A number of studies show that religious people are more likely to be satisfied with their lives than non-religious people.
This probably has something to do with perspective. Once you accept a measure of providence you certainly give up the illusion of control.
But a new study helps unlock a piece of the puzzle. Apparently if you have three to five friends at church, and attend weekly, you are more likely to report being “extremely satisfied” with your life: 33% compared to 19%. Even more interesting, people who were irregular in attendance were no more likely to be happy with their lives than those who never attend at all.
Chaeyoon Lim, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was lead author of the study. She says “90% of the correlation between church attendance and life satisfaction can be explained if you have these close interactions.”
Her work, which was reported in USA Today, raises interesting questions. And some bad answers. Daniel Olson, a professor from Purdue who wasn’t involved with the study, says this all means that well-being among religious people “probably has more to do with having religious friends than going to church.”
I’m not even sure what that means. Going to church is sort of the point of the study, which defines whether or not a person is religious by whether or not they go to church.
In fact, lots of people who don’t go to church have friends, and they are still less likely to be satisfied with their lives. Chruch is more important than just having a couple of friends who agree with you. What we agree about is important.
Most Christians call this agreement fellowship and take it pretty seriously. Church fosters a kind of friendship that is unique. People who go to church see themselves as brothers and sisters, with the same Father. A gracious, and forgiving One at that.
More is at stake here than friendship. God designed the church for fellowship and accountability, moving us, as Paul explains to the Ephesians, toward a mature unity around the person and work of Christ himself as we share our gifts in mutual encouragement and service.
In this unity we trust each other, and love each other, more. God is working in our lives and we rejoice in it together.
Even without a study.