Read here how to face life's cares and stresses. It does take more than mental gymnastics.
"YOU OUGHT to be able to write on being positive," said the editors of this magazine when the staff asked me to write this article. "After all, you just got engaged!" The fact is, right now I'm having difficulty being positive. Yes, I am engaged to be married in little less than two months. But I just found out this week that my only car — a 1966 Volvo — threw a rod into the block. In other words, the mechanic says, I need a whole new engine. Great news, particularly as every penny my fiancée and I have is devoted — make that was devoted — to the wedding, honeymoon, apartment and so forth.
Life Does Get Tough
For most of us, life gets tough at one time or another. Each day a barrage of petty troubles — and some not so petty — lies in waiting, ready to explode upon us as soon as we get up in the morning. Devastating things can happen: personal unhappiness, family tragedy, business failure. These circumstances infect the mind, gnaw at the emotions and threaten to destroy the heart of a person. Workers may begin a business day enthusiastically, but after brusque criticisms from colleagues, bosses or just fellow drivers on a crowded highway, the day degenerates, producing a negative frame of mind. At home we read newspapers or watch television news filled with distressing stories about rapes, child abuse, theft and other crimes. If that's not bad enough, we find areas of the worldwide economy in uncertain straits. Add to that the ever-present threat of nuclear war. Meanwhile, our bodies are growing older, the car more decrepit, the savings account thinner. What a negative picture! Yet it need not be this way. Life, of course, has its peaks and valleys. It's hard not to focus on troubles of the moment. There is, however, reason to be really positive! And it doesn't involve a contrived, artificial, pie-in-the-sky frame of mind.
More than Positive Thinking
The common panacea for defeating negativism, according to some books and magazines, is to force your mind to think positively. Just shut out the negative, they tout. You need only to realize how fortunate you are, that for the first time in all the difficult centuries of humankind you no longer need to work from early morning until late at night, six days a week, just to earn enough to keep food on the table. This article, by contrast, points to something that supersedes the realm of merely telling yourself, "Everything is going to be all right," or, "You can solve all your problems on your own." There is, fortunately, one true source of spiritual knowledge about everything pure, good, uplifting and positive. That is the Bible. It reveals knowledge essential for man. The Bible is an instruction book by our Maker. It teaches that the first man, Adam, rejected the laws of God that give purpose to life. Ever since, the human race has been engaged in the futile quest of trying to discover a way of life that will bring lasting peace and happiness. If we analyze the contents of the Bible as the foundation of knowledge we find the example of King David, who, despite constant adversity, refused to despair and give up his faith in the Almighty God. Yet it wasn't David's faith — it was the faith of God in him! Young David before he became king was often fleeing for his life, once eluding an army of 3,000 highly trained commandos commissioned to track him down and kill him (I Sam. 26). When in peril David didn't talk himself into looking on the bright side. He relied on God for help because he knew God was with him. And herein lies the key to being positive — having the faith of God. Without faith the natural mind will remain selfish and negative. Even when David made mistakes a totally loyal and faithful God stayed with him. Why? Because David was always sorry for his mistakes and sins. He always repented of his sins — and changed. David was a positive thinker — God's way. "I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved" (Ps. 16:8, Revised Authorized Version throughout). Notice the feeling and emotion David put into that statement — "I shall not be moved"! David's confidence in God rather than himself carried him over, around and through the mountainous obstacles in his life. Because he prayed often and thought about God's laws continually (Ps. 55:17; 1:2), he thought positively. Yet that wasn't all.
Life Must Have Purpose
David kept his mind focused on his purpose in life. He knew that humanity was put on earth eventually to become God's very own sons, one day to rule over earth's nations as ever-living spirit beings (Ps. 2:7-8). God revealed to David that if he chose to obey God, he could live forever (Ps. 23:6; 36:9; 89:28-29; 149:4)! Talk about motivation! No wonder David praised God so intensely. He realized God alone possesses by nature eternal life (Ps. 62:2, 5-7). And man can partake of that same nature! David's afflictions and troubles, though harrowing and upsetting, were ameliorated by trust and confidence in God. The Psalms aren't just reserved, quiet chapters designed to rock you to sleep. They describe David's heartfelt thoughts. In Psalm 27:3 David trusts God absolutely to deliver him. "Though an army should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this I will be confident." We may have this same faith today to carry us through our daily problems and tests. Yet this faith cannot be conjured of oneself. It is strictly a gift from God (Eph. 2:8). Let's look at a New Testament example. The apostle Paul suffered more trials and tests than most of us ever will. Paul was beaten with rods and lashed with a cat-o'-nine-tails, stoned, imprisoned, lost at sea, shipwrecked, robbed and went without food and water (II Cor. 11:23-28). Paul too had the vision. He, like David, knew his purpose in life. Hence, with God at the controls, he could confidently proclaim: "All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28). True, Paul at times had difficulty being positive (Heb. 12:11), but he knew God would never forsake him (Heb. 13:5). "We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed" (II Cor. 4:8-9). There is also a who's who of Bible personalities whose faith was alive! It's in Hebrews 11. They relied on God to shoulder their burdens. They realized that if God could be for them, then who could possibly be against them? (Rom. 8:31.) Where does that leave us? Just as God promised never to forsake David, Paul and others, he promises not to forsake us either, if we turn to him and live a different, positive, obedient life by the faith of our Savior, Jesus Christ. That begins with deep, sincere repentance like David expressed in Psalm 51. Then comes laying aside your old ways and habits symbolically in water baptism. God then promises you the receiving of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). Problems are necessary building blocks of life — even a life led by the Spirit of God. We read: "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (I Pet. 1:6-7). Trials, then, strengthen our character. When we think life has dealt us a rotten hand, that the road is too rough, all the canty, pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps thinking in the world won't work — at least not for very long. Without the premier purpose and direction in life — that we were created to become God — humans have only this uncertain, temporary life in which to place hope and confidence. Through his Spirit, God transmits precious faith that enables one to rise above the threat of nuclear genocide, crime and other perils. To the righteous God pledges: "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all" (Ps. 34:19). "The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am'" (Isa. 58:8-9). With such monumental promises from God, the true Christian can radiate a cheerful optimism even in adversity. Former U.S. President Gerald Ford touched on that optimism in a speech he made shortly after leaving office in 1976: "It is not an easy transition, but with the help of one's family and friends and with the conviction that God works His own purposes in each of our lives, it is easier to see that leaving the White House is not the end of the world but simply the beginning of a new chapter in one's life." God has promised to provide faith from above that gives hope and encouragement even through the toughest of times. "He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint" (Isa. 40:29-31).
God Wants the Best for Us
God wishes that we live an abundant life of accomplishment and fulfillment (John 10:10), yet not without tests and trials. I recall the faith expressed by my father. When I was about 14, he deeply desired to live in the country, a choice 40 acres of land in East Texas, with plenty of room to graze Hereford cattle and a pond to raise ducks. At the time, we lived in tract housing in a small town, which, although pleasant, was a town, nevertheless. he longed for the country life. Somehow he knew God would provide and told me later he prayed earnestly for a promise found in Psalm 37:4: "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart." Our family regularly visited "our" land. "Here's where we'll put a house," I remember my father saying confidently. "Over there we'll dig a well. We'll build our own sewage, system." The only problem — the land wasn't for sale. My father had to convince them to sell it. He trusted God in intense prayer. While the owner took weeks to decide, we loaded a truck with all our earthly possessions and stacked them under the largest pine tree on the land. "Sometimes you have to step out in faith," my father said. Though the owner finally agreed to sell, I remember a delay in escrow came next. My father remained unflinching, looking to God. The following week my father moved a three-bedroom trailer onto the land, in faith that all the legal and financial proceedings would follow through., He did build a well and sewer, and we raised cattle on that land for almost 10 years. Eventually the trailer was replaced with a brick house. My father's faith — given to him by his Creator — has proved inspirational to me many times since. True Christians — those who possess God's Holy Spirit and live by every word of God — enjoy contentment and satisfaction. To them God gives powerful faith to find solutions to problems and to drive out fear, discouragement and worry. They radiate cheerfulness and smiles. They show love, sincerity, vigor, calm and goodwill toward others, instead of being self-conscious with so much overinterest in themselves. Back to my Volvo. Faith alone will not replace my engine nor cause the sky to rain money. But Christ's faith does enable me to trust God absolutely for help. "But God is faithful, who will not allow you to be [tested] beyond what you are able, but with the [trial] will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it" (I Cor. 10:13). Since God cares for birds, animals and flowers, he promises to surely care for us if we obey him (Matt. 6:25-34). If you truly believe God's written word — the Bible — obstacles won't dictate your attitude, for that living, practical faith will never fail you. It would be easy to become discouraged and depressed — even give up — if one didn't have anything to live for, if one didn't believe God who guarantees that with him nothing will be impossible (Luke 1:37).