Thursday, December 20, 2007

More Than Just Positive Thinking

Optimist-pessimist jokes are always good for a chuckle. Usually it's the pessimist who comes off looking bad: "The optimist sees the doughnut, the pessimist the hole." "If it weren't for the optimist, the pessimist would never know how happy he isn't." But sometimes the optimist gets a turn at being foolish:

An optimist and a pessimist both fell off the roof of a thirty-story building. As they plummeted past the fifteenth floor, the pessimist was heard to yell, "Help!"

The optimist yelled, "All right so far."

Which is the more Christian worldview: optimism or pessimism? One would think we should be optimists: after all, we have God's own Word that we can count on eternal life and all things working out for good! Indeed, some Christians talk so much about God's blessings that one wonders if they've read the whole Bible (or all of today's missions news), which also notes the inevitability of problems. But to hear some other Christians, one would think optimism was pure foolishness--as far as this life is concerned, at least. Someone always seems to be pointing to wars, sexual immorality, or "above all offend no one" attitudes as evidence that this world has reached the point where the only thing to do is wait for Christ to come back and burn it.

So should Christians be optimists or pessimists? The surprising answer is neither. Both optimism and pessimism are based on human expectations, expectations that (regardless of what some positive thinkers say) never can fully control what happens. Christianity is based on direct assurance from the One Who does control what happens--assurance that, while "in this world [we] will have trouble" (John 16:33, NIV), we can rejoice and be thankful (cf. 1 Thess. 5:16, 18), knowing that everything will end well. "Everything will end well" is not mere optimism any more than "we will have trouble" is mere pessimism. Either both are fact, or God is a liar.

The Christian ideal is a heart hurting for the pains of this world, longing for (and counting on) the return of Christ, yet joyful in every moment of earthly duty He calls us to.

The optimist says, "It's the best world there is";
The pessimist says, "Just our luck."
The Christian says, "God made all things good,
But they'll be even better above."

The optimist says, "That doughnut looks great";
The pessimist, "Look at that hole."
The Christian says, "God gives daily bread,
Whether doughnut or crust or roll."

The optimist says, "It's a half-full glass";
The pessimist says, "Drink's half gone."
The Christian says, "God has filled my cup,
And His blessings flow on and on."

The optimist, falling, thinks, "Fine so far";
The pessimist thinks, "I'll land hard."
The Christian thinks, "Whether live or die,
My hope is with Christ in God."

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