If you were to tape record the conversations of most people, what do you think you would hear coming from their lips, mostly positive statements of thanksgiving or negative statements of complaining and dissatisfaction?
Or, to make it more personal and specific, if you were to keep a record of everything you say during the day time, would the percentage of words you speak come out in favor of a positive slant or negative slant? I don’t know about you, but I’ve been personally challenged and convicted by that question especially in the light of I Thessalonians 5:18 which says that we are to give thanks in everything.
Unless I’m way off base I think the negative stuff I hear coming from the mouths of most people far outweighs the positive statements of thankfulness. To me this is problematic for many of the reasons that we’ve discussed in previous blogs. As a person who has been involved in biblical counseling for over forty years I know that identifying what a problem is and why a problem exists are important parts of solving the problem. You can’t rightly prescribe a good solution unless you understand the nature and causes of the problem. I’ve thought long and hard about the causes of this negativity phenomenon and drawn some conclusions. I’ll share some of these conclusions with you in the next couple of blogs.
Think about them and see if you agree with me or perhaps you’ll come up with some additional reasons why we, even as Christians, are more prone to be negative rather than positive. As evidenced from the previous blogs on this subject, one thing is certain: our proneness to negativity is not due to a lack of reasons for positivity. Take a refresher course in reasons for positivity by reviewing some of our more recent blogs. (And thanks to Chris who informed me that I didn’t make this word up in that the word “positivity” is found in the online dictionary. So don’t bother writing to us and telling us that there is no such word. Yes, there is. Dr. Chris affirms that there is and I believe him.) Anyway, here are some of my conclusions about why we are so prone to negativity. (*Acknowledgment and gratitude is given to Dr. John MacArthur for nudging me in the direction of some of these conclusions.)
One reason that some people are not continuously grateful to God may be due to the fact that they are not really Christians. We noted according to Romans 1:21 and 2 Timothy 3:2 one of the distinguishing features of non-Christians is that they do not honor God and are not grateful to Him. If they are thankful at all they are thankful to themselves or to other people; they are thankful for some things, but not all things; they are thankful at some times, but not at all times. Their thankfulness doesn’t go any further than that.So a proneness to negativity may indicate that a person has not been regenerated (John 3:3; Titus 3;5,6). Perhaps they had some emotional spiritual experience and nothing more. If a person can't find in his heart an endless cause for thanksgiving, then maybe that person doesn't really have a new life. And what that means is that if anyone has problems giving thanks in everything, they ought to do as 2 Corinthians 13: 5 says and examine themselves to see if they are in the faith. Moving beyond that, let me give you a second thing that can hinder our gratitude and that is that our thankfulness to God may be hindered by doubts or misunderstandings about God. If a person doesn’t think God is really in charge, if a person is ignorant about that or doesn’t really believe it, if a person is not sure God is really all wise, if a person is not sure He knows everything about everything, if a person is not sure He really loves him as His own, if a person is not sure He really has his best interests in mind, if a person is not sure He's using circumstances to conform him to the image of His Son, if a person doesn't understand who and what God is and what His purposes are, then he may not be thankful. Or, if a person does understand these truths about God but tends to forget them as he faces struggles in life, he may be hindered from being a thankful person. On the other hand, if he knows about and believes that God is wise, powerful and loving he has every reason to be thankful. If you know God's power is at work in your life and circumstances, God's wisdom is at work in it, God's purpose is at work in it, God's love is expressed through, it you have every reason to be thankful. But if you doubt that, you're going to have a problem being thankful.
Unfortunately, there are some well-known counselors who tell people that there are times when you need to get angry at God. They tell them to let it all hang out; that God is big enough to handle it. They tell them that there are times when you need to get angry with God; they tell them that it's good to vent your anger. They tell them to blast away; let God have it. In reality, these counselors are encouraging people to sin because the Bible says in Prov. 29:11that a fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back; Proverbs 10:19 asserts that “when there are many words transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” Proverbs 16:32 instructs us that “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” Psalm 141:3 teaches us that we should constantly be praying, “Set a watch before my lips; keep the door of my mouth.” And Psalm 19:14 reminds us that it is a wise thing to pray, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer.” The words of Matthew 12:36 certainly refute the error of spewing out venomous remarks to God when it tells us that we will give account for every careless word we have spoken and that our words will either demonstrate that we are justified or unjustified before God. Surely, God is big enough to handle it, but is that really the issue? Isn’t the issue more what lashing out against God rather than “giving thanks always” tells me about my heart, about my view of myself, about what I think I deserve, what I think about God and what I think about the Gospel which is a message for sinners who deserve nothing but hell. When I asked a friend of mine who was dying at age 58 from prostate cancer why in the midst of his pain and suffering he had an attitude of positivity, he answered my question in this way, “I’m not grumbling and complaining because I know that if I got what I deserve I would have been in hell a long time ago. I know that anything short of hell is more than I deserve. Besides I believe what the Bible says about who and what God is. And I believe what the Bible says about heaven.” This man knew and believed the great Bible truths about God and himself and his future and this sustained in him an attitude of gratitude. Instead of meditating on the awfulness of his situation, he meditated on the character of God, the message of the Gospel and the promises of God about his future. Did this mean that he was some kind of masochist who enjoyed his pain? No, but it did mean that his biblically based convictions and focus on God, himself and the Gospel kept him from being overwhelmed by negativity and sustained in him an attitude of positivity. Others (unfortunately including some of us – me at times), either do not know, believe or focus on what the Bible says about God, us and the Gospel and as a result we lack that attitude of gratitude when faced with difficult circumstances. So, in my judgment, that’s the second reason why people are more apt to negativity rather than positivity. In the next blog we’ll spell out more reasons.
We welcome any of your ideas. Join us in exposing and hopefully counteracting negativity by making a comment. Remember, you can’t rightly solve a problem unless you rightly define its natures and causes. And one other thing, if you think there is any merit to what we’re presenting in these posts, tell somebody else to tune in at www.themacks.wordpress.com .