In light of today’s escalating trials and pressures, is mere determination and “looking on the bright side of things” enough? Or is there more you need to know? You can truly live a happy, confident, much less stressful life—here is how!
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War, terrorism, genocide, child abuse, rape, murder, hunger, racism, disease, drought, ethnic cleansing, depleted oceans, global warming, pollution, failing economy, unemployment, poverty—this is the world in which we now live. So much widespread suffering and tragedy abound, we often feel powerless and empty.
Add to these the difficulties most people experience in their personal lives: Marital or family problems, massive debt and ever-mounting pressures to keep up with societal expectations. These, and numerous concerns like them, often seem intractable, and paralyze many with fear and depression.
And then there are the day-to-day stresses—from getting the kids ready for school, dealing with your daily commute, to battling office politics—often squeezing out every ounce of joy, replacing it with bitterness and despair.
Is this the way life is supposed to be?
Though most people manage to go on, they find it difficult to stay focused on the positive. So, what is the solution? Is there a way to not just survive—but to thrive—in spite of the perceived problems and injustices in our lives and in the world around us?
Many remember the popular song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Pick up a magazine, go to a bookstore, or turn on the television—what ever the medium, a host of varying ideas on “the power of positive thinking” come at us in all shades and colors.
But, do any of these much-touted schemes and opinions really work?
In spite of all the talk, books and articles promising “sure-fire” ways to be positive in an age of hopelessness, clinical depression has reached pandemic proportions. Most people still feel stressed out, unable to find peace of mind or lasting contentment.
Where can one find true relief?
Many try to think “happy thoughts” or will themselves to be happy or positive, in spite of all the troubles they see around them or pressures they experience. This often leads people to avoid the news or anything that might be a “let down,” causing them to become the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand.
Others give themselves over to risky behavior and habits such as alcohol and drug abuse. They live hard and play hard to distract themselves from the harsh realities of this human existence.
In the Western world, many feel insulated from the horror of what is happening beyond their cozy, tidy neighborhoods. They may feel bad for the less fortunate, and hope that everything will “work out” for them, but beyond this, they do not really like to think much about it.
Yet, some do turn to meditation, exercise or other physical stress-relief techniques to overcome negativity and pressures of life. These are psychological and largely ineffective ways to deal with the symptoms of problems—problems that are spiritual in nature. It is a vain attempt to treat the physical effects instead of recognizing and addressing the cause.
When life becomes too much to bear, hundreds of millions of people turn to religion. They give themselves over to the exotic mysteries of Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and other non-Western religions.
Yet, once their appeal wears off, people find themselves searching for something more.
Hundreds of millions seek the deity of the Catholics, Protestants and other professing Christians. They fall into the trap of simply “receiving”—getting—some long-haired, effeminate “god,” who will make everything in their pitiful lives turn out alright.
However, when personal problems escalate and pressures build and grow out of control, the “Christ” they have been taught to lay their burdens upon is revealed to be spiritually impotent. This is because the churches of this world do not know the one true God. As a result, they do not understand His Master Plan for mankind—the true purpose of why He created human beings in the first place. They do not teach why we exist or what is the ultimate purpose of life.
Often, people end up feeling emptier and more confused than before.
Since simply thinking “happy thoughts” is not enough—since man’s religions ultimately do not bring the relief people desperately seek—where does one find true relief, the kind that lasts?
The religions of men do not have the answers, but the God of the Bible does.
Humanity at large falls into two ditches: People either ignore the Bible, even to the point of openly despising it—or they profess great affection for God’s Word, but do not “live the Book.” Instead, they pick and choose what passages will make them feel good, while largely ignoring the fact that the Bible is an Instruction Book. It teaches mankind how to live.
Not only are both ditches wrong, but people end up cheating themselves from discovering the only true way to personal fulfillment, peace, lasting happiness and the right kind of positive thinking.
A wise man once said that the Bible is the foundation of all spiritual knowledge. God’s instruction manual reveals that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:16). The Bible teaches us how to live and interact with others. One of its many purposes is to straighten out or correct the paths we take in life, helping us to reap the multiple blessings of living the only way that produces real and lasting happiness. As a spiritual mirror, the Bible points out areas where we need to change and grow.
Consider what God’s Word says about the trap of the “power of positive thinking.” This is a form of self-deception—deceiving yourself into believing you are getting “better and better, in every way, every day.” It is also tied to the mentality of attempting to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”—or trying to overcome or improve by your own power. Doing this builds self-confidence and self-reliance.
Notice what the Bible calls people who do this: “He that trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Prov. 28:26)!
God wants all people to live abundant, prosperous lives, filled to the brim with joy (John 10:10). Joy is but one of the nine fruits of God’s Holy Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23). God gives His Spirit to those who actively seek to obey and please Him (I John 3:22).
Have you ever been taught this?
Unfortunately, most have been taught to view God as harsh and His commandments as burdensome. Yet, those who fall for this cut themselves off from the relief—the freedom from overwhelming pressures and surmounting trials that beset all of us, at one time or another.
Thousands of years ago, King David, through a lifetime of experiences, learned to call God’s Word “a lamp unto my feet” (Psa. 119:105). The Bible says the same about God’s Law: “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (Prov. 6:23).
God’s Law, which is based on outgoing love and concern for others (see Matthew 22:36-40), directs every aspect of our lives. It tells us which way to go—how to live—how to avoid life’s potential pitfalls, traps and snares.
And when things go wrong, God’s Word shows us how to deal with trials, sufferings and pressures.
The apostle Paul was one of God’s greatest servants—and he suffered greatly for following God and His Way. Paul summarized his many trials and sufferings in II Corinthians 11:23-27: “…in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent…five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep…in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness…in hunger and thirst…in cold and nakedness.”
Of all people, Paul had a right to complain. Yet, despite the many trials he had endured, Paul’s life was filled with joy! He maintained a positive attitude and outlook on life—why?—how?
Paul saw the big picture. He knew why he was born. He understood the overarching purpose for his human existence. He recognized what most people, even today, do not see: That the trials and pressures we experience in this life pale in comparison to our awesome human potential!
Paul’s letter to the Philippians, often called the book of positive thinking, reveals Paul’s mindset. In chapter four, verse 8, he writes, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.”
In other words, if we focus on the big picture, fully understanding how we fit into God’s Plan, the worries of this temporary human existence are reduced.
Did you know that God knows more about you than you know about yourself? So says your Bible! God knows all that we ever need, and then some. That is why His Son, Jesus Christ, taught that we do not need to overly concern ourselves with the worries and burdens of this life (Matt. 6:25-32).
The key is to follow God’s instruction to recognize and focus upon why you exist, why God has given you life, and what He expects from you.
Putting God and His Way first—letting Him direct your life and protect you during trials and pick you up whenever you fall—is the key to real, lasting peace of mind and security. This is the true way to positive thinking.
Those who do this understand that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Despite feeling overwhelmed in times of great difficulty, we can fully rely upon God. If you put Him first, He will put you first. He has promised to never leave or forsake those who trust Him (Heb. 13:5). And God always keeps His Word (6:18).
With this in mind, remember these words: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).
God wants you to trust in Him, and He wants to bless you with a full life of accomplishment and fulfillment (John 10:10). However, this does not mean that God promises “smooth sailing” through life. He allows tests and trials to come in order to help us grow and build character, which is tied to “seek[ing]…first the kingdom.”
Solomon understood that “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also has set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him” (Ecc. 7:14). God wants all of His servants to learn from adversity and to grow—and to increase our reliance on Him. He knows that when we stay close to Him, we are best equipped to handle whatever comes our way.
But God also offers His divine help: “He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increases strength…they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength…they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa. 40:29, 31). God promises strength to those in need, giving us the optimism we crave for in the face of adversity.
Remember, He does this for those who strive to obey Him, who actively seek to please God with how they live. Those who are led by God’s Holy Spirit, and obey His Word—enjoy contentment and satisfaction. God’s gift of faith gives them the power to find solutions to problems, and to overcome fear, worry and discouragement. They show love, outgoing concern, sincerity and goodwill toward other people, instead of being self-consumed with over-interest in just themselves.
God’s faith alone will not make money grow on trees, or give you an easy quick-fix for every situation. However, it does enable you to absolutely trust God for help. “There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it” (I Cor. 10:13).
Think of the Bible as a treasure chest of promises that God will pour out on you—IF you fully trust and obey Him. Confident that He is on your side, you will not allow obstacles to dictate your attitude or outlook on life.
As Christ explained in Luke 1:37, with God, all things are possible!
(To understand more about God’s Plan for you and all of humanity, read our free book The Awesome Potential of Man.)