The Optimism of Faith, Hope, and Love|
We live in a pessimistic world. Every night, the evening news programs are filled with stories telling us how bad everything is and how it will only get worse. Apparently, these are the stories that attract our attention, for the good news is typically excluded. Many people wholeheartedly believe in Murphy’s Law, which states that if something can go wrong, then it will. Many assume the worst about other people and think that no one can be trusted. Other similar corollaries govern the thinking of many people, and the result is misery, distrustfulness, bitterness, loneliness, hopelessness, and the expectation of nothing but more of the same. What a terrible way to live!
Christians, we must resist such pessimistic thinking lest we get caught up in it and swept away in hopelessness. Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). Pessimism in the life of a Christian does not foster the joy of the Lord, but we do sometimes adopt cynical outlooks on life that steal our joy away. When we do, then we need to step back and reset our minds on the goodness of our Lord so that our joy may be restored.
The three abiding principles of the gospel of Christ indicate that God’s message is one of pure optimism. Consider 1Corinthians 13:13 – “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” What could be more positive and optimistic than faith, hope, and love? With these three principles governing our hearts, there can be no place for pessimism, doubt, worry, and complaining.
Regarding faith, the Scripture says it is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Assurance and conviction about unseen blessings require optimism, and this is why it is difficult for pessimists to be faithful. Optimistic Christians believe that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28) even when circumstances are difficult. Optimism in hard times is a show of true faith, but pessimists will doubt and worry even in good times. Fundamentally, pessimism is a lack of faith in God because pessimists doubt that God will or can do what He has promised. James described a pessimistic, doubting person as “a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (Jas. 1:6-8). Such a person will tend to be downtrodden and miserable, but optimistic Christians rejoice in their faith.
Regarding hope, the Scripture says, “If we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Rom. 8:25). A Christian’s hope is his eager and joyful expectation for the eternal blessings that God has promised. This hope gives Christians such a high degree of optimism that all of the difficulties of this world appear minor in comparison. Paul expressed this when he said, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2Cor. 4:17-18). This optimistic hope is an anchor of the soul that secures Christians during the storms of life (Heb. 6:19). Not even the prospect of death can quench the optimism of one who hopes in the Lord (1Thess. 4:13-14).
Regarding love, the Scripture says that it “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1Cor. 13:7). Love bears all things because it optimistically sees that the burden of Christ is worth carrying (Matt. 11:28-30), whereas pessimism makes no effort. Love believes all things because it optimistically sees beyond the obstacles that create doubt (Rom. 8:31-39), whereas pessimism sees nothing but those obstacles. Love hopes all things because it optimistically assumes the best about every situation (Phil. 4:12-13), whereas pessimism assumes the worst. Love endures all things because it optimistically expects trials to result in a stronger faith (Jas. 1:2-4), whereas pessimism is crushed by hardship. Indeed, optimism finds its greatest expression through love.
If you are despairing over anything in this world, then try to view the source of your anxiety in the context of eternity. When you are a Christian, nothing in this world can take away the joy of your salvation in Christ, and everything else is only a distant, secondary concern. Do not be mistaken – this is not to say optimism cures all problems. Positive-mental-attitude psychology will solve nothing without your applied concern, efforts, and prayers according to the word of God. However, burdensome pessimism can be overwhelming and debilitating. Free yourself from the burden of pessimism, and let the principles of faith, hope, and love abide in your life.
Stacey E. Durham
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