In 1952, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale published his famous book, The Power of Positive Thinking. In 1953, I was born. What could my parents have been thinking?
Confusing Scripture and psychology, Dr. Peale convinced readers they could "turn wishes into realities." Through statements like, "Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy," he intimated that the power of success and happiness is within you and can be unleashed through positive, happy thoughts. Life can be one big Shirley Temple movie.
There are optimists and pessimists. There are optimistic pessimists, positive everything will go wrong. Murphy's Law ("If anything can go wrong, it will.") is their Golden Rule. Actually, pessimists fare rather well: When things go right, they are pleasantly surprised; when they go wrong, they are not disappointed!
In the context of fixing friendships, peace in prayer, and contentment in every circumstance, the bible says, "Whatsoever things are true . . . honest . . . just . . . pure . . . lovely . . . of good report; if there be any virtue, any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:7-9). Positive people find these values worth pursuing, while negative people give up too quickly or don't think them worth trying. Biblical positive thinking is the essence of faith: Expecting the Word to work.
Faith maintains balance between positive and negative. Faith cannot just look at positive statements in Scripture and ignore the negative. We should not dwell on God's love and forget His anger, or merely characterize Jesus as meek and mild and forget he violently cast out moneychangers. We cannot devour the bible verses we like and scrape the less palatable ones off the plate.
After I taught lessons from Job, many bad things happened (including losing my job, pun intended). Financial, health, family, friend, and church issues surfaced like mushrooms after the rain. Not one to waste good bad circumstances, I studied the problem of evil. I learned many negative principles that provide power to overcome difficulties and nurture hope.
We know positive verses that guarantee long life, healing, answered prayer, etc. When these promises don't seem to work, we question God's goodness. However, by looking at some negative thoughts, we can renew the power to trust God.
We are not out of the woods yet: "The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19). "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world" (Ephesians 6:12).
Sorrows may not leave in this life but will in the next: "In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I (Jesus) have overcome the world" (John 16:33). "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17).
In Hebrews 11, the saints are commended for their faith, yet many were not rescued from trials. We are in good company, especially if we adopt the attitude of Jesus and Job: "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42). "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21). "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15).
I find the power of negative thinking--accepting that trials will not all be overcome in this life--surprisingly comforting. The power of success is not in us but Jesus Christ, who said, "Without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). In the end, "God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4). "Meanwhile, we suffer. Oh-ho-hoh, we suffer" (Yenta, Fiddler on the Roof).
Alan Allegra is a freelance Christian writer in Pennsylvania. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. More articles at Lifestyles Over 50: http://www.lifestylesover50.com/ and the Morning Call: www.mcall.com. Available for writing. LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/alanallegra/
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