Friday, September 19, 2014

Positive Thinking Isn't Enough

The Dalia Lama wrote:

"If your mental attitude is positive, even when threats abound, you won’t lose your inner peace. On the other hand, if your mind is negative, marked by fear, suspicion and feelings of helplessness, even among your best friends, in a pleasant atmosphere and comfortable surroundings, you won’t be happy."

This makes a lot of sense.  In fact, it seems to be so much common sense that my intial reaction is, "No $#@t."  But it misses something significant.  The question is really... do you have an objective foundation upon which to have true hope in the fact of threat and adversity, or is this merely an exercise in positive thinking?

I confess... my hope is not found in the idea that God is going to fix everything for me.  I've been through enough in my still relatively comfortable life, compared to many in other times and parts of the world, to know this. 

However, my hope is found in a God who will bring about what He has promised.  He will be there with me in suffering.  He will not let me go.  He will bring about a new age where everything is made right.  He will usher me into His kingdom forever.

When we have this hope, the inner state of our mind is not so much a matter of positive versus negative thinking as it is about faith versus unbelief.

Still, more comes to mind with this, for I can see how this kind of thinking lends itself to the idea that the goal of life is never to feel negative thoughts.  I agree that we ought not dwell in the negative, for it steals out joy and ability to enjoy the blessings given to us.  However, we should not buy into the false idea that life is going to be happy all the time.  I believe Christians fall into this, too.  We are looking for a theology of happiness, or at last a doctrine of numbness.  But what we fail to realize is that pain, distress, sorrow, grief, mourning, and even things like distrust and fear are normal experiences in a fallen world where our hope is NOT to be found.  This is why our hope looks ahead, ahead to an age to come.  There is no solution to the problem of pain and unhappiness in this life, but what we can have it hope -a hope which enables us to endure while remaining expectant and even joyful for what lies ahead.

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