Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I'm Optimistic--Even When I'm Sad...

I think it’s really important for us to understand that optimism and sadness are not mutually exclusive. Life is hard. This world is a broken place. Bad things happen. The Bible is crystal clear on this point,

“In this world you will have trouble” (Jn. 16:33).

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (Jn. 15:18). 

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). 

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Mt. 5:11). 

God never candy-coats things. Life is hard and following Christ in a world that in many respects has rejected Him is very often an uphill climb. But difficulties, hardships and even tragedies don’t crush optimism. Indeed, they are the soil out of which optimism blooms! When we’re all with Jesus in Heaven someday, nobody will be writing or reading books about optimism. There’s no need for optimism in paradise. Optimism and its close cousin, hope, are born out of dark times, hard times, painful and desperate times. Optimism is the ability to look past our current hardship and see God’s presence and purpose in the larger picture.

“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later” (Rm. 8:18, NLT).

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16:-18).

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

In each of these passages, I’m sure neither Jesus nor Paul was happy about being ridiculed and tortured. But those circumstances didn’t dampen their optimistic trust in their Heavenly Father one ounce. In fact, those circumstances ignited their faith and fanned the flames of their optimism. Author Tim Hansel was right when he wrote, "Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional.” We can choose joy!  We can choose optimism!  James said it this way,  "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance" (James 1:2-3).

In an interview, Kay Warren, author, speaker and wife to Pastor Rick Warren, said, “Joy” (another close cousin to optimism) “is a settle assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life. It’s a quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright. It’s a determined choice to praise God in all things. And that has nothing to do with feelings. It has nothing to do with what happens to me. It doesn’t matter what goes on… what happens… what doesn’t happen… what I get… what I don’t get… what prayers are answered the way I want. It has everything to do with what I have decided in my mind about God. It’s growing in the settled assurance that I can trust God.”  

When Christ lives in you. His presence does not insulate you from the pain of this life, but it does supernaturally empower you to walk victoriously through it. One of my favorite professors in college was Bob Martin. Bob was my theology professor.  Bob's mind was a resevior of theological concepts and perspectives.  But what made him truly special was the reality that his theology went so much deeper than mere academics. I’ve never met anyone who loved Jesus more or walked more closely with Him than Bob. Whenever you passed Bob on campus and asked, “How are you today?” He was famous for always responding with, “Rejoicing in the Lord.” And when he said it, it rolled off his lips with a sincerity that was utterly genuine.

One day in class Bob was lecturing on subject of suffering. He said a lot of profound-theologian-type of things, all of which I still have captured in my notes in a three-ring binder in my office. But at one point in his lecture the mood shifted from academic to personal as he began to shared about his own experiences with suffering. The lecture became a testimony about Christ’s faithfulness in times of trouble. I don’t have the exact quote, but I’ve treasured and shared my paraphrased version of something he said that day with countless others over the course of my adult life. It went something like this:

Everyone experiences suffering in this broken world, but Christians uniquely have the promise of Christ’s presence in the midst of suffering. We never walk alone. We are never forsaken or abandoned (Heb. 13:5). Our suffering is never pointless or unseen (Rom. 8:28). God is intimately aware of every hurt and every tear drop. 

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Ps. 56:8, NLT). 

Optimism could be defined as a Christ-centered approach to living that magnifies the joys of life and permeates every season of suffering with an empowering confidence that God is walking with us and working for us all the way through! When this mindset takes root in your heart and begins guiding your daily life. You will stand out as an agent of Christ. Your light will shine. And God will use that light to influence the world around you for His glory!

Thanks for reading!  If you were encouraged--remember to share!


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