By Joe Chesser
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 circumstances.
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.