On a very hot day, our electricity went out and stayed out for several hours. By the time it was dark, my wife had candles all over the house. “Now isn’t this cozy and romantic?” she asked. I groaned, “Somehow, it hasn’t hit me yet.”
Two people can have exactly the same experience and react miles apart. It’s like seeing the glass half full or half empty. It seems that some people are born in the “objective case” and see the glass half empty. All of us make choices daily on how to react to any given situation. Do you know someone who is negative about almost everything? Like the woman who was sick and her friend asked her how she was doing: “I’m a little better now,” she said. “That’s good,” her friend smiled. “Oh no, I’ve discovered that I always feel worse after I get to feeling better,” moaned the woman. We can “awfulize” any situation to the point of illness.
One of the most dangerous forms of negative thinking is to be “in denial” of an addiction that you alone can correct. How many marriages end in divorce because of denying a habit one may have? When you deny the truth about yourself instead of admitting you need help, life can fall apart in a hurry.
Negative thinking is like a poison that reaches into every part of being. Norman Vincent Peale advocated positive thinking all during his ministry, and the longer I live, the more respect I have for him. Good mental and physical health depends upon positive thinking. There is nothing “Pollyanna” or “hiding your head in the sand” about it. It’s choosing to find something good in every situation, and acting on that belief.
I was so impressed with a Boston Marathon runner who lost a leg in the bombing. He said during an interview, “I still have so much to be thankful for. And even though I lost a leg, I can still see, and taste good food, and enjoy my family and friends. And one day, I’ll run again.” He is making the best out of a bad situation.
If there is one thing that stands out in reading the Scriptures, it is that no one can use the power God gave you. Some people use this power—this ability to overcome an addiction or to persevere while others sink in despair. When the Disciples asked Jesus about how many times to forgive, Jesus answered, “I don’t say seven times, but seventy time seven.” Living with a grudge can sap your strength as well as having an impact on your blood pressure, etc. Positive thinking makes good blood.
According to an old Hindu legend, there was a time when all people were gods. People abused their divinity, so the chief god decided to take away their divinity and hide it. Where? Deep in the ocean? No. High on a mountain? No, it can’t be found there either. They decided to hide it deep inside human beings, because they will never think to look for it there. Ever since, we have been climbing, digging and diving for something which is already inside. Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs, but the Kingdom is within.” The Kingdom means fulfillment, happiness and peace.
During the days of Jesus, people looked for signs outside themselves for God. I confess that I have, on occasion, asked God to give me a sign. But Jesus gave us this insight, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful…” and so on. See Matthew 5 for the full Beattitudes.
Another thing about positive thinking is that it helps us to grow. We have the power to change and to follow our dreams in life. Some folks take the opposite side by playing the “blame” game. We can blame our circumstances on our upbringing; or bad luck. We can play “If only…”, or “What if…”, or “If it hadn’t been for her/him…”
We also need to stop thinking that we have to be perfect to live in God’s Kingdom. Jesus looked at the imperfect Pharisees and said, “The Kingdom is in your midst.” In other words, we can live in the Kingdom as a sinner, as long as we don’t accept our sin as something that defines us. We need to accept our humanity. Jesus was human, tempted as we are. They accused him of being a wine bibber, a glutton and one who healed on the Sabbath. Yet, his positive outlook on life helped him to forgive those who put him on a cross.
Finally, I think about Joseph in the Old Testament. He had every reason to be bitter and revengeful. He could have let hatred eat him up, because his brothers sold him into Egyptian slavery. Yet he was optimistic enough to turn a bad situation into something good (Genesis 37). Joseph’s dreams came true and he became a ruler in Egypt.
So beware of negative thinking. It certainly can pull you down…way down. These days call for a strong faith in the power of God, plus the power of your willpower. I close with the words of the late Grace Sandefur, who lived into her nineties: “I cast my bread upon the waters and it came back bread.”