Character Trait No. 39
Definition: Mediating upon the most hopeful aspects of any situation
“But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”
A certain general, when confronted by overwhelmingly unfavorable conditions- outnumbered and outgunned by his enemies - once sent a message to his headquarters describing these normally discouraging factors, then surprisingly said that prospects were favorable for an attack! That’s optimistic! Optimistic people see great opportunity where others see only adversity. They see the proverbial silver lining on every dark cloud. Cups are always half-full, never half-empty in their world. Hope springs eternal in the human breast, said the poet, and even more so in the optimist’s heart. They are hopeful, happy people who seem to always land on their feet like cats falling off the roof. How so? Why do two men, both in the same situation, see things so differently? It comes back to character. Optimism is a character trait developed by some and neglected by others.
Pessimists and optimists are made, not born, that way. Look at the following scripture:
“JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.” (Rom.9:13) One would serve the other, not because of works, but because of Him who calls. So why did God call one, the younger, Jacob, rather than Esau? It is true that it was in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand. But read another scripture:
“See that to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it with tears.” (Heb.12:14-17)
We can see from Hebrews that Esau’s character was the issue. We know that he was immoral in marrying two Hittite women – and for what purpose did he wed the two pagan wives? You know the answer. Not for their great character, to be sure. He was also impatient and greedy, guzzling beans in payment for his inheritance. No wonder, knowing that Esau would turn out to be such a fellow, that God had purposed to let the younger man, Jacob, have both the inheritance and the blessing of Isaac. Such was a man to carry on Abraham’s seed and rule over the incipient Jewish nation, not the hairy-chested, impatient machoman Esau.
It is important to note that, as twins, Esau and Jacob had identical circumstances growing up. There could not have been hardly any difference in their upbringing or environment. Nature or nurture ... or the individuals choices – what determines ones “fate”? Three things: CHARACTER, CHARACTER, AND CHARACTER. There is no “fate”. We choose our destinies by the choices we make. God is no respecter of persons. He is ready to bless the just and the unjust. He will back up His word, every single promise ever made, to anyone at anyplace and anytime in history. Without understanding this point, true optimism will only be based on good digestion, abundant sleep and nice weather conditions prevailing. Once life bears down and certain harsh realities rear their ugly head, natural optimism will fade like the morning mist. Or a bold, false front will be maintained, as fake as a judge’s powdered white wig. “I’m O.K, your O.K!” We’re all doing just great here!” says the big fake “optimist” with a professional fake smile for the watching public. No wonder many turn to drugs for chemical help in being “happy” by keeping the blues away.
True optimism is not based on any physical element, but on trust in God’s abilities instead. As a matter of fact, truly the harder things get, the more optimistic a real saint becomes. See what Paul wrote on this:
“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom.5:3-5)
Here is the most essential part of being a truly optimistic person – understanding that the Lord is actually in control, that His Spirit makes a true difference in the outcome of our lives. Since we have received the Holy Spirit as the greatest gift of God to mankind – Himself coming to dwell in us while still in our physical bodies – we are unconquerable. That is exactly what Paul goes on to say in Romans 8. There is no condemnation, and we can now fulfill the requirements of the law through this Spirit, and as sons of God, we know that God causes all things to work together for good. Paul even writes that it was predestined that we become conformed to the image of His Son, that those called by the gospel are justified and then glorified. He powerfully concludes this chapter about the victory of the Holy Spirit by saying:
“For in all these things we overwhemingly conquer through Him who loved us...NOTHING can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom.8:37,9)
Get the picture? Tough times are no longer threatening to our wellbeing, because, as Paul wrote, they “are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Rom.8:18) We can afford to be optimistic because, as Christians, we can take the worse that the world and life can throw at us and come out spiritually on top. Cream rises to the top. Good men get better. Diamonds come out of lumps of coal. Corks float to the top. The quality of our life in Christ is of such a nature that the more we are buffeted by life’s trials, the more we shine. The inner presence of the Holy Spirit ensures this, if only we rely on Him by faith. Trust the Lord – especially when it seems hardest to do so!
So is optimism just a way you are or aren’t by nature, by chance at birth, or is it a choice? Even if some folks might seem to naturally have a more buoyant personality, we still have no excuse for being “down in the dumps” pessimists because the Word has shown you a new you – the new creature in Christ. Now, you’re not just what your mom and dad made you, because you have been born again from above – “who were born, not of blood nor of will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (Jn.1:13)
Thus optimism is not just psycho-babble that can never work in the real world. It really makes sense in light of the above-mentioned verses on God’s great plan to perfect us for eternal glory. There is always happy ending to our personal life stories when we are in Christ, following His divine plan. We need to realize that no matter how bad it gets, God has already foreseen those circumstances and has made provision for us to come out on top. He is Emmanuel – God with us. He lives in us and will enable us to win – every time. He will forgive all of our sins, and make straight what we’ve made crooked. He delivers – every time, on time. (Better than Dominoes Pizzas!) He is never late. He is not stumped by any problem. He cares and is ready and willing to help us win, if we will just exercise a little real faith – as little as a tiny mustard seed.
Here’s what you do:
- Count your blessings rather than focus on your problems.
- Cast your burdens on the Lord and then leave them there – with the Lord.
- Consider the worst, then realize that it probably won’t get that bad, and even if it does, be confident that you and God can still handle it.
So from now on, dear saint, trusting in God - CHOOSE TO BE OPTIMISTIC!