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People who are reminded of God take bigger risks
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People who are reminded of God take bigger risks since they feel God will see them through the dangers those risks create, according to research published in Psychological Science. - photo by Herb Scribner
People who are reminded of God take bigger risks because they feel God will see them through the dangers those risks create, according to research published in Psychological Science this week.

The researchers wanted to understand how references to God influenced the way people lived, so they organized a series of online studies with about 900 participants to measure the weight God has on peoples perceptions and choices.

References to God pervade daily life on any given day you might see the word God printed on U.S. currency, drive behind a car with a bumper sticker that references God, or use one of the many colloquial expressions that use the word God," said the studys lead researcher Daniella Kupor of Stanford University. The fact that reminders of God are so ubiquitous suggests that this effect may impact a large number of people.

One study gave participants who were mostly of Judeo-Christian faith, according to Slate a choice to either look at a bright light that could damage their eyes or a dark light that wouldnt cause any damage.

About 95 percent of those who were reminded of God before they made their choice chose to look at the light that could damage their eyes. Participants were reminded of God either by working on word scrambles that included God-related words or by reading a paragraph about God, according to Psychological Science.

A second study had participants click through a series of online ads. One ad offered users a chance to learn how to bribe, another offered methods to find good video games and the last told users where to find skydiving options. Some of those ads also included a mention of God (for example, God knows what youre missing! Find skydiving near you.) on some occasions.

The participants were more likely to click on the skydiving ad when God was mentioned, and least likely to click on the bribing ad when God was mentioned, according to the study.

We were surprised to find that even a simple colloquial expression God knows what youre missing influences whether people click on a real online ad that is promoting a risky behavior, Kupor said.

The study also found that participants had more negative feelings about God when they lost their potential winnings in a risk-related game, suggesting that they had expected God to protect them from losing the money and were disappointed in the outcome, the press release said, which shows that God had an influence, whether positive or negative, on peoples perceptions of risks and their outcomes.

But the study doesnt mention another side to taking risks the practical risks that we take every day. Kris Becker wrote for Relevant magazine in November that risks arent always about skydiving or jumping off cliffs. Rather, risks can be about making tough life decisions that fit into Gods plans, Becker wrote.

And some of those decisions arent life-changing, either. Some can be as simple as staying put and living the life God has set out for you.

What if taking a risk for God were less about jumping off cliffs and going and more about examining our motives and opening our eyes to how God might be wanting to use us right where we are, embracing the uncomfortable in our midst? Becker wrote. Maybe God is wanting to use you as a change-agent in your workplace, as the glue in your neighborhood, as the light in your social circles and family. Its possible that quitting your job or moving your family across the country right now to be risky for God is exactly what God wants you to do, but I think that more often than not, it could actually be counter to what God wants.

Becker wrote believers should look to scripture, their personal history and the counsel of religious leaders for clues about whether they should take risks and what kind of risks those would be.

The biggest risk is often continuing to live in a God-honoring way, day in and day out, when it doesnt feel like much of an adventure, Becker wrote. It seems that many of us are in the same boat where Jesus might be calling us to step out and walk on water, but He also might want us to just keep paddling.
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