When your cup runs over, is it a blessing,
or a mess? Is your glass half full or
half empty? Do you make difficulties out
of your opportunities, or opportunities out of your difficulties? Are you the kind that complains about the
noise when opportunity knocks? Do you
claim to be an optimist who doubts that being one really helps?
While reading Psalm 23 it occurred to me
that King David was a true optimist. He
wrote things like: “I am never in need
... green pastures ... peaceful waters ... paths of righteousness ... my cup
overflows ... even though I walk through the dark valley of death, because you
are with me, I fear no harm ... your rod and staff give me courage.” His faith in God enabled him to overcome
obstacles that would probably derail the faith of most of us. His trust in God allowed him to see winning
possibilities in the most horrible circumstances. Remember how he faced a lion, a bear, a
giant, and a mentally unstable king?
Remember how he faced the death of a child, and rebellion from within
his own family? His faith in God
empowered him to live with optimism and assurance of victory.
When faced with setbacks and difficulties,
our reactions reveal whether we are people of faith and optimism, or people of
pessimism and defeat. There are three
basic differences in the way optimists and pessimists react to adverse
The first is that the optimist sees a
setback as temporary, while the pessimist sees it as permanent. When David’s infant child died, he saw it
only as a temporary separation. Even
after praying and fasting that the child would not die, his faith in God never
wavered. He could not bring the child
back, but he said, “I will go to him” (2 Sam. 12:23). Even death is not permanent for those with
faith in God.
The second difference is that the optimist
sees difficulties as specific, while the pessimist sees them as pervasive. David’s sin with Bathsheba was not allowed to
destroy his whole life and eternity. He
messed up big time, but he dealt with it as the specific sin it was, repented,
and went on to live as a man with the heart of God. His failure with Bathsheba broke his heart,
but it did not cause his whole life to be a failure.
The third difference is that optimists view
events as external, while pessimists interpret events as personal. King Saul’s repeated attempts to kill David
was seen by David as rebellion against God, not him personally. He would not
raise his hand against Saul because he still saw him as the Lord’s
anointed. Difficulties are most often
simply external circumstances, not personal attacks.
It's a timeless challenge to be more like
David, to learn from him how to live by faith and optimism, to see the setbacks
in life like a man who had the heart of God.