THE WALK OF OPTIMISM II
In the midst of all events and situations there are always (in general terms), two ways of looking at things. There are many reasons why people lean one way of the other but whatever the case, we all register somewhere on the scale between being positive or negative thinkers. The way a person is mentally, emotionally and spiritually “wired” has everything to do with how they respond to circumstances. This may seem obvious however most people do not even realize where they are on the pessimism and optimism scales. Strangely, many who are dedicated pessimist would never suspect they are guilty of actually being one – and this denial makes it even more difficult for them to understand true reality. The defining characteristics of pessimists is that they tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do and that much of it is their own fault. The optimists, who are faced with the same problems, think about misfortune in the opposite way. They see defeat as a temporary setback and that its damage is limited to this one isolated instance. The optimist believes that it does not really matter whose fault it is – Everyday is a brand new day. Such attitudes are unfazed by defeat and when confronted by a difficult situation, they perceive it as a challenge to work even harder. Victor Hugo said, “People do not lack strength; they lack will.” After examining your heart honestly, you can write one thing down that is a divine reality; both ways of thinking are choices we all make and will identify who we are. How do you want to be remembered?
Before we go any further, let us ask how this affects our spiritual life. Are we as Christians supposed to be a constant optimist? Well, I would say yes. The reason for my answer comes from the idea that God is the ultimate optimist. He is perfect in every way and all of His decisions originate from divine pureness. He is omniscient and omnipotent and that alone is cause for us to breathe a breath of relief. Here is a widely known scripture from Romans chapter eight and verse twenty-eight, “And we know that ALL things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purposes.” We see the keys to the success of God’s Word here is first to be confident that His Word is true. “WE KNOW” is saying that we bear witness and are convicted that what He says is spiritual reality. Next, we must include “ALL THINGS” (even those situations that make no sense) into the mix of crisis events. Then we cannot ignore the position of those who “LOVE HIM” and who allow God to use them however He desires. These (real) Christians have bowed down to Him in spiritual humility and submitted their will to Him in everything. This is a perfect illustration of completely “TRUSTING” The Lord with not only your possessions – but also your life! Even if you lose everything you have and end up dying before you thought you would, you are still one hundred percent confident that God is working His perfection through you. You realize that your brain cannot figure out the reasons why and if God does not want to impart His reasons to your spirit, you will just have to ask Him again when you get to heaven. It all depends on where your priorities are when it comes to your love relationship with Father God and Jesus. If you want to selfishly hold on to your things and your plans, you will be more discouraged when God pulls your fingers loose from those idols you hold so tightly. However, if you are focused on God’s beauty and His awesome, holy presence that is filled with eternal love, peace and grace, you will not be discouraged in this earthly realm as long as you KNOW that you are going to worship Him forever. Notice at the end of chapter eight these refreshing words of hope and encouragement, “Who shall separate us from the LOVE of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, IN ALL THINGS we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39) There are many thoughts connected to the idea of being positive and negative minded, and here are a couple of questions:
1. Does being optimistic have anything to do with being born again? Well, I believe there are many people who have a positive way of thinking that have not given their heart to Jesus. In this light, we can see that someone who tries to see the best in everything can also live in a limited capacity of false hope. I believe this is the separation point of those who have a “naturally” happy personality and those who are filled with the Holy Spirit. People who are not born again can only be encouraging in this realm at best, because they do not have the security of eternal life. Christians should be the genuine examples of optimism because they have all of God’s promises in this life and the one to come. However, this does not mean because a person claims to be a disciple of Christ, they are positive thinkers. Being a Holy Spirit led optimist is a “learned”, disciplined way of seeing and a trained way of thinking.
2. Are we to deny that things are bad when they REALLY are? Of course not. Many events are happening in the world and in everyone’s personal lives that are truly horrific. Sickness and death is real, as well as accidents, severe weather, war and terrorism, but the point is there are two ways to process it. Optimist are not living in isolation or closing their eyes to what is real, but rather choose to not crumble or lose hope in the intensity of the suffering. If a person grows old and receives news of a terminal illness, an optimist will remind them of a great life of blessing and pleasure. In addition, if they are a Christian, dying is actually a time to celebrate the homecoming of a brand new glorified life with Jesus, filled with heaven’s marvelous splendor. Divine reality is pure, just and true.
Why is pessimism seen as being such a bad thing? Because at the core of being negative is connected another deceptive snare trap called “helplessness”. This is the state of affairs in which you believe that nothing you choose to do can affect what happens to you. It is true that many things are beyond our control, but there is a vast, unclaimed territory of thoughts that we can pray for to receive understanding and actions that we can try to change. I believe those who habitually believe misfortune is their fault (or destiny) will undermine everything they do and will continue to experience failure because of their own thinking. I also believe this state of mind leads to chronic depression that will prevent us from accomplishing our potential. I also personally believe that pessimistic prophecies are self-fulfilling and can lead to mental, spiritual and even physical illness. How many people have made mistakes or have experienced unfortunate tragedies that caused them to stop progressing with life. When anyone puts his or her life on “pause”, precious time and energy is wasted that could have been used to get back on track and finish the race. The optimist realizes there will be setbacks but never allows discouragement to control them. “To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it. However, we must sail and drift not – nor lie at anchor.” – Oliver Holmes
One ship drives the East, and another the West
With the self-same winds that blow,
It is the set of sails – and not the gales,
Which decides the way to go.
Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate,
As the voyage along through life;
It is the will of the soul, that decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
The world is filled with stories of how unexpected circumstances have forever changed the course of people’s lives. The ones, who viewed obstacles as a negative hindrance to the way they were going, failed to see and missed the hidden door of opportunity. Those who were nonetheless staggered by the storm, yet faced the difficulty with an open mind of optimism, found the key that unlocked the door. Listen to the wisdom of William H. Danforth, “Life is a four-sided affair! There are physical, mental, social and spiritual adventures. You have not just one, but four lives to live – a four-fold opportunity to grow. A body, brain, heart and a soul and these are our living tools. To use them is not a burden – it is a golden possibility to become an overcomer. The capacity to succeed is not robbing you of any pleasures – but it is bringing new treasures into every moment. God desires to help you touch life at all angles absorb strength from all contacts and pour out His power on all fronts. Through the four sides of life, there is a spiritual principal; the more you pour out, the more you find to pour! But, the more of this world’s treasures you keep to yourself, the less you have.” Sharing with others is letting go of selfishness. There is spiritual peace when we give to man as a fruit of our love to God. I believe that if you DARE to give yourself away physically, mentally, socially and spiritually, the Lord will multiply your fruit a hundred fold. We give our life away and to His glory and divine purpose, a richer life comes back to us! Endless joy is found when we love him so much that we lay all that we have at His feet. Pessimism is an automatic default setting in our brain and nothing is easier than to drift along in life being miserable with selfish, negative thinking. It is never too late to become the person God is waiting for. It is sad that few believe – but that does NOT diminish who God is! Selah.