In a recent post on sin, I emphasized that optimism or pessimism keeps us focused on ourselves: either our capabilities or our failures. I advocate instead for biblical realism, with a focus on Christ.
This recent secular article has a related theme: The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking. Research shows that those who are too positive in their thinking actually end up less successful, as they don’t try as hard to succeed…apparently assuming for only the best. Here is an excerpt from the article stating another negative aspect of positive thinking:
“Ceaseless optimism about the future only makes for a greater shock when things go wrong; by fighting to maintain only positive beliefs about the future, the positive thinker ends up being less prepared, and more acutely distressed, when things eventually happen that he can’t persuade himself to believe are good.”
While this is a secular article, I think the Bible teaches something similar. Christians should already know this, yet many don’t seem to – or at least their personal theology does not reflect it.
As believers, we are living in what is sometimes called “the already but not yet.” We are living after the first coming of Christ, but before the second coming of Christ. We have received salvation but not in its fullness yet. That day is coming. We still live in a fallen world awaiting the final redemption.
We are living in a time of tension, and this should give us a realistic view…of our own spiritual capabilities, and of what life may bring our way. We may be new creations in Christ, but our old sinful potential is there. While there are positive promises of blessing for the believer, there are also promises of hardship. We aren’t exempt from the repercussions of life in a fallen world.
I’ve observed a variety of problems when Christians fail to live with a sense of this “already but not yet” tension. For example, they fall into sin that might have been avoided if a more cautious view had been maintained. Or doubts and discouragement lead to rejection of faith when bad things happen in life.
This post is not advocating pessimism, but a healthy realism born of faith. We need to rest in our future hope of Christ’s return and the renewal and redemption of all things. Look to Christ – that is where our ultimate HOPE (and power) lies.