Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thoughts on Negativity

What follows are some thought I had written down a few months ago regarding negativity. In the small group that my wife and I participate in we spent the summer discussing different spiritual issues. One week was negativity and how it adversely affects us. Each week we discussed the topic and shared our thoughts guided by seven questions provided by our group leader. We also had an opening verse each week, which was the following:

"8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." – Philippians 4:8-9

What a beautiful verse to be used when fighting negativity! It is a promise from Paul, the great evangelist that there is always hope, because if we have Christ in our heart then we have something true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy in us!

When I wrote the answers to the following two questions for the exercise I was dealing with a huge decision on whether I should take a temporary job offer that had quite a few negative aspects, but some positive aspects as well. I ended up not taking the job, but here is how the Word of God showed me through the negativity of the moment.

  1. Do you believe negativity/positivity is a choice? If so, why do we choose to be negative?


I am not so sure it is a choice because of the influences we have in this world. For example, this week I have had a great opportunity handed to me by God Himself, and all I have gotten done is drive myself nuts thinking about the potential negative factors about it. It is all speculation at this point, but my brain has done nothing but run rampant at how bad things will be for me if I take this opportunity. Also, another opportunity has come up and with the longer silence that I get from it the more I feel like it was a waste of my time. Since it is a better opportunity than the previous, I want it more but I feel like I won't get it because it is what I want.

Have I chosen to be this negative? No, I have not, but I will admit I have let Satan's influence and doubt run rampant simply because I haven't gotten he answers that I needed exactly when I wanted them. Each minute that then passed where I didn't have an answer was agony, even though there was a very good possibility of nothing negative happening when all is said and done.

In the book of Lamentations Jeremiah wrote about the devastation hat Jerusalem suffered at the hands of Babylon.

    "19I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20I well remember them, and my soul is downcast with me. 21Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. 22Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23They are new every morning: great is your faithfulness. 24I say to myself, 'The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.'" -- Lamentations 3:19-24

This paints a wonderful picture, as if anyone had a reason to feel hopeless, it would the Isrealites after they had been devastated by the Babylonians and shipped off into exile. Still though, Jeremiah has hope in God. He has chosen in this moment to praise Him when he very easily could be cursing Him. He instead sees the Lord as a source of strength and chooses to follow him still.

So, in looking at this I see where indeed it is a choice we make, but it comes from having enough strength to see God's glory in everything. If we don't see the Glory of God in everything then it is very easy to fall into a negative attitude. Remember, Abraham's wife Sarah was barren and old, but she was still able to produce a child in a situation that was hopeless because they had faith. They very easily could have taken a negative attitude, and Abraham even could be argued that he did by taking matters into his own hands. Still, they were positive and God provided for him. It is a hard choice to make at times, but it is a choice we must make.

  1. Is it easier to be positive or negative?


I think it is easier to be negative because the ways of the world are negative. Satan's influence runs rampant in this world, and there are days where it is all we can do to try and overcome it. From my own personal experience I have found that negativity comes in a vicious cycle. When one thing goes wrong, such as a potentially bad piece of news that isn't even a guarantee as I mentioned above, something that is very good can quickly become something that is very bad. I am bad about this, but I can go from hopeful to hopeless in the span of minutes simply because of the way that my mind can wonder off on tangents that are only speculation, but still drive me to the point of terror with negativity.

    "38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is Christ Jesus our Lord." -- Romans 8:38-39.

Personally I find it very hard to be positive when there are so few things to be positive in the world. I see the news at night and I see little more than death and destruction being wrought around the world. What little "good" news they report is usually some vapid fluff piece about who was wearing what in Hollywood and how some useless celebrity was caught on tape eating a sandwich. Most days it seems like there is no hope for the world, and it is very easy to become bitter because of this.

So how do we overcome it? How do we get past our own human frailties when the world seems so crushingly bad that there is little reason to come out of our protective shell. It is something that I struggle with every day and I wonder, as part of that continued negativity, if I will ever find a way to conquer my own fear, doubt, and bitterness. The only way to fight the negativity is with the love, power, and promises of Christ. We must remember that He is with us always, and no matter what we must keep out eyes on him at all type. It is our only hope at making it through this world without being overwhelmed.


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