These are the people who had a reason to live another day.
In his best-selling book Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl wrote: “Man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Ysrael on his lips.”
All of the above refers to the power of religion in general—of all religions, whether advanced or primitive. As Christians, we believe that all these things are true as well of our faith, which is based on the coming of God’s Son into the world to dramatize God’s love for us and to demonstrate the meaning our lives have from his perspective. All the functions of religion – Worship, Community, Service and Meaning – are aspects of our experience as Christians, magnified, we believe, by the presence of the Holy Spirit in us and among us.
How difficult it must be to be a survivor in life without the multidimensional support of our faith!