Thumbs down to pessimism

A few posts back,  I gave the thumbs up to a Time Magazine article hailing we Americans as more prone to hope than despair. But wait. Time now reports that our nation’s “optimism bias” is eroding.

A Time/Aspen Ideas Festival poll reports that Uncle Sam’s nieces and nephews are “having trouble finding the pluck and the spirit that have seen us through everything from world wars to nuclear threats to space races.”

  •  More than two-thirds of the country sees the past decade as a period of decline for the U.S.
  • America’s feelings of invincibility have been replaced by a new sense of inevitable vulnerability.
  • Baby boomers are filled with worry and doubt about their future and the future of their children.
  • There’s deep concern about runaway deficits, political gridlock, skyrocketing health care costs and other structural problems here at home.

Thank goodness my devotional reading this week took me to the book of James – a tiny epistle written to early believers living through economic times far tougher than that of 21st century America.  Yet James counsels his readers to “consider it pure joy, my friends, whenever you face trails of many kinds.” Why? “Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance (1:1 NIV). Or as The Message puts it: “Under pressure, your faith life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely.”

I like that James didn’t pretend things weren’t really as bad as the people were feeling. James was no Pollyanna. And I appreciate that he didn’t blame God for the troubled times nor suggest that God would immediately make everything right again. Rather, James urged his readers to “be patient and stand firm,” confident of God’s compassion and mercy.

The Time article concludes by suggesting that the current “malaise moment, one even longer and deeper than the mid-1970s’,” presents challenges and opportunities for leadership.  My prayer is that God’s people will take up the challenge, pointing the way back to optimism and hope.

In the words of holiness writer Hannah Whitall Smith

The greatest lesson a soul has to learn is that God, and God alone is enough for all its needs. This is the lesson that all God’s dealings with us are meant to teach, and this is the crowning discovery of our entire Christian life. God is enough!

So thumbs down to pessimism.  And thumbs up to the “one who chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of God’s creation”  (1:18 NIV).

What's your take on this topic?

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