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  • Writer's pictureHope Stuart

To HOPE or Not to HOPE

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 a future and a HOPE.

Jeremiah 29:11

Living with the HOPE name for practically 50 years (yikes!), has afforded me an array of opportunities to reflect on the power of HOPE. Honestly, there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t reflect on HOPE power during some aspect of my daily routine, whether It’s during my devo readings, working with a client, or providing some inspirational words to my son. Frankly, I was convinced I had read just about everything that has been written about HOPE. Well, I stand corrected. While listening to an audio-book by Rachel Cruz (Dave Ramsey’s daughter), I was introduced to the HOPE experiment conducted in 1957 by Curt Richter, a Harvard graduate and Johns Hopkins scientist who performed a HOPE study using (Wait… For… It…) RATS!

Yes, rats. Rats and HOPE… an interesting combo! Now, I don’t know about you, but I am NOT a fan of rats. Give me a field mouse any day over a rat. The only time I feel even the slightest affection toward rats is while watching the movie Ratatouille. I believe the affection is based around the animation magic Disney accomplished in personalizing the rat characters in this film. If it wasn’t for some amazing Disney magic, rats would still hover toward the top of my least favorite animals list.

Now entering from stage right... Mr. Richter… who decided to place domesticated and wild rats (one at a time) in jars filled half-way with water and observe how long it took for them to drown. (Note: While sharing his findings, I am not an advocate for his methods.) Forgoing the gory details of his experiment, an interesting finding related to HOPE came from the wild rats, known for their fierce swimming ability and overall aggressiveness. While the first group drowned within a matter of minutes, Richter tweaked his experiment by including a variable of HOPE. For the remainder of the experiment, he picked up each rat, held them, let them rest, and then placed them back in the water; offering them a glimmer of HOPE.

Each rat that was temporarily rescued survived 240 times longer than one that wasn’t given any intervention. Yes, rats with HOPE swam 60 hours… or two and a half days! According to Mr. Richter, “After elimination of hopelessness, the rats do not die”. While his experiment is cringe-worthy, it does offer humans some insight into the concept of HOPE. Now, I know some of you may not be convinced that rats have the ability to HOPE; however, I prefer to think that those rats did not die in vain. Instead, their sacrifice affords us the ability to attain some insight into HOPE power. It also provides us with some ways we can infuse HOPE into our daily lives and the lives of those around us.

Essentially, there is no question whether to HOPE or not. HOPE should never be optional because with God, ALL things are possible. With God, ALL things work together for good to those who believe in Him (Romans 8:28). God’s prosperous plan for our lives is infused with a future and a HOPE. There is infinite power in God’s HOPE; HOPE that can carry us through any storm, trial, and challenge. Essentially, when we are drowning in our struggles, HOPE is just a divine intervention away… a lighthouse on stormy seas. This HOPE actively illuminates our path; providing us His way to our HOPE-filled future. With God, HOPE is not a choice but a way of life; supporting us with His infinite comfort, wisdom, energy, love, and light.

Richter offered HOPE to his rats in the form of a rescue, a rest, and some relief. We can apply Richter’s insight to our own lives knowing that God is our refuge, especially in times of trouble and trials. In the same way God offers us HOPE, we can do the same for others… in the form of a rescue, a rest, and some relief. YOU can be someone else’s HOPE through something as simple as a hug or as significant as a donation drive. You will find that as you offer someone else HOPE, you will experience HOPE in return. There is nothing quite like HOPE… and you can thank God and a few rats (yes, rats) for this lesson with a memorable, yet cringe-worthy twist.

Richter, Curt P. (1957). On the phenomenon of sudden death in animals and man. Psychosom. Med., 19, 191-8.

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