Blind Hope and a Bad Economy

by Jan 16, 2009

Most of us are relentlessly optimistic people. If you don’t believe that (probably because you’re one of the few who are not), try chewing on these statistics:

  • Even though each day brings ever worse news about the economy, there are almost three times as many of us who believe things will get better in the next year than those who believe they’ll get worse.
  • Each of us in Hawaii devours an average six cans of Spam every year, even though heart disease is the leading cause of death.
  • Ninety percent of us with single-wall homes haven’t bothered to install $1 hurricane straps, even though a storm like Iniki would destroy or heavily damage more than a third of the homes on Oahu and leave 100,000 of us homeless.

See what I mean? The vast majority of us usually say to ourselves, “Everything will turn out OK,” even when there’s plenty of evidence that it might not. That’s why the positive-thinking mantras of self-help books and smiling televangelists are so enticing. Appealing to our instinctive optimism, they tell us that we can attract the things we want in life and avoid the things we don’t, if we just have the faith to visualize ourselves living in abundance.

But there’s a ginormous difference between the tantalizing idea that our faith will cause good things to happen to us, and the biblical portrayal of authentic faith: believing that God is powerful and good no matter what happens to us.

The first one is based only on our groundless and wispy hopes. The second one is based on God’s proven wisdom and strength. That’s the point Paul was trying to make in his famous declaration of faith: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Now, if you take this statement all by itself, it seems to support the cult of positivity: “God will help me do anything I set my mind to!”

But look at this verse in context: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13).

There it is, the real secret: learning to be content, even if my retirement account gets hosed. Even if I lose my job or my car. Even if my house gets flattened by the next hurricane.

How? By being fulfilled through Christ alone. When I learn to be satisfied by Christ’s love even if everything else is stripped away, then I’ll start talking like David did when he had no idea if he would even live another day:

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light. (Psalm 36)