Human spirit yearns for relationship with divine Spirit

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April 20, 2015

When Peter and other disciples were brought before the council because they had broken orders not to speak about Jesus, it was the Pharisee Gamaliel who saved their hides.

"I tell you," Gamaliel said, "keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this understanding is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them – in that case you may even be found fighting against God" (Acts 5.38-39).

Today, of course, many are trying to do just that – that is, quiet the voices that talk about Jesus. However, Gamaliel's prophecy still stands: you cannot overthrow the Good News. God cannot be silenced.

History today is seen as having no rhyme or reason other than what humanity gives it. The notion that God is active in history can be a foreign concept, not just to non-believers, but even to Christians. It seems too far-fetched, too superstitious to believe that God is guiding, not just my personal life, but the course of history.

One piece of evidence for the human need for God is Lisa Miller's new book, The Spiritual Child. Miller, director of clinical psychology at Columbia University Teachers' College, says her colleagues have failed to discern the clear relationship between spiritual beliefs and practices and adolescent development.

Miller draws upon research showing that spiritually-connected teens are 60 per cent less likely to suffer from depression, 40 per cent less likely to abuse alcohol and other substances, and that they are far more likely to excel academically. The converse to this is that teens who lack a spiritual connection are statistically in greater danger of participating in dangerous practices and suffering from physical and mental diseases.

Miller even argues that adolescents who believe in a loving higher power are better at separating from their parents and becoming their own persons. Presumably, if one intuits a higher power than Mom and Dad, one can pattern one's life on God rather than on one's parents.

Call it Gamaliel's law: If you toss out God, you are in for problems; if you embrace the God of love, you will be more liable to chart a productive course in life.

Although God is active in history, we must play our part. Miller offers seven suggestions for helping your child develop spiritually – tips such as using spiritual language daily, sharing how your belief in God helps you work through challenging situations, and embracing relationships with animals and nature.

Religion may appear to be on the run in our secularized society. But it can't be chased over the cliff. The human spirit demands a relationship with the divine Spirit. A society that fights against God will soon find God pushing back.