Faith is now more essential than ever
This last year under COVID has been as suffocating for most as a continuous martial arts headlock. Government overreach has become in vogue, cloaked under the umbrella of virus restraint. Our liberties have been stifled like never before. And Americans’ losses have been astronomical through employment losses, business closures and a vast array of other personal loss, diseases of despair, etc. (If you haven’t, please read my previous column, “7 dire consequences and collateral damages from extended lockdowns.”)
At this point, most Americans are willing to risk moving forward while opening society and keeping their own loved ones safe. One more proof of that comes from a new Pew research poll that says “4 in 10 U.S. Christians plan to attend in-person Easter services.” In fact, an earlier Pew poll revealed that 25% of Americans say their faith has grown amid the pandemic.
Science even backs their spiritual growth and decisions. The Harvard School of Public Health published a fantastic article in 2020, “Regularly attending religious services associated with lower risk of deaths of despair.”(Experts estimate that at least 150,000 Americans will die from deaths of despair, which they now know are being “fueled” by up to a 60 percent increase from pandemic fallout and collateral damages – something the CDC and mainstream media rarely if ever report on.)
The Harvard article states: “People who attended religious services at least once a week were significantly less likely to die from ‘deaths of despair,’ including deaths related to suicide, drug overdose, andalcohol poisoning, according to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.” (Please underscore those three words: “significantly less likely.”)
Unfortunately, over the entire last year, most governors (like California’s Gov. Newsom) deemed religious gatherings as “non-essential.” They have had little if any regard for America’s constitutional Bill of Rights and are ignorant of the power of religion to help. In California’s case, it took the U.S. Supreme Court to spank Newsom by forcing him to allow churches to meet like other businesses.
All of our governing officials need to wake up, follow the Harvard science, and quit fueling diseases and deaths of despair. When they shut down churches and other centers of faith, they are literally closing spiritual hospitals. They are not just essential but lifesavers.
The truth is, especially as we walk into Holy Week around the world, faith is more essential than ever. The roles of faith and religion remain central to humanity’s success and society’s civility, as George Washington so eloquently conveyed in his Farewell Address. (We need more Washingtons in Washington!)
Based upon the preceding, this Holy Week provides our country and the world with opportunities to infuse and empower our health in mind, body and spirit. Easter brings unique help and hope in its message to the darkest times, like the sun’s rays bursting through the stormiest clouds. Is there a better time for it than now?
I’m not a preacher nor do I pretend to be. Though we respect all religions and those who adhere to them, my wife, Gena, and I are Christians, and our faith is the primary anchor for our souls. It’s the one thing that offers us true peace, hope and a remedy against fear, especially through hard times.
This seems like an awkward time for humor, but even novice psychologists would tell us that “laughter is still the best medicine.” Humor won’t eradicate a virus, but it will encourage a downcast spirit. Even on the battlefields of war, levity can leverage greater joy and steadiness.
In fact, it was primarily for our troops during the Iraq war that I wrote my “Official Chuck Norris Fact [Joke] Book.” In it are my 101 favorite “Chuck Norris Facts” or memes and stories about my life.
“Chuck Norris Facts” started over a decade ago and are still even being quoted and created today. For example, someone sent me this one a few months ago: “Chuck Norris contracted the coronavirus. Now the virus is in quarantine for 14 days!” That’s funny, and I’d be overjoyed to reduce the power of any virus anytime and anywhere. But the truth is, even humor is ill-equipped to bring relief when COVID cripples an elderly person or family.
So, let me quote from what I believe is the most inspirational story and my most favorite entry in my book. It’s the last one: No. 101, and it’s fitting to repeat for this Holy Week. I’m quoting it verbatim. You’ll see why.
“Chuck Norris’s tears can cure cancer. It’s too bad he’s never cried.”
Let’s be honest …
If my tears could cure cancer, I would cry a million of them. Of course, that is only wishful thinking. But I do know of a substance that can cure the soul.
Mom raised my brothers and me in the Christian faith. We didn’t just attend church and Sunday school (which she taught, by the way); she also read to us from the Bible, prayed with us, and modeled a life of love. Nothing was forced down our throats – it was just lived out in front of us every day. I am who I am today because of my mom’s influence. [She’ll be 100 years young on May 4! Here’s her autobiography.]
I was twelve years old when I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior and was baptized at Calvary Baptist Church, where our family attended. As a young man, I recommitted my life to Christ at a Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles.
I’ve always maintained my faith throughout my martial arts, movie, and television careers, but there was also a time when I lost my way. As resilient as I thought I was, I swallowed the hook of the Hollywood lifestyle.
Mom continued to pray for me throughout those years, and I’m convinced that’s how and why God brought Gena into my life. She is a beacon of God’s light and love, just as my mom is. Gena brought me back to my childhood faith – in which compromise was unbecoming, transparency was a virtue, humility was required, and belief was daily practiced. We’ve always respected all religions and those who hold differing beliefs, but we are unashamed Christians.
On Easter Sunday 2009, I experienced another highlight in my spiritual life. I recommitted my life to Christ yet again, but this time with my household. Gena, our eight-year-old twins at the time, and I all recommitted our lives to Christ and were baptized together by our chaplain. What an absolute joy it was to watch my loved ones go into those sacred waters on our Texas ranch and to hear them affirm their belief and recommitment to follow Jesus.
Watching them, I thought about the place in the Bible where Paul and Silas were miraculously freed from a jail cell. The jailer was so moved by the event that he asked them, “What must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.” Then the jailer and all his family were baptized.
As our chaplain leaned me back and fully immersed me in the water, I thought about all I had been through in my life and all I still wanted my life to be. I felt renewed, refreshed, and cleansed, with the waters that are a symbol of Christ’s forgiving blood. As I came up with water flowing off my head and body, I prayed as my mom has prayed every day of her life: “For your glory, Lord. For your glory!”
Every Easter I reminisce about our baptisms. Every Easter is a powerful reminder of a day that changed history, and I’m not talking about the bunny. The physical Resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of the Christian religion and our personal faith. It reset the course of humanity and has indelibly changed the hearts and souls of billions, including Gena and me. It has also given us our hope for the afterlife and a time when this world will be finally set right with God as its only King.
Our friend, spiritual mentor and prolific Christian author, Randy Alcorn, who has recently deeply struggled with his beloved wife Nanci’s battle with cancer, explained it in an almost poetic and perfect way:
“Hope is the light at the end of life’s tunnel. It not only makes the tunnel endurable, it fills the heart with anticipation of the world into which we will one day emerge. Not just a better world, but a new and perfect world. A world alive, fresh, beautiful, devoid of pain and suffering and war, a world without disease, without accident, without tragedy. A world without dictators and madmen. A world ruled by the only one worthy of ruling.”(Bold mine.)
Now, that’s great Easter news and chicken soup for every soul!
(If you struggle, doubt or want to explore faith and spiritual issues more, I encourage you to download this FREE E-copy of the book, “God Questions: Exploring Life’s Greatest Questions About God,” which tackles tough questions about God and gives evidence to support it. Please click HERE. Another upcoming, inspiring and insightful book and resource on the Bible by Joe Kovacs to watch out for and acquire when it is published is: “Reaching God Speed: Unlocking the Secret Broadcast Revealing the Mystery of Everything.”)
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