Hope Trumps Experience: Expectations, Confidence, and Resolutions

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“Do those things really work, doctor?”  I was skeptical, but this was the second double ear infection in both boys in two months.  I was looking for anything to clear the air.  “Well, yes, actually. If you get the HEPA air purifiers, they’ve been proven effective at removing household allergens and in general improving air quality in your home.”  I went straight to Wal-Mart. It turns out that $90 is a small price to pay for anything that might reduce runny noses (and by extension ear infections). I had the device set up before I had walked the dogs.  It was one of the Febreeze kind, so it instantly smelled good.  I could already feel the air being cleaned (and the chances of ear infections dropping dramatically).  The next day I sat down after the boys were asleep and breathed deeply. “Wow, the air is so fresh and clean,” I thought.  I felt good about myself, my choice in air purifying devices, and the new freshness of the air in my home. This thing is really working!  After a little tv, I turned it on high to run for the night.  But it sounded funny. I looked more closely, noticing a button to release the back panel.  I pushed it...and there...in the back of the device...the filters were still wrapped in plastic!  All my confidence had been wrecked by the reality that the air purifier had being doing nothing for two days even though my mind told me it was working!  

The Placebo Effect.  Science and the medical community have measured and proven that faith in your medicine alone can actually make you feel better and improve many conditions.  When testing a new drug, researchers have three groups: those who receive the drug, those who receive nothing, and those who receive a placebo (or a sugar pill...something that has no healing qualities).  The thing is, you don’t know if you’re getting the real medicine or the placebo. But the placebo group typically shows improvement. So for the drug to be approved, they have to prove that it works better than a placebo.  So according to science, your expectations have power.  There is a verifiable truth that your confidence in something has the power to make you feel better.  Doesn’t that sound a lot like faith? It’s a funny thing, but if you believe it’s working, it might be!

Some of us have already broken our New Year’s Resolutions.  Studies show that only 8% of people actually follow through.  I think it has something to do with expectations, confidence, and just overall faith in ourselves.  Look, if you take a sugar pill placebo and feel better, the pill didn’t do anything for you. You made you feel better.  We look for solutions outside of ourselves when all the while we already have what we need inside us.  Now don’t get me wrong: sugar pills won’t fix a broken leg or clinical depression. But there are all kinds of things about life that can be made better by a little more faith in yourself.  I think part of the problem is that we learn to look for evidence that it’s not working.  Thus we train ourselves to be skeptical, and we lose faith in our resolutions the moment we discover evidence that the diet is not working, that the kindness didn’t keep you out of the argument, that the person you’re trying to make amends with hasn’t changed a bit even though you have.  But real change takes time. Resolutions have to become habits, or otherwise they’re just fads that last a few days.

Colossians 3:12 challenges us to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (NASB).  Now there’s a list of resolutions that no one can master. But why not pick one? Write the word in a place you’ll see every day.  Perhaps tape it to the bathroom mirror. Pay attention to your daily living, and make a little note on the paper every time you get something right.  It’ll take some time, but before long you will start to expect something to happen, and you’re confidence in yourself will grow.  And forget about all the times when you don’t get it right. All they’re good for is skepticism.  We need hope to triumph over experience. Only then can you learn to “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you,” and make a new reality where “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:16-17). ~Justin