Pastors, teachers, physicians, dentists, health educators,dietitians—all in helping professions—desire to see the lives of people changed for the better. Yet, for all the energy, emotion, and effort we often put into our work, the results seem woefully small and disappointing. For several decades now, I have often asked the questions, Why do so few change? How could I improve the odds for better outcomes?
Many years ago, I was involved in various smoking-cessation programs in the Washington, D.C., area. The United States Office on Smoking and Health had concluded a campaign in elementary schools to get children to write letters to the president of the United States, asking him to control tobacco and smoking. Many of these letters were very poignant and touching, such as "Dear Mr. Presdent, please stop all smoking because I want my daddy to live. I love him very much. Please, please do everything you can to save his life."
One day I was offered copies of some of the letters that had been received. After reading many of them, I decided that maybe I should make some overhead transparencies of the best ones and share them in my cessation classes. After sharing four or five of these in my next class, several participants approached me to say that they had decided to quit after seeing these letters. They had identified these pleas with their children or grandchildren, and this motivated them to really work hard to quit. I was surprised at the power these simple messages had. I was beginning to recognize the power of love.
A few years later, I was teaching in graduate school. Like most professors, I had some bright students who were struggling with their grades. Every once in a while one of those would suddenly blossom! What caused the change? In many instances, they had fallen in love with the person of their dreams. Now they wanted to do their very best to demonstrate their ability to buckle down and prove to their beloved they were worthy of responsibility. Again, the power of love made all the difference.
A physician friend of mine recently shared an experience from his years of medical practice. The day was cold and wintery, and he was entering a store in town when a voice called out, “Doctor, doctor, look at me!” Standing in front of him was a woman that he initially did not recognize. She then threw open her winter coat, saying, “Doctor, look at how much weight I have lost!”
After studying her now thin face, he recognized her as one of his decades-long patients. He had delivered all of her children over the years. He was shocked at how much weight she had lost. He remembered the many, many times he had tried hard to encourage her to lose a few pounds; but on the next visit, she had gained a few more. Gradually, over the years, she had become obese.
Now she was proudly grinning in front of him at her ideal weight! He asked, “But what made the difference?” “Oh,” she responded, “it was easy. About a year ago, my first grandchild was born. When I looked at that miracle of life, my heart filled with a love I had never felt before, and I said to myself, He needs his grandma around for a long time. So, I remembered the principles you tried to teach me, applied them with hard work, and look at where I am now. I am so happy!”
The power of love is very real. The power of love can move people to accomplish the most difficult things in life. This is why sharing the love of Jesus is so vital.
Luke tells a marvelous story in his Gospel, chapter 8, verses 43–48, of the lady who had a serious health problem for 12 years, and no one had been able to help her. She timidly came up behind Jesus, touched just the hem of His garment, and was healed.
This lady was timid, but she knew Jesus could heal her through the most insignificant contact—and He did. Jesus loves to heal people. It does not matter how long a person has been obese, a smoker, or any other problem. He happily solves lifelong problems.
Information and facts do not change people, but love transforms and powers change. Our words and deeds must reflect the love Jesus has for all. “In working for the victims of evil habits, instead of pointing them to the despair and ruin toward which they are hastening, turn their eyes away to Jesus.”*
* Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1942), 62.