In a culture where so many of us start projects we never finish, my hat’s off to a project that took 80 years to complete! Harvard University launched a study in 1939 on adult development. This study followed two groups of men for 80 years to identify any psychosocial predictors of healthy aging. With these men, the researchers collected brain scans, blood samples, and surveys. I want to focus on what factor they identified that contributed to maintaining good health, even in the later stages of life.

Good relationships.

That’s it. Men with long, stable marriages fared well. But it wasn’t just having a good spouse who loved you in spite of snoring and eating crackers in bed. It was also the relationships with others that contributed to good health. Dr. Robert Waldinger, who directed the study, said it best:

“The clearest message that we get from this 80-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

We were created to live in relationship with others. When God created Adam, He paraded the animals in front of him. Adam gave them all names, but in the process, he discovered “no helper was found corresponding to him” (Gen. 2:20). A Labrador retriever is a great pet, but it’s not the same as a good friend. Of course, Adam’s first human connection was a woman—his wife—but it didn’t end there. And it doesn’t end there for us. We need others in our lives.

There’s no better place to experience this than in a local church. We gather as a church to bring honor and glory to Christ, but we do that together. A bowling team is nice and so is the neighborhood dads who gather to brag about their grilling skills, but they don’t compare to gathering with others for a single purpose of knowing, loving, and serving Christ. Read through the New Testament letters by Paul, Peter, and John and note how most of those letters are written, not to individuals, but to churches. These apostles repeatedly pointed to things we are to do together. This list is far from exhaustive, but consider these actions we are to do for another:

  • Love one another (John 13:34)
  • Be devoted to one another (Rom. 12:10)
  • Honor one another (Rom. 12:10)
  • Build up one another (Rom. 14:19)
  • Accept one another (Romans 15:7)
  • Care for one another (1 Cor. 12:25)
  • Serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
  • Bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)
  • Speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15)
  • Be kind and compassionate to one another (Eph. 4:32)
  • Submit to one another (Eph.5:21)
  • Comfort one another (1 Thess. 4:18)
  • Encourage one another (1 Thess. 5:11)
  • Show hospitality to one another (1 Pet. 4:9)
  • Pray for one another (Jas. 5:16)

Friends, those are the mark of a healthy friendship, and those same markers contribute to a healthy life!

Dr. Waldinger made one other observation from his study: “It’s the quality of your close relationships that matters. Not the quantity.”

Go to church. But don’t just go to church. Get connected to others in a Bible study group and be the church. Find those you can love and encourage. They need you—and you need them.

The pandemic introduced us to video streaming of our church services, but watching a service online is not the same as being there and interacting with other believers. The sum total of “attending church” is not comprised of listening to a sermon. At its best, church is interactive!

If you’re ill, yes, please stay home and watch the service. But don’t let the convenience of watching a service in the comfort of your Spiderman pajamas in your recliner be an excuse. You’ll miss the greater blessing of the encouraging presence of another believer.

“And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25).

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