“Do Good, Feel Good” is a terrific motto for happiness. And new research shows that choosing to help others activates the brain’s subgenual area, the part of the brain that produces feel-good chemicals, like oxytocin. The Bible has always taught us this eternal truth and the story of Anna is a wonderful example. If you are ever feeling lonely, discouraged or afraid, try Anna’s remedy—serve the Lord. You will experience great joy instead.
Luke 2:36-38. Anna the prophetess was a woman of faithful service. Anna likely became a bride at a young age and was only married seven years until her husband passed away. I imagine that this began a long string of lonely days and nights. Perhaps no kinsman were willing to take her hand as was customary in those ancient days in Jerusalem; or they thought Anna was barren, for there is no record of children in her brief years of marriage. And a woman without a husband or children would have no status in that society. So Anna went on alone, waiting for the companion that never claimed her hand, yearning for the child that was never laid in her arms.
As time passed, her hair likely turned gray, her eyes wrinkled, and her step became much slower and yet she did not just sit and wait for life to come to her. Life had dealt her empty arms, and she chose to turn empty arms into open arms through service. Luke records that Anna “departed not from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day.” Anna forsook her sorrow to assist those who needed her help. And in so doing she came alive, and became great in the eyes of those she served.
When Mary and Joseph brought the newborn Jesus to the temple to make their offerings, Anna was there and when she saw the child, she came in an instant and gave thanks to the Lord. She was among the first to recognize Him as the Messiah and from that time forward, she bore a fervent testimony of Him “to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” I envision Anna, at her great age, holding the new infant, the Lord that she had served so faithfully for so many years. Imagine her joy as she cuddled the child in her arms.
The Savior taught His disciples, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it”. Perhaps the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives.
Anna teaches us this great lesson too. Her story invites us and challenges us to forget ourselves and serve others. Let us follow her example and seek ways to help others. Show a little extra kindness today. Ask the Lord to be his hands and his servant. Put a smile on someone’s face and I promise that you will be smiling too.