Psalm 31:24 – Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. (NIV)
Have you ever been around or spent time with someone who seems to find the bad side to everything? It seems that no matter what comes their way, they manage to find something negative to complain about. They blind themselves to all of the many blessings they actually have in their lives, and focus on what they don't have, or what they do have but don't want. Pessimism is a growing trait in the world today, and we all go through it from time to time. We get depressed and upset because everything does not go our way, or because we don't receive or achieve something we were hoping and planning for.
My wife and I are currently in the process of buying our first home, and it has been quite difficult not to focus on some of the bad experiences and troubles that come along with the whole process, especially when it seems that the majority of people we tell all come back with negative responses. "So you are signing your life away." "Just wait 'til you make that first mortgage payment." "Your whole life will now be consumed by the upkeep and care of your home." "Life, as you know it, is over." These are just some of the common utterances we have heard upon telling people our "good" news. It makes me wonder why these people even bother owning a home. They seem to have forgotten how much of a blessing it really is to be a homeowner. They only tell us about the bad stuff that comes with buying a home. Outside of our family and close friends, no one has bothered to share any of the many joys and blessings that owning a home brings — things like spending a holiday with the family all gathered around one table, or the enjoyment and excitement of decorating a new home, or the peace and quiet of not having neighbours at all four walls, and above. Can't anyone see the bright side of things?
I am reminded of a story that became the motto or theme of a church I attended in Virginia. It seemed that a mother had two young boys of the same age — twins. One of the boys was a constant pessimist. No matter what she did for him or bought for him, it was never good enough. He always wanted more, and complained about what he had. On the other hand, the other boy was an extreme optimist. Nothing ever made him sad or upset. The mother became somewhat disturbed by the behaviour of her children, feeling that such extreme emotions were not healthy for either child. So she sought the advice of one of the counsellors at her local church. After listening to the situation at hand, the counsellor arrived at what he thought was a sure-fire solution. Christmas Day was just around the corner, and he felt he could use this to his advantage.
He instructed the mother to buy lots and lots of new toys and games and clothes, and also to obtain a box of manure. Then, on Christmas Day, she was to place all the wonderful presents in a room with the pessimistic boy, while placing the optimistic child in a separate room with nothing but the one box of manure. The counsellor felt that surely this would bring out good feelings of joy from the boy receiving all of the presents, and a little bit of sadness and bad feelings from the boy receiving the manure. So the mother did as he suggested.
Not long after the two boys had been placed in their separate rooms, the pessimistic boy began throwing a temper tantrum, complaining that he had not received the new robot he had wanted. The mother was distraught, feeling that she would never get through to him. Yet she thought for sure that the plan would work for the optimistic child. To her dismay, though, the boy came running down the hall grinning from ear to ear. The mother asked him "Why are you so happy, didn't you open your present?" — to which the boy replied, "Yes I did, and I just can't wait to ride my new pony."
While this story seems a bit extreme, it holds a lot of truth. There are always things to be thankful for, and things to look forward to, if we do as the psalmist instructs us in today's scripture, and put our hope in the Lord. As long as we keep our hope and focus on Him, and off the things of this world, we will always have something to smile about.
So the next time you feel yourself getting a little pessimistic, take a few moments to consider all of the blessings the Lord has provided. Remember, there just may be a pony waiting for you around the corner!
Prayer: Thank You, God, for the many blessings in our lives. Please give us the strength and faith we need to look beyond the troubles and problems and see the light, which is Your Son. Amen.