Study after study shows that when we think we are going to do well at something, we actually do.
In medicine they call it the Placebo Effect. When we believe a medication or a treatment will help heal us, our bodies and minds respond to that and the treatment has positive effects.
A recent Parkinson’s Disease study showed that patients felt better and that their brains might actually change if they think they are taking a more expensive, more effective medication. In essence their symptoms were lessened when they thought the drug they were taking was an extremely costly one versus one that was far cheaper. In both cases it was a simply a saline injection.
Often when we believe that we can be healthy, it’s the first step to being healthy. When we want to see the goodness in others, when we expect it, we see it. When we want to notice beauty in a difficult situation, we often see beauty.
The actual way we see problems and adversity has a profound effect on the outcome.
The placebo effect, in kingdom terms, is simply hope.
Hope is believing the best is still on its way and that goodness will triumph in the end. Hope is knowing that life is full of meaning and God’s purposes are really above ours. It is resting in knowing God is in control so that we don’t have to be.
So there really is a sort of power in good expectation. There is a power in hope.
But in the same way, when we want to see someone’s faults or when we expect someone to fail, suddenly that’s all we can see. And who knows? Maybe we are a small part of their actual failure. When we expect things to be terrible, often it does turn out how we have envisioned it to end.
Losing hope might be the saddest human experience. It’s worse than losing faith, than losing joy or love. Losing hope means that none of those other things (faith, joy, or love) have a place to put roots down.
In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT), Paul talks about losing hope.
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”
I’ve been walking a rough road lately, but I’ve learned something in the past six weeks that I hadn’t learned yet in the past 40 years:
A lot of life is what we expect, and above all, when hope is present, everything changes.
Any one of us who has sat with a friend or a grandparent who is dying knows this: those who face death with hope on their lips walk a very different road than those who do not. Why does God heal some and not others? I don’t know. Does hope and expectation really affect the outcome when someone really is dying? I’m not sure. But I do know this, hope affects our hearts.
If we expect someone to get better and they do not or if we expect a difficult situation to resolve but it never does, does that speak to the efficacy of hope or the truth of God’s goodness? There have been times recently when I have wrestled with this. But at the end of it all, I think not.
God is always good and hope is always needed.
I don’t believe hope is as hollow as a placebo. A placebo works with the positive thoughts of the patient and with the patient’s expectations of the outcome. In the Parkinson’s study, the placebo was a saline injection with no real merit of it’s own. And hope is not this innately ineffective.
But like a placebo, hope is important. “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.” This is hope! This is knowing the future God has chosen for us is good and right and that He has our best interests in His mind. All. The. Time.