Take Hold of Faith in a World of Despair
I can be a negative person sometimes. Seems like I’ve always had that tendency. I could also say that it seems like I always will, but then that would be negative, and I’m really trying to change.
I’ve found that there are quite a few of us pessimists out there. It isn’t that we don’t believe at all in God’s Word and the hope of His calling; it’s just that we focus on the problems of life—perhaps “obsess” is a better word than “focus”—and spend all of our energy thinking about what needs to change. For many of us, the glass may not always be half empty; it may only be two percent empty. Even so, the two percent becomes our preoccupation.
This has to change. (It’s kind of ironic how I just said I obsess about what needs to change and then admit that my obsession needs to change, isn’t it?) It has to change for me, and it has to change for the millions of other negative believers out there. It has to change because our thinking patterns are not biblical. They are immersed in a distorted experience and the philosophies of this world, and they reflect an ungodly worldview. That may be harsh, but it’s true. Negative thinking undermines thankfulness and praise, two essential elements of the Christian life. We cannot be pessimists and become Christlike at the same time. It just isn’t possible.
We need to take hold of our faith in a world of despair.
I would like to explain that I do not intend to become an insufferable, Pollyanna-ish optimist. There’s a reason that excessive positive thinking is nauseating to most of us: It’s unrealistic and usually fake. No, the kind of optimism that I need to have is firmly based in reality. Let me give you a couple of examples.
AN UNBELIEVING BELIEVER
Many of us easily get caught up in the finiteness of our position in this world. We see screaming needs in our own life and in others’ lives, we see injustice and pain, and we know God has a solution. But we feel helpless and trapped by our humanity, forgetting that humanity should be defined by God’s Word, not by our perceptions. What we need to realize in such moments is that, according to the Word, we who believe are seated with Christ in the heavenly places. We have an eternal point of view and are inhabited by the Spirit of God Himself. Our position in Christ raises us above the schemes of Satan and gives us, the co-laborers of God, the authority of the name of our Savior. Pessimism cannot survive next to such an understanding. Yet it seems to survive in us far too often. Therefore, there’s a problem with our understanding.
Another example is in the area of prayer. Have you ever noticed just how lavish and extravagant God’s promises are with regard to our prayers? It’s almost unfathomable, the explicit and sweeping pledges He’s given us to hang on to when we pray. He has promised answers galore if we will believe and persist. And yet, in our negative thinking patterns, we pray for a couple of weeks and then assume our request must not be His will, or He must not be listening, or there’s just too much sin in our heart for Him to consider our requests. We forget the positive optimism of His Word. He hears, and He will answer. The promise is unequivocal. All we need to do is believe and persist. Certainly we must grow in the meantime, learning about His will and His ways, confessing and repenting of known sin, and falling deeper into love and worship. But that’s easy if we can hang on to the promises. Believe and persist. Faith in a world of despair. If only our pessimism will let us.
None of us are alone in our struggles with grasping the hope of the kingdom. Many Christians live in this tension. The false evidence the world gives us is abundant, and it’s just so clearly visible. We see sin and failure, hopelessness and regret, loss and grief. The devastation of a rebellious planet overwhelms us and causes us to faint. Despair doesn’t just whisper in our ear; it gets in our face with a vengeance. And yet we are not called to despair. We are called to stake our lives on a very promising, positive Word—the reality that speaks to us from above this mess.
GETTING ABOVE THE DESPAIR
Changing our negative perspective is one of the very practical aspects of gratitude and worship. Gratitude focuses on the part of the glass that’s full. Worship compels us to consider who God is and what His plan promises. These practices take us beyond the devices of human wisdom and place us infinitely higher—seated with Christ, filled with His Spirit, at one with His purpose. We begin to perceive the real reality of eternal truth rather than the illusory reality of a fallen world. The negativity that surrounds us and fills our minds is replaced with the promise of a hope and a future, not to mention an omnipotent God who has repeatedly assured us He is on our side.
If you are a person who struggles with negative tendencies like I do, here’s a suggestion: Saturate yourself in God’s Word regularly and thoroughly. Believe it. Even when it seems unrealistic, believe it. Even when it confronts your sincerest perceptions, believe it. Even when it contradicts everything you’ve seen with your eyes, believe it. Whatever it costs, just believe it. Let it change your mind and establish you in the reality from which it flows.
Unquenchable faith in the Word of God is the key to changing a negative obsesser into a faith-filled believer. It will help us see just how full the glass really is. Without it, we are hopeless. Literally.
Immersion in the Word will help us see life the way God sees it. It’s a positively encouraging way to live, and it’s our calling from above.
by Chris Tiegreen
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