Given the recent spasms of violence in our world, I understand why people are cynical and find it difficult to have optimism. But, despite all that we see going on around us, I believe we can dream and hope for a better tomorrow.
What Is Pessimism?
Given our present circumstances, it is easy to wallow in the shallow and murky pool of gloom. But, we don’t want to be pessimists, right? Who wants to be known as Glum from Gulliver’s Travels? You remember Glum. He is one of the Lilliputians who regularly travels with Gulliver in each episode. His name fits because he is pessimistic. He is known for statements such as
We’ll never make it.
It’ll never work.
We’ll never get out of this alive.
Who wants to be labeled dispirited, sulky, despondent, dour, hopeless, melancholy and depressed? I don’t believe people wake planning to be pessimistic. But, I think when we see what’s happening all around us, it is easy to devolve into cynicism. There are some genuine reasons why people lean in this direction. But, before we see why people tend to be pessimistic, let me give you a brief definition of pessimism.
Pessimism is a negative and hopeless attitude, resulting either from viewing the world as being without God or from loss of faith in God.
What Steals Our Optimism?
The Bible indicates that there are several reasons why the virus of cynicism readily infects some people. The Book of Ecclesiastes is one of the clearest places in the Bible which describes why people might become pessimistic.
- The world seems meaningless (Ecclesiastes 1:14).
- Wisdom seems pointless (Ecclesiastes 1:17-18).
- Pleasures seem empty (Ecclesiastes 2:1).
- Work seems vain (Ecclesiastes 2:17).
- The world seems only corrupt and oppressive (Ecclesiastes 4:1).
- Loneliness seems only depressing (Ecclesiastes 4:8).
- Wealth appears to provide no answer (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
- Life seems short and often miserable (Ecclesiastes 6:12).
We Cure Pessimism with Biblical Optimism
The cure for pessimism and cynicism is biblical optimism. Biblical optimism is the ability to face the future with confidence in God. A biblical optimist has faith in what God can do and confidence in what God will do in the future. Therefore, when the world goes dark, our first response should not be fear, panic, or hopelessness. We should practice the three values of biblical optimism.
Confidence in God.
Biblical optimism begins with faith, hope, and confidence in the sovereign God of the universe. He controls the world. Consequently, there is no need to fear, panic or worry. We can trust him to quiet our spirits and rescue us in the midst of chaos, violence, and uncertainty. He will guide us along the right path as we consistently place our hope and faith in him. Faith in God means having a settled confidence in his promises and power (Psalm 25:4-5; Psalm 56:4).
Sometimes, it seems like discouragement and despondency are our constant friends. What should we do? Biblical optimism, many times, expresses itself in continual praise (Psalm 42:5-6). So, when you are discouraged and feeling melancholy, worship God through singing. Sing songs of God’s goodness, power, love, grace, and presence. Singing about who God is, helps us to trust him more.
Confidence in what God can do.
Biblical optimism has faith in what God can do. In the darkness, the Lord is our light, illuminating our lives with hope. When we are in bondage, the Lord is our salvation, delivering us from all our fears. If we need protection, the Lord is our refuge, protecting us from danger. When we pray, he hears and answers our prayers. Therefore, we don’t have to fear, but we can trust and hope in our God (Psalm 27:1-3).
When discouragement is the thick shawl around our shoulders, even then, God will be faithful to us. Therefore, His love never ends, and his mercies are new every morning. Consequently, we can dare to hope in a pessimistic world (Lamentations 3:21-24). He can do the impossible. Our God changes circumstances, and He gives us strength to scale heights that we once thought were impossible.
Confidence in what God will do in the future.
Biblical optimism has faith in what God will do in the future. We can have faith that God will finish what he started in us. God didn’t save us to abandon us. He didn’t save us just to disappoint us in the end. Therefore, I believe one day, Jesus will return. When he returns, he will rescue us from darkness, death, and despondency. At that point, when he fully redeems us, our faith would have become sight (2 Corinthians 5:5-8; Philippians 1:3-6). We look forward to the day when Jesus will turn our mourning into dancing and our sorrow into joy. One day, he will right every wrong and bring righteous justice. Everyone will be aware of his glory and recognize him as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Perplexed But Not In Despair
Therefore, as followers of Jesus, when darkness comes and seems to veil what God is doing in the world, may we rest on his sovereign grace and purposes. Our first response should not be pessimism and cynicism, but confidence in God, what God can do, and what he will do in the future for his people. Because God is sovereign and is always doing something in the world, we can trust in him and hope for a better tomorrow. May Paul’s words wash over our hearts:
But, we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:7-9
In what ways can you practice biblical optimism in your life today?