The Positive Thinking Religion

You’ve got terminal cancer. Your wife has just left you for another man. A con artist has stolen your life savings. Do not despair! Think positively and all will be well. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but essentially that’s what the “positive thinking” gurus would have you believe.

To some extent I’d agree with them. Too many of us are far too negative. Being more positive certainly can help us become happier and more productive. However, life is hard. I don’t think that it’s possible to be completely happy in this world that is so infected with sin, poverty, war, famine, heartache and disease.

Can we change these negative realities by being positive? We can’t change them but we can control how they affect us, at least to an extent. How we react to events and situations in our lives is as important as the events and situations themselves. Being positive, that is, being confident and optimistic, certainly can help us cope with life’s challenges and trials. However, we must avoid becoming delusional.

Ostriches deal with fear by putting their heads in the ground. That’s a good way of getting killed. As humans, our greatest fear should be eternal punishment. Positive thinkers seem to deal with this fear in one of four ways: They deny the existence of hell. They believe that God is too good to allow any one to be damned. They assume that they are already saved. Or, most commonly, they avoid talking or thinking about hell, because they want to avoid focusing on the negative. That last one sounds a lot like the ostrich approach, doesn’t it?

Jesus was not a positive thinking guru. He spoke more about hell than about heaven. His message was not, “Think positively and all will be well.” It was, “Do good, avoid sin, have faith and, although you will suffer on earth, your reward will be great in heaven.” When He contemplated how much He would soon suffer, He became deeply anguished (Matthew 26:36-39).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against positive thinking. I certainly could be more positive myself. But the positive thinking fad that is so prevalent today has become like a religion. Its motivational speakers and writers are its high priests and its zealous adherents number in the millions. Positive thinking, to an extent, can be a good thing. However, don’t expect too much from it. All the positive thinking in the world won’t help us, in the long run, if we are unrepentant sinners. Only the Lord can give us happiness that endures.


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