Better Than Optimism

Bob RoaneJesus Christ, Joy and Peace, Loving and Trusting God, Prayer, Praise, Worship, Psalms

I trusted in the Lord when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.” In my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.” What shall I return to the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. (Psalm 116:10-13)

Do Optimists Live Longer?

Faith in God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is better than secular optimism. Faith is trust, reliance, and dependence upon a real Person, our Creator, Upholder, and Savior, the Lord of the Old and New Testaments. Psalm 116 is about faith in God, but Christians can still learn something from secular optimists.

One new research study shows that people who look on the bright side might live up to 15% longer than pessimists. One key seems to involve the body’s stress response because chronic stress can lead to inflammation which can cause many diseases. Compared to pessimists, the most optimistic people say they sleep better and longer, and are less likely to be sleepy during the day. The study says that optimists are more likely to engage in active problem solving and to interpret stressful events in more constructive ways. They can find something positive, even in the worst situations and experience less depression, anxiety, and panic disorders.1 Faith in Christ should help us do the same.

Christians are not spared from troubles and hardships.2 We struggle against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil.3 But we still cling to the Lord Jesus, knowing that His right hand upholds us.4 Christ commands us not to worry or fear, but to pray and give thanks in all circumstances.5 Christian optimism trusts our sovereign Heavenly Father who promises that our future with Him will be infinitely, eternally, and unchangeably better than our present.6

In recent posts, we’ve been looking at Psalm 116 which King David begins by saying, “I love the Lord, for He heard my voice.” The rest of the Psalm describes love for God who first loved us. This post builds on I’ll Hasten to His Throne, Love for God Should Drive Us, and Rest in the Lord.

We Love the Lord, So We Trust Him, Not Other Saviors (Verse 10-11)

Scripture: I trusted in the Lord when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.” In my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”

Comments: King David trusted God in his time of deepest distress. And he pointed ahead to Jesus who demonstrated the greatest faith all during His life, especially on the cross and in the events leading up to it. The Apostle Paul used verse 10 from the Greek Old Testament when he wrote, “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to Himself.”7 Psalm 116 was true for King David, for King Jesus, for Paul, and for us to use, helping us to trust the Lord when we are hard-pressed. Whatever goes wrong in this life, Christ promises that His followers will share in His resurrection.8

The phrase “Everyone is a liar,” is hard to explain. King David was betrayed by his friends and even by family members on multiple occasions. Christ was betrayed, denied, and abandoned by His disciples and friends, but He forgave them rather than rejecting them.9 In verse 11 King David said that he was alarmed or anxious when he spoke, maybe realizing that his judgment of others was too hasty and harsh. Surely the Lord’s words in Jeremiah are more balanced on this subject.

A Parallel Passage

Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land. But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit. (Jeremiah 17:5-8 NLT)

This passage is similar to Psalm 1. All human beings have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But the Lord examines us and differentiates sinners who repent and return to Him from those who refuse to come back to God. None of us are righteous in ourselves, but Christians trust that Jesus Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness. By Christ’s wounds we are healed in our relationship with God.10 When we sin, we have an Advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.11 Jesus is our solid foundation for optimism.

We Love the Lord, So We Are Grateful to Him (Verse 12-13)

Scripture: What shall I return to the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.

Comments: Thankfulness to God made King David consider what return he could make to the Lord who had so generously shared His goodness, kindness, and love with him. David reminds me of the one grateful leper among the ten Jesus that healed.12 David wisely wonders why God had been so good to him instead of why he had problems. He is practicing Christian optimism, remembering that troubles come to all people, but God’s blessings often belong only to those who trust Him. C. H. Spurgeon said: “The Lord’s benefits to us in Christ are so many, so various, so minute, that they often escape our observation while they exactly meet our needs.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to practice Christian optimism and to rejoice in you always and pray with thanksgiving. Help us not to be anxious about anything but to think about and put into practice whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Give us the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, to guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.13

To be continued

Notes (various Bible translations): 1 Robert Roy Britt, “Optimists Live Longer,” (8-27-19).     2 John 16:33; Acts 14:22.     3 Eph 3:12.     4 Psalm 18:35; 41:12; 63:8; 73:25; 143:6-7.     5 Phil 4:6-7; 1 Thess 5:16-18; Psalm 3:6; 23:4; 27:3; 34:4; 46:1-2; 49:5; 56:3.     6 Rom 8:18; 2 Cor 8:8.     7 2 Cor 4:13-14.     8 John 11:25-26; Rom 6:5; 6:17.     9 Luke 23:34; John 20:19-29.    10 1 Peter 1:24-25.     11 1 John 2:1-2.     12 See Luke 17:12-19.     13 Prayer based on Philippians 4:4-9.