Fifty years ago, a scientist of questionable integrity stumbled upon an enormously important finding. Curt Richter placed some ordinary rats in jars of water, to see how long they would survive before drowning. The average time the rats could keep their heads above water was 17 minutes. Richter then repeated the experiment with a new group of rats, but this time rescued half of them from their jars just moments before he thought they would drown. He dried them off and let them recover. Half the rats were left still swimming in their jars. How long do you expect the remaining rats would continue to tread water? Not long, perhaps? Too tired to go on?
Remarkably, the rats left in their jars continued swimming for an average of 36 hours. That’s over 120 times longer than the original group. Richter recalled that some rats even swam for up to 3 days. To what did he attribute the difference between the rats who gave up and the rats who continued swimming?
In the harshness of a desperate situation, having hope was the sole difference between giving up and persevering.
The rats who swam alongside a comrade who had been saved, were shown that rescue was possible. These rats then swam with purpose, waiting in hope for the moment when the rescuer would come again. Richter, a behavioural scientist, observed in the laboratory what we Christians have known all along: Hope is life-changing, purpose-giving, and so much stronger than despair. Our God is a God of hope. And our hope isn’t one that remains internal. The hope our God offers not only changes the life of the one who is rescued, but changes the lives of those who witness it too.
Have you been saved? Can you be seen by someone who is struggling to keep their head above water? How can you impart the message of hope to someone who feels they are drowning? Jericho Road might have some ideas.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.