A story last week in Great Britain’s Telegraph discussed tests that were performed by the University of Toronto on religious people during pressure situations. Results of the tests showed that those who admitted they believed in God were less likely to panic when being asked to perform various mental tasks and likewise performed better than those non-believers who took part in the test. The story goes on to say that there was a correlation to the strength of faith and the amount of calmness of the individual. To record these results, scientists measured and recorded brain activity during a set of mental agility tests. In those who at least had a belief in God there was less activity in the portion of the brain (anterior cingulated cortex) where anxiety and stress are managed. Results of the test are published online in Psychological Science journal. An interesting counter argument made by atheists groups regarding these test results is that it doesn’t prove that God exists, only that having strong beliefs can help, inferring that people could have done just as well if they believed in “Father Christmas.” Hmmm….really?
Most of us can probably remember taking a test or giving a speech where we just thought, “Lord, just help me make it through this” or “If you let me pass this test God, I’ll do anything you want.” While it’s funny to think back at how we attempted to rationalize with God, I do believe that this focus on God allows us to maintain our calmness during these stressful times. Without breaking down the “science” of this experiment of how the born-again Christians performed vs. those who believe in God vs. non-believers, the data did show that those who had stronger beliefs performed better. These results likely disqualify the atheist’s groups argument, because if merely a belief in something allowed less stress then the results would have been “flat” based on the strength of beliefs.
For us Christians there is a calm that resonates within us. This calm doesn’t help get an “A” vs. getting a “C” on a test, but rather is an extension of our beliefs in One greater than ourselves, namely God and His Son Jesus. The Bible tells us in Matthew 6:27, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” So we know that worrying or stressing out about things is not a Godly posture to have. In Psalms 94:19, we read the words of the psalmist say, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.” I don’t think it was a coincidence that this experiment produced the results that it did. It’s exactly what we are told in the Bible would happen when we make the decision to trust Christ as our Savior. This decision doesn’t always prevent stressful situation or trials, but rather helps brings peace to our lives in response to these circumstances. The next time you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed with anxiety or stress, think on the words in the passage from I Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”