Since this column reflects on current events and life experience, I am constantly searching the news for information. It is a daunting task. The headlines alone are depressing, let alone the blow-by-blow accounts of murder, theft, graft, rape, sexual abuse, prejudice, hatred, scams, suicide, mass shootings, political corruption and a looming recession. Sometimes the news seems like a black hole that drags every ray of light into its dark abyss. I spent some time this morning reading about the victims in last weekend’s senseless shooting in Midland-Odessa, Texas.
It is difficult not to become a pessimist from this constant onslaught. But we must not give in. We must resist the darkness and cling to the light. We must not surrender to the pessimism that surrounds us.
A new study released August 26 by the Boston University School of Medicine concludes that people who are more optimistic live 11 to 15 percent longer and are 50 to 70 percent more likely to reach age 85. But how do we remain optimistic in a world filled with pessimism?
It seems to me that we do so by looking for the moments that renew our faith in each other. Like the tender moment when Naomi Osaka embraced 15-year-old Coco Gauf after soundly defeating her in the round of 16 at the U.S. Open and persuading her to share the post-game interview with her.
We can remain optimistic by focusing on obscure moments like the first day of second grade reported by WIVB News in Wichita, Kansas. Eight year old Christian, who is African American, saw eight year old Conner, who is white, standing alone crying while they waited for the school to open. Quietly, Christian reached out and took Conner’s hand. Conner stopped crying and the two of them walked into their classroom together, hand-in-hand. Conner is autistic.
We are surrounded by little acts of kindness, some demonstrated on the grand stage like Osaka and Gauf, others in obscure corners like Christian and Conner. And we are sustained by a faith that overcomes darkness and despair. Love overcomes hate. Forgiveness wipes away resentment and guilt. Resurrection conquers death. Our God who is the Father of Lights is the source of all good things.
The Bible is the most realistic and most optimistic book ever written. It clearly exposes man’s sin and consistently demonstrates God’s righteous redemption. It embraces the Cross with all of its pain and despair and proclaims the resurrection in all of its glory.
The Bible always offsets our struggle with discouragement and despair with the hope of faith and the unchangeable goodness of God. Three times the Scripture asks, “Why are you in despair O my soul? And why have you become disturbed in me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence” (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5).
The Apostle Paul wrote, “We were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:8-9).
Jesus said, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).