Lent 21: are you getting the support you need?

I’m learning a lot about social support right now and how much it impacts your life.  (Warning: as I prep for finals, I’m guessing a lot of these lent blogs are going to be related to what I’m learning).

It’s made me think a lot about the various support I receive/perceive from friends, church and God, so I thought I’d share.

Psychologists tend to think of social support as offering four different things:

  1. Instrumental support (providing the necessities of life): these are the people who organize the meal train and offer to babysit.
  2. Emotional support (giving strength; communicating with their words and actions care and esteem): these are the people who sit with you in the dark, weep with you, and communicate in a way you believe that you are loved and valued.
  3. Appraisal support (giving aid or courage; reflecting back to you a sense of ability): these are the people who remind you who you are and why you can survive whatever you’re facing.
  4. Informational support – (providing facts; sharing information with you): these are the people who share their experiences or knowledge to help you get through whatever you’re facing.

We need all four of these things.  True social support is when you perceive and believe that you are cared for, loved, esteemed, valued and that you belong to a social network of communication and mutual obligation.

Just to give you an idea of how important this is, people who lack social support have drastically different rates of cardiovascular, immune system and endocrine disease.  MI patients with low levels of emotional support were shown to be 3 times more likely to die in a 6 month time period.  Perceived social support decreases the risk of mortality in Cancer patients by 25%.  (Note that I said ‘perceived.’  Studies have shown that perceived support is better for health than received support! CRAZY FACE!)

Social support impacts your mental, emotional and physical well-being. The associations between social support and mortality are comparable  to the links between mortality and smoking.  So. Yeah.

Obviously, people aren’t perfect. The goal here is not to find one person who is able to do all this, but rather, to be a body of support – a group of people who can do this for one another together.

So, a couple of questions for you:

  • Which of these kinds of support are you best at offering? and which do you need to grow in?
  • Which of these kinds of support do you perceive in your life: from your friends, from your church, from God?  Which feel lacking?
  • If you’re not sure where to start, take the close persons questionnaire here!!

Last but not least: God’s the best.  Because, you see, He is the only Person who offers all four kinds of support without ceasing.  He provides the necessities of life, promising us everything we need for life and Godliness. He provides emotional support, sending His son to live this life with all it’s pain so that when we feel alone we could have someone who can say to us: I know what that’s like.  He provides appraisal support, letting us know that the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is alive and in us – and through Him we can do all things. He provides informational support, giving us His word as a lamp unto our feet where we can learn from those who have gone before us.

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