Winston Churchill once wrote, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” It is easy to be a pessimist instead of an optimist when living in difficult times. It might be easy, but is it right?
We all have troubles. It is important to realize that the Lord sends us trouble to help us. We read in the book of Hebrews, “The Lord corrects the people he loves and disciplines those he calls his own. Be patient when you are being corrected! This is how God treats his children. Don’t all parents correct their children? God corrects us for our own good, because he wants us to be holy, as he is.”
Trouble is not a good excuse for pessimism. We are tested by the problems that God gives us to overcome. We need to look for the opportunity found in every difficulty, as Winston Churchill suggested. It is such a comfort to realize that the angel of the Lord encamps around and that we are never ever really alone. Notice how David reacted when he was in trouble. He said, “I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities.”
It is not what happens to us but how we respond to what happens to us that either makes or breaks us. We need to cast our cares into the hands of our heavenly Father knowing that he cares for us. With so much financial unrest in the world today, and so many out of work, we take comfort in remembering what the writer to the Hebrews said, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ ” When we lose our job, or savings, or home, and we wonder whether our family will have food, or other necessities, it helps to remember that our heavenly Father knows our needs. Jesus tells his followers that if they seek first the kingdom of God, all these other things will be added unto them. We need to trust God and look for the opportunities that we might have missed otherwise.
God knows what we need even before we ask. He knows all about us, even the exact number of hairs on our head. David was overwhelmed by the fact that the Lord knew when he sat down and when he stood up. David declared, “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. You hem me in — behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”
The apostle Paul had a problem and he did not like it. So he asked God three times to take it away, and the Lord’s answer to him was no. Paul explains, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
None of us likes the problems that we all certainly have. This is no excuse for us to become pessimistic. When we accept that a loving Heavenly Father is allowing them to help prepare us for bigger and better things, then we can take heart and look for those opportunities that we will find in our troubles. Jesus offers us words of encouragement when he says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Paul was certainly no pessimist. He was an optimist who gladly accepted his weakness, since he knew that God loved him and was helping him face with faith and courage the problems that he had. May we follow Paul’s example and “rejoice, inasmuch as we are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, we may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
Robert J. Lloyd