Psychologist Martin Seligman studied several hundred people in a religious community and divided them into quartiles from most to least optimistic and faith filled. He found that 90 percent of the most optimistic, faith filled people were still alive at the age of 85. But only 34 percent of the most negative, pessimistic people made it to that age.
Recently I read about another study, the largest of its kind, that tracked over 2000 adults over the age of 65 in the southwestern United States. Optimistic people – faith filled people – had better health habits, lower blood pressure, and feistier immune systems and were half as likely to die in the next year as negative people. If you have a positive attitude, you are likely to live a decade longer than people with a negative attitude.
Faith is an amazing life-giver!
Take the story of Evelyn Brand as an example:
Evelyn was born in England in 1879. Her father was a well-to-do merchant, and her family was involved in missions, street work, and charities. Evie (as she was called) was the ninth of eleven children. She was a great painter and to the end of her days, she sketched and painted beautiful scenes that she saw.
Evie was 30 when she spent a few weeks in Australia, helping a sister. Sailing home, she sensed a divine calling to be a missionary. Evie saw Jesse Brand at a missionary meeting. He seemed to look directly at her as he described the filth and squalor on the mission field. She heard an unspoken question in his words: could she, a fashionable girl, handle such things? Resolve rose within her. Yes, with God’s help she could! Her father took her decision to leave England and go to India as a missionary very hard, but Evie was firm in her decision and eventually her father yielded.
Assigned to Madras in the plains of India, Evie discovered that Jesse Brand had been transferred there too. Language study took her to the hills, and some time later Jesse proposed to her and they were married. They began working in the Kolli range. Jesse taught the people better farming methods, treated their sick, built houses, and fought their tax battles. He showed Evie the five ranges of hills he hoped to win for Christ: their own Kolli, and beyond it Pachais, Kalrayan, Peria Malai, and Chitteris.
They were both greatly loved but the people always pulled back from Christianity for fear of their Hindu priests. A breakthrough came when a priest caught a fever. Jesse hurried to his aid. As he died, the priest entrusted his children to the Brands. The Jesus God must be the true one, he said, because the Brands alone had helped him in his hour of death. The people marveled at a God who made them care for an enemy’s orphaned children. Evie eventually became mother to many abandoned Indian children. Through her motherly love, a small Christian community was born.
The Brands had two children of their own, Paul and Connie, and it broke Evie’s heart when after their visit to England they had to leave them behind to pursue their education. They communicated regularly with them through letters. Sadly letters were all the children were to have of their father as Jesse died suddenly after just 2 days of Blackwater fever.
Evie felt extremely lonely and plunged into extra hard work to try to make up for Jesse’s absence. She carried on the work in the Kolli hills alone and retired from the mission board at the age of 70. Her son, Paul, went on to become a doctor. He came back to India to work with the CMC Hospital in Vellore and specialized in leprosy rehabilitation and surgery and became a world renowned surgeon. Connie, her daughter, married and settled in Africa.
At age 70, she began to fulfill Jesse’s dream. Everyone called her “Granny,” but she felt young. Just as in the old times, she traveled from village to village riding a hill pony, camping, teaching, and dispensing medicine. She rescued abandoned children. The work was harder now and she was thin. Yet she was full of joy and laughter.
She spent another 23 years travelling from one village to another on horseback. Falls, concussions, sicknesses and aging could not stop her/ Finally when she hit 93 years old, she could not ride horseback any more. So the men in the villages carried her from one village to another. She lived 2 more years and gave those years as a gift, carried on a stretcher, to help the poorest of the poor.
I want to have the faith and strength of Evelyn Brand! God has wired us so that our bodies, minds and spirits require challenge and we flourish especially when we face challenges for a cause greater than ourselves.Our deepest longing should be to be alive with God, to become the person God made us to be, and to be used to help God’s world flourish!
Remember, faith is an amazing life-giver!
What challenge is God calling you to? How can you help God’s world flourish?
***** This post was inspired from chapter 22 “Ask for a Mountain” of John Ortberg’s book The Me I Want to Be