When someone is sick and doesn’t get better, the last thing they need is someone telling them to fight harder.
Those who recover from, say, cancer and those who don’t, are not separated by whether or not they really ‘battled this thing’. Everyone ‘fights’ – but there are some things that a positive mental attitude cannot defeat. And if you tell someone struggling with depression to cheer up, you may as well punch them in the stomach.
Being told you can’t feel bad, (hey – look on the bright side!), makes suffering harder to bear, not easier. And there are things in life that will be always be sad, no matter how much time passes and no matter how many ways you approach them. But ‘sad’ is not the enemy, any more than ‘positive’ is the solution. It’s just a feeling and it might be completely appropriate and healthy; not something to run from or deny.
Another problem with a naive kind of positive thinking is that real life isn’t simply positive or negative – it’s a mixture of the two. And where exactly are we placing our hope – in a Lord above, or our faculties within?
There’s a lot to be said for looking hard stuff in the face and naming it as hard. The Bible’s heroes of faith were not in denial about their struggles.They didn’t pretend that suffering and sickness aren’t there. Nonetheless they were heroes of faith. They hoped in God and so do we.
Romans 15 shows us how to face the present and have hope for the future:
v13 says this:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
But how do we get there?
Paul speaks realistically of those who will fail us in life (v1).
He acknowledges our need to give of ourselves when we don’t feel like it. (v2)
He testifies to the reality of folks speaking against us – and tells us that Christ sympathises. (v3)
He points to the Scriptures as our key weapon in the fight for perspective, endurance and hope (v4-5)
He reminds himself of the gospel (v6-12)
He prays. Because we don’t have it in us to be hopeful people. But God puts real hope in us by His Spirit.