A little book with the title Nine Things Successful People Do Differently, listed one of those things as being a realistic optimist. To back up the claim, the author cited research that indicated the role of an optimistic / pessimistic mindset amongst people who were dieting.
The research concluded that those who believed they were going to lose weight were more likely to lose weight than those who weren’t so optimistic. However, optimism in itself didn’t guarantee the best results. Amongst those who really believed they would succeed in sticking to their diet, there were some who were much more successful than others.
What the researchers found was that those who were most successful believed they could lose weight, but that it wasn’t going to be easy. They had tempered their expectations of success with the prospect of the temptation of that donut or those chocolate biscuits in the tea break or whatever their particular temptation might be. They were realistic optimists.
If any bunch of people in the world should be optimists, then it must be Christians. We have the hope of eternal life. We know we are loved by God. We know that we have been given all things in Christ. We know that the Holy Spirit is given to us to be our friend and guide. There really is very little room for pessimism. Even in our darkest hours we have a hope that the world does not have.
Having said all of that, we know that setbacks happen. Circumstances hit us that puzzle us. Things happen in life that seemingly challenge the goodness of God. We step out in faith and sometimes things seem to get worse instead of better. And of course in some parts of the world believers are persecuted for their faith.
In Acts 14 Paul and Barnabas revisited the churches they had established in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch. Verse 22 summarises their message as ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.’ The road to glory is a rocky road.
It is good to be filled with faith and hope. The early Christians were. Look at how Paul commends the believers at Colosse and Thessalonica (Colossians 1.4-5; 1 Thessalonians 1.2). Faith and hope, however, need to be tempered with the reality of life, the weakness of the flesh, the heat of temptation, the probability of opposition and the spiritual law that states that true faith is subject to testing. Jesus never did promise a trouble free life. It’s realistic optimistic believers who make a difference not just optimistic ones.
Believe the best. And don’t be deflated when a spiritual donut appears to try and undermine your resolve.