The Wall Street Journal posted an article recently about “the power of negative thinking.” One of our church members sent it to me, and I must admit it wasn’t exactly what I thought I’d read.
I’ve sometimes heard people say, when dealing with a tough situation: “what’s the worst thing that could happen?” I suppose asking such a question provides some clarity and sanity when we are on the verge on letting our emotions get the best of us. I think dealing with the worst case is the end result of worrying about something and facing an uncertain future. No, I don’t want to talk about the fiscal cliff, that would get me going for sure. But, even worrying about the financial well-being of our nation doesn’t change anything in my life for the better. I find it frustrating and self-defeating, especially when you consider that the ballot box is our only recourse of bringing about change. We can still hope, however, that something happens in the next few weeks.
While not claiming expertise in the governmental sphere, I have had some experience in church life and believe that attitude does play a factor in how we deal with things.
There was a man in the Bible named Caleb, who was one of 12 spies sent into the land of Canaan to check the size of the opposition. Moses wanted them to do some recon before moving into the area to take it over. The Lord has promised the land to Israel. Upon returning from their trip, they said the land was beautiful but the current inhabitants were to big to overcome. Caleb, however, had a different perspective and took the Lord at his word. Later, the Lord described Caleb in this way: “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it” (Numbers 14.24). Caleb had “a different spirit” than the others, and was rewarded. I wonder how difficult it was for him to maintain the minority view when on the surface the situation appeared hopeless.
Sometimes it’s a challenge to do church work and remain optimistic. After all, we are talking about people. Having said that, the difficulties that the western church faces pales in comparison to that of other places around the world. It is akin to comparing “first world v. third world” problems; our tough times are really not worth mentioning when there are people who in fact being persecuted (for real) for their faith. I like to think about that occasionally for a reality check.
The American church has an uphill battle when it comes to getting people to show up on Sundays. There are a lot of other things to do on that day besides sit in a pew. I do maintain, however, the importance of the church not for appearance’s sake but because it is the body of Christ for better (and sometimes worse). Our attention must continually be drawn to the people around us who need Christ and the impact that each one of us can make for the Kingdom if we allow ourselves to do so.
James Bryan Smith told a story about a friend who had been a successful women’s basketball coach but was having a particularly bad season. Fans and media turned against the coach, and eventually she was fired and called Smith about it. Smith struggled for something to say to her, but related to the coach’s faith and desire to serve the Lord. Smith said something like “the Kingdom is not in trouble, and you are not in trouble.” The coach eventually secured another job, but at the time she struggled mightily. Smith’s comment gave her some emotional and spiritual stability.
I watched the Army/Navy game’s conclusion, and the devastation that the Army quarterback showed after fumbling away what could have been the first victory again the midshipmen in over a decade. In the post-game report, one of the commentators talked about what happened. He said: “life is 10% what happens to you, and 90% of how you respond to it.” Again, mentality.
I don’t know what it’s like to fumble on a potential game winning drive, but I do know what it’s like to deal with disappointment and those who have their own share of them. My prayer is that the daily battle of the mind, that we would seek to have “that different spirit” and be open to the Lord doing something only He can do in our families, church, and world.