Intentional Optimism

Children usually offer a fresh perspective. I had been brushing my youngest daughter’s teeth when out of the blue she asked me: “Mommy, do we have an easy life?”

Life doesn’t always feel easy, but I didn’t want to answer negatively and squash her preciously childlike sense of comfort. On the other hand, I also didn’t want to give her a false impression that life never has its challenges. Sometimes it’s appropriate to just get down to the basics:

“What do you think?” I asked. “Do you ever have to worry whether you have enough food?”
“No.” she answered.
“Do you ever have to sleep out in the cold?”
This question seemed to strike a chord.
“No. I have a nice warm bed . . .”
She wrapped her arms around herself in a warm self-squeeze sort of way, then continued with dreamy appreciation:
” . . . it protects me from frostbite . . . and from tarantulas . . . and from being run over!”

Now, Frostbite I can understand since we are Minnesotans . . . but tarantulas? Being run over? Though these never would have occurred to me, they were obviously an important matter to my then six-year-old daughter, and I could only conclude that she was better off because of it – after all, she had two extra items on her list of thanksgivings than I had considered. She bounced off with renewed joy and contentment in this newfound revelation. Life really is a matter of perspective.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

Life isn’t always easy. Whether it be in our health, our careers, or our relationships, we will have seasons in which joy seems far-off. These are not the times to retreat into our own self-pity, as fun as that may be. And if you’re not dead, then these are not the times to roll over and play as though you are. Rather, these are times for battle. As the enemy tries to gain territory in our thought-life, our choice weapon should be thanksgiving.

Thankfully, God is an optimist. Though He is not ignorant of our shortcomings, His focus is on both our current progress and our potential. Likewise, we need to rein in any negative thoughts and direct them toward anything and everything for which we can give thanks.  Optimism identifies both the present and the potential blessings in our lives.  Optimism is a choice.

I realize that others’ circumstances can be far more trying than most.  And I do not mean to whitewash every situation with a wrong Christian idea that we should remain in a harmful situation, buck up, and give thanks.  If your situation is destructive then please ask God if, when, and how to remove yourself from it.   The prescription does not change even in this, however.  Finding something to be thankful for will give you the strength you need to move forward by nurturing and supporting HOPE.  

1 Thessalonians 5:18 states, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  Similarly, Ephesians 5:20 states, ” . . . always [give] thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Again, this is not to say that we should be thankful for everything in and of itself. Gratitude is not intended for anything outside of God’s will. While we may not be thankful for each circumstance, we can choose to be thankful within each circumstance.

After all, sometimes it’s appropriate to just get down to the basics! My daughter was thankful that she had a warm bed which protected her not only from frostbite but also supposedly from tarantulas and being run over. I can be thankful for that and so much more!  Even if all else fails, I still know One who loves me. I know One who listens to me, One who leads me and never leaves me, and One whose joy is for eternity – Jesus Christ.  That’s enough to fill my jar more than half full!

” . . . my cup runneth over . . .” 
(Psalm 23:5)

Intentional Optimism written by Lesley Rieland

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