Need A Hug?

“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.”

Proverbs 15:13 (NKJV)

If there is one thing that Covid-19 has taught us these past months is how important human touch is to our physical, emotional and spiritual health is. Brent, the owner of the coffee house we have been meeting with this week was sharing how he felt the day when an elderly woman who was serving him at a restaurant during Covid actually cupped his hand in hers as she handed him his drink. He said it had been months since he had felt human touch in public and didn’t realize until that very moment how important touch is to life. Are you aware that hugs are so much a part of healthy society that there is actually a National Hugging Day each year on January 21.

Science has shown that when we don’t feel love and acceptance from others our brains associate the pain as the same sense of pain we experience with a broken bone. Our brains are not wired to distinguish clearly between emotional pain and physical pain. Maybe that helps us better understand the statement, “You broke my heart”. Or as neuroscientists clim, “rejection doesn’t just hurt like a broken heart; your brain feels it like a broken leg.”  

The results of the studies concluded that human touch is a powerful thing. It not only strengthens us as individuals, it strengthens team performance as well. Human touch is even said to increase math scores! Touching someone you love actually reduces pain. In fact, when studies were done on married couples, the stronger the marriage, the more powerful the effect. The benefits might just be endless. Maybe thats what the apostle Paul had in mind when he said, “Greet one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ greet you.” (Romans 16:16).

Science has shown that a hug, especially a long one, releases a neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin which plays a major role in bonding, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala, or negative feelings. Research shows getting five hugs a day for four weeks increases happiness big time. Who knows, maybe hugs played a big role in the happiness the early church experienced as they met daily from house to house? (Acts 2:44-47).

God knew exactly what we would need in this life when He created the church, the body of Christ. We are His children, brothers and sisters in Christ who get to enjoy the pleasure of sharing life together, easing one another’s burdens as well as adding to the joy we each can experience as we go through life together. If scientists tell us that five hugs a day can do much to increase our happiness just imagine how much happiness we can experience in faithful church attendance throughout the week. All the more reason the writer of Hebrews penned these words, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25 (NKJV).

The study also showed that when people are placed in a stressful situation and then allowed to visit loved ones or talk with them by phone, they felt better. What about when they just texted? The study showed that their bodies responded the same as if they had no support at all. So much for technology making us happy and keeping us connected on a deep emotional level. Gods desire for us is to know Him, (ginosko in the Hebrew) which means to know in a deep personal way and for His children to know each other in the same way. The best way for us to get to know each other then is always face to face. After all, you can’t really reach people with whom you are afraid to touch.

All throughout the Gospels Jesus healed people simply by touching them, I wonder how many lives could be healed today with a simple touch, a handshake, a pat on the back and yes, even a long tight hug? I have a friend who is a doctor who when you try to shake her hand will say, “I can’t shake your hand but I can give you a hug” as she knows scientifically that germs are spread more easily by our hands and then touching our face where as a hug is really no risk at all since most people when they hug are looking away from the person they are hugging and our contact is a pat on the back.

Why not pray about it and try it. The politically correct world around us might say its better to not touch at all but so far as I can see it, the scientific world has yet to be right in solving the hurts and the heartaches that plague society. Instead, trust God, lean on His Word, extend His love to a hurting world one hug at a time.

 
“‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. In truth I tell you, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.' Then he embraced (hugged) them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.”

Mark 10:14-16 (NJB)  

I LOVE YOU!

Michael Osthimer

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