In my previous post, I think I invented a new word, a word that isn’t found in any of the dictionaries on my book shelves. (If you have a dictionary that contains this word, please let me know. I never wanted to be a word inventor anyway.)
In any case, my newly invented word is “positivity”. Now, I realize by inventing a new word I’m opening myself to all kinds of criticism from linguistic purists, but frankly I really don’t care because I can’t think of a better word that expresses what I want to say better than this newly invented word. I also know that it’s not a word that is actually found in the Bible, I affirm it is like the word trinity. The actual word “trinity” is not found in the Bible, but the concept clearly is. So it is with my word “positivity”. The concept is clearly found in the Bible. By the word “positivity” I’m referring to an attitude that is the opposite of “negativity”. I’m suggesting, as I demonstrated from Scripture in previous posts, that Christians have no reason for being murmurers (Philippians 2:14, 15), complainers, grumblers or gripers. I’m suggesting with clear biblical warrant that Christians have ample reasons for being thankful in everything, for having an attitude of “positivity” as they go through life (I Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 4:2).
Now, please don’t misunderstand me when I say that Christians should have an attitude of constant “positivity”. I’m not referring to what some have called the power of positive thinking which encourages the idea that we should always look (for no substantial reason except that it makes you feel better) on the bright side, that we should without a solid basis for doing so choose to believe that everything is going to work out just fine. Nor am I talking about or recommending that we join the “word of faith” or “rhema” movement in which you verbalize something you want to happen and believe it will come to pass and “presto” or perhaps “antipresto” it will happen. After all, we’re told, words have the power to create when we really believe. God spoke and it came to pass and that means that we who are His children can also speak and if we have enough faith it will come to pass.
Well, that’s not what I mean by an attitude of “positivity”. What I mean is that we need to search the Scriptures to see what our infinite, all wise, all knowing, all sovereign, all loving, all gracious God says is true and then choose to believe God’s interpretations and promises rather than the faulty, finite, limited opinions of human beings. It means that we choose to walk by faith (in God and His infallible Word) rather than by sight, by what we see with our eyes, understand with our minds, and what makes sense to our senses (2 Corinthians 5:7). It means we lean on God’s infallible understanding as revealed in Scripture rather than our own or any other person’s understanding (Proverbs 3:5,6). It doesn’t mean that we become mindless and just take a leap in the dark without any good reason to believe what we believe. No, it means we choose to believe on the basis of good authority (the authority of a God who knows everything and never lies and has revealed truth and reality to us in His Word) all of the things we’ve mentioned in previous blogs as solid reasons for having an attitude of “positivity”.
Most of you reading this post probably know the name Joni Erickson Tada. She’s the woman who was severely injured many years ago when she jumped into a pond (or lake or stream – I can’t remember which) and hit an object that pretty much completely paralyzed her from the neck down. Well, recently I was reading a book she wrote (with the help of others I’m sure in that while she has some, but not much use of her hands and arms). The book was called “Secret Strength”. One of the articles that caught my eye was an article entitled “Surprising” Trials. In that article Joni writes, “I just can’t get used to trials. Every time I get hit broadside with a fresh does of trouble, my first response if, Whoa! Where in the world did that come from? God picked me to handle this?
Like the other day when my van had a flat tire (she has a specially equipped van that allows her to drive). My first thought was, God, you’ve got the wrong person for this one. Remember? This is Joni – the one who’s paralyzed. I can’t exactly hop out, flip open the trunk, grab the jack and spin on a spare! Good grief, I can’t even flag down a passer-by or thumb a ride to a local gas station.
Frankly, I was surprised.
I would have thought God could have given me a trial more in keeping with my limitations. All I could do was sit helplessly in my van and wait for some kind soul to walk by and give me a hand. And wait and wait and wait.
But guess what verse kept floating to the top of my thinking? You guessed it … ‘Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you’ (I Peter 4:12, NIV).
I know I talk a lot about trials, but I don’t really think I get an unfair share of them. We all encounter adversities virtually every day of our lives. But for as many times as I’ve fallen into trials, they still come as a surprise. It seems I would have learned that lesson from reading those verses in Peter so many times. ‘Don’t be surprised … as though something strange were happening…’”
After mentioning that she is sometimes surprised by adversity that comes into her life, she goes on to ask the question: “So why do trials still come as a surprise to me?” And then she gives an answer to that question. She writes, “I’m certain it’s because I forget what I should know.”
In this quote Joni Erickson Tada mentions that in spite of all the reasons she has for not being surprised when trials come, she still is surprised. And by implication she is admitting that she doesn’t always immediately respond with thanksgiving and joy. And then as an explanation for why she doesn’t immediately respond with “positivity” she states that she believes it is because she forgets what she should know. Well, of course, as we have previously noted she is right. Ultimately, we don’t go through life with an attitude of “positivity” or gratitude because we’re not at the time when trials come believing or focusing on the biblical reasons for giving thanks in everything. Instead, we’re focusing on the unpleasantness and pain that we’re experiencing. We’re looking at the circumstances through the lens of our own understanding and senses. We’re trusting our own fallible interpretation rather than God’s infallible interpretation. The result: anger, fear, discouragement, worry, depression, putting pressure on others, looking for unbiblical ways of securing release from the pain and the possibility of a lot of other unpleasant and even ungodly consequences. In diagram form it is EVENT & UNBIBLICAL INTERPRETATION OF AND UNBIBLICAL FOCUS ON AND UNBIBLICAL BELIEFS ABOUT THE EVENT = UNGODLY AND UNPLEASANT EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL RESPONSE TO THE EVENT or it is EVENT & GODLY, BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION OF AND BIBLICAL FOCUS ON AND BELIEFS ABOUT THE EVENT = THANKFULNESS , AN ATTITUDE OF “POSITIVITY”.
That in general is the answer to the question, what is it that hinders us from being thankful in everything (I Thessalonians 5:18). In the next post, I want to mention other specific factors that may promote an attitude of negativity and hinder us from maintaining an attitude of “positivity.”.