Several years ago, I found myself a single, bankrupt, and divorced mother of two. How had that happened, I wondered? As if my life's circumstances weren't bad enough, I also abandoned my belief in God.

I no longer had either a community of faith or my relationship with God to sustain me. I often felt alone and afraid. On many days, it was very difficult for me to "be of good cheer," about almost anything. Even with the support of family members and friends, I still often felt alone and abandoned. I knew something was missing. I just didn't know what it was.

I was far too caught up in what I didn't believe to think about what I could believe instead. My spiritual eyes had closed, and I thought belief in a power beyond myself was simply so much wishful thinking. Given a choice, I had chosen doubt, not faith. My children wandered away with me. We were a family adrift.

A close relationship with God improves lives

In an article published April 20, 2013, in the New York Times, T. M. Luhrmann, a professor of anthropology at Stanford, wrote an article based on her research titled, "Why Going to Church is Good for You." Luhrmann made the following statement:

"When God was experienced as remote or not loving, the more someone prayed, the more psychiatric distress she seemed to have; when God was experienced as close and intimate, the more someone prayed, the less ill he was.

In another study, at a private Christian college in Southern California, the positive quality of an attachment to God significantly decreased stress and did so more effectively than the quality of the person's relationships with other people."

So it turns out that even recent research supports the idea that believing in a loving God is good for us. It's even more important than close relationships with family and friends in decreasing life's stressors.

Being a believer improves the quality of our lives, allows us to be of good cheer, and have hope in a brighter future because God is with us.

The faith of a child

The first comment someone wrote below Luhrmann's article was: "God is imaginary. Please let's be adults." I understand what this person is saying. I believed the same thing at one point in my life. Not anymore.

If choosing not to believe in God is what constitutes being an adult, I never want to be one of those. I much prefer having the faith of a child.

Four years ago, my life changed and I found my faith. I was again a believer. My relationship with God was close and intimate. The difference in how I viewed my life was stunning.

Hope and good cheer

I felt a fresh sense of hope. I lost so much of my fear over what the future might bring. This was possible, because now God was with me. He cared about me and my children. He would be there to catch me when I faltered.

My children soon found their faith again as well. Without realizing it, I was standing in the way of their belief. All of our lives are better now than they've been in many years. And I am grateful.

Facing the future without fear

Does having a close relationship with God mean that nothing bad will ever happen to us again? No. Having faith does not prevent bad things from happening to good people. Look around you. Lots of believers have very difficult times.

But having faith does help us to be of good cheer each day, facing our futures without fear and hesitation knowing that God is with us.

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