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The amazing impact of hope

By Judith Victoria Hensley

Plain Thoughts

An experiment was conducted in the 1950s by a scientist named Curt Richter to discover how long a rat might swim before it drowned. The first set of twelve domesticated rats all gave up swimming after a few minutes and drowned. The time was recorded, and it amounted to only a few minutes.

He repeated the experiment with wild rats who were more conditioned to challenging survival situations and aggressive by nature. They swam a little longer than the domesticated rats, but also drowned. Again, they survived only a few

minutes.

Then he introduced a new factor. Just before the rats were at the point of giving up, each one was taken out of the water, held, allowed to rest, perhaps fed, rejuvenated, then placed back into the water where they had to swim or drown. This time the rats swam for DAYS! One source stated the length of time as about 60 hours!

What was the difference in the rats’ survival in all of this? The original rats, domestic or wild were afraid, unconditioned to the necessity to keep going, so they gave up and drowned. But the rats who had an intervention and realized if they kept swimming, they might be rescued, kept swimming for many hours. It boiled down to one thing. HOPE. By being rescued once, they did not see their situation as hopeless.

If hope could have such an incredible impact on rats, how does it impact the human spirit and mind?

A well-known Bible verse in Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when a desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life.”

According to Psychology Today, hope and happiness go hand in hand. People who have hope about their jobs are far more productive and use less sick days. People who have an attitude of hope are healthier in general, tolerate pain better, and recover from physical challenges or illness more quickly.

On the other end of the spectrum, elderly people who have given up on life and lost their hope for the future die more quickly. Quoting from Psychology Today, “Research shows that hopelessness is a strong predictor of mortality, and

those folks who said they felt hopeless were more than twice as likely to die during the study follow-up period than those who were more hopeful.”

I came across a website called The Daily Meditaions which said, “Hope is one of the most important mental traits in life. According to 20 years of scientific research conducted by positive psychology founder Martin Seligman, hope reduces feelings of helplessness, boosts happiness, reduces stress, and improves our quality of life. Hopeful people are able to face even the most negative times with a positive attitude. And because of the many health benefits of optimism, it significantly improves our mental health.”

I never consider a topic without checking out what the Bible has to say on the subject. After coming through several health challenges in my life and watching friends and loved ones go through their own tough times, there are two verses that are a tremendous source of encouragement.

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, & plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

My hope lies in a firm conviction that God has a plan for each one of us and we have a choice to go our own way or to follow that plan. I am not going to leave this world until I fulfill the things in my divine destiny for which I was created. My hope rests in that assurance. Regardless of what my future holds, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)