Michael Norton, Harvard Business School Professor, conducted an experiment. His team gave people either a $5 or a $20 bill along with permission to spend it on themselves or someone else. Researchers at the University of Zurich did the same thing, but they were fancy and gave $100 and then measured the results using functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI.
As part of the Norton study, they asked people to predict the results. Almost all said the ones who spent the money on themselves would have the greatest happiness. They were wrong.
Brain scans showed that when people gave, there was a significant activation of the mesolimbic, or feel good, system. Oxytocin, the neuropeptide that signals trust, safety and connection rose along with Vasopressin, a hormone that lowers blood pressure. Regardless of the amount given away, $5, $20 or $100, the dramatic increase in the feel good hormones was the same. A little or a lot, it did not matter.
Our grandmothers told us, “it is better to give than to receive,” and science now backs it up. Giving literally makes you happier.
I get this. As we enter the season where we get to wear crazy sweaters and clothing with bells, I am all in. However, what if there is more? What if we go beyond giving the external, physical things and also give the deep, internal things?
Let me introduce you to Hannah, who 1 Samuel 1 tell us is the beloved wife of Elkanah.
Hannah has a few problems. In Hannah’s day, a woman’s worth was often based on the number of children she had and Hannah had none. Enter Penenniah, Elkanah’s other wife who was very fertile and took great joy in provoking Hannah just to bring irritation (1 Samuel 1:6). This went on year after year.
Hannah spiraled into a state of despair. When they took their yearly trip to the temple, she could not bring herself to eat or worship. She could only cry.
Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” 1 Samuel 1:8
Elkanah was figuratively throwing the bills (or love) at her and it didn’t;t change anything. She had to give.
Finally, she cries out to the Lord. Really cries out. Cries out from her heart with her lips moving, but no words. Eli, the Priest, confronts her because he thinks she is drunk, but she responds that, “I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
She gave her innermost self to the Lord. “I was pouring out my soul to the Lord.”
1 Peter 5:7 tells us to:
Cast your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.
However, sometimes we don’t. Instead, we hold on to the deep emotions and allow them to fester on the inside. I would contend that our lack casting all our anxiety unto the Lord is not rooted in unbelief, but rather in (bad) belief.
Belief that we must pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, We got ourselves into this situation, so we must suffer the pain of trying to get ourselves out.
Belief that the Lord is too busy. There are bigger problems in this world than our hurt feelings.
Belief that the Lord doesn’t really care.
These beliefs are not rooted in the character of God. He is The Good God who does not change life a shifting shadow (James 1:17). These beliefs are rooted in the lies of Satan which are designed specifically to separate us from God.
We are told to cast all burdens upon the Lord. To GIVE to Him as He desires a deep relationship with us. Relationships are built with regular conversation. He wants to hear from us.
Jackie Hill Perry describes prayer as a faith-filled attempt to solve a problem.
Faith-filled. Trusting in the character of God even if you don’t immediately see a solution.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:6
If my people who are called by My Name will humble themselves and pray 2 Chron 7:14
There is a theme here. Humility comes when you say you can’t do it yourself. It comes when you GIVE everything.
Hannah didn’t have a fMRI to measure her joy after praying, but the Bible says, “she went on her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” (1 Samuel 1:18)
This revelation rocked my world. NOTHING physically changed in her world. She didn’t have children and Peninnah was still reminding her of that fact. What changed was that she shared all her deep emotions with the Lord. She gave it to Him and in turn was transformed.
What would happen in your own life if you fully embraced this concept of giving? What if you fully embraced 1 Thes 5:16-18:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the Will of God in Christ Jesus.
I may not have university funding behind me, but I’m willing to do my own experiment on the power of giving your everything. Will you join me?
If this scares you, here is a pep talk.