Ed, my neighbor next door, is a pessimist! When things turn out bad, he is quick to say, “Things always go from bad to worse.” When circumstances are undeniably good, he insists, “It won’t last!”
All December, Ed said, “This good weather won’t last.-By Christmas it will be bitter cold with deep snow.” When the good weather persisted through Christmas and New Years and on into the first week of January, Ed said, “We will suffer for this good weather before the winter’s done.”
I dared to say, “Maybe it will stay this nice warm weather all of January.”
“As likely as me winning the lottery or getting struck by lightning!” Ed barked.
A pessimist is one who believes the evil in life outweighs the good. An optimist sees good ultimately prevailing over evil. Sometimes, a pessimist is said to always expect the worst and an optimist the best. It seems to me, our reality is not just the worst or the best, but a healthy diet of both. When things are going well or undeniably good, the tendency is to forget to be thankful and even come to expect more of the same. When things are bad, the temptation is to complain and act as if we should only ever experience the best. Also, when things are bad, it is easy to lose heart and become discouraged and expect the worst possible circumstances to continue to develop.
The Bible tells us we are not commended for being an optimist or a pessimist, but for the exercise of our faith. The Bible says it this way: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was a wonderful example of faith in spite of what he saw. He did this in a poem he wrote on Christmas Day 1864. Longfellow wrote his poem in the reality of living in the American Civil war and the hate and killing that could be seen in the ongoing war. His oldest son had been killed a month earlier in the war. Yet, as Longfellow’s poem progressed, his faith and optimism triumphed. Now, it is best known as the Christmas carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
May these three verses of the poem inspire us to exercise our faith and be sure of the ultimate triumph of God in peace and good will in His son Jesus Christ:
“I heard the bells on Christmas day their old familiar carols play And wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, good-will to men. And in despair I bowed my head: ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said. ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men.’ Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead: nor does He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men.’”
It has been said that the greatest victories are the victories of faith. It is not so much what we can do that counts, but what we can trust God to do.