What makes people happy? In the longest longitudinal study on happiness, researchers from Harvard University have found that the number one predictor of how people age is their satisfaction with their close relationships. The found that, “Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, the study revealed. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.” There is something within humans that needs connectedness to other people. We can see this in the failing health and deep pain of those who are lonely, abandoned, or in unhealthy relationships. We were created to be in good relationships with each other.
When we aren’t, everything from our mental to our emotional to our spiritual to our physical health can start to decay. We can see this in the effects of solitary confinement on prisoners which include anything from headaches and stomach pains to increases in anxiety, depression, aggression, and poor impulse control. We have felt it ourselves in times of isolation and loneliness: it hurts to our very core. And it hurts so deeply because a basic human need isn’t being fulfilled.
Why are we like this? We were created to be in communion and community. We can feel it in our hearts, the want and need to be connected to someone. We want teammates and partners. We want to belong and to have people belong with us. We are ever searching for our tribe, our family, our people. When God created humans, He not only made us to relate with each other but also made us hungry for a connection with Him.
These studies give us a glimpse into the very nature of who we are and who God is. We need more than food, water, and shelter to survive. We need interactions and connections with other people. We need to feel like we belong.
But we don’t always feel like we do. So how can we change this? In order to find deep, authentic connection, we have to be willing to be authentic ourselves. We have to be willing to risk rejection for the reward of intimacy. We have to put ourselves into situations in which bonds can form, we have to be around people we think are cool and wonderful, and we have to find communities that are going places that we want to go to as well.
Thankfully, we aren’t alone and isolated completely until we find our tribes. We have access to the purest, most authentic, deepest, most accepting form of connection in the presence of Jesus. For we are never truly alone. For He does not leave you nor forsake you. For He has known you since before the beginning of time. He knit you Himself. He knows you. Loves you. Searches after you. Longs to connect with you.
So, lean in. Lean into people, into God, into the uncomfortableness and awkwardness of life and relationships. Lean into the work and the risks and the rewards. Lean in closer. Connect with life, connect with humans, connect with the Creator.