I heard comments from two different cab drivers about the same topic on the same day recently. It was almost May. Spring was supposed to have sprung by then. Warm weather, flowers in bloom, birds singing, people playing Frisbee in the Central Park, sidewalk cafes bustling, all of the above should have been our reality. Instead that day, it was raining cats-and-dogs, and the temperature was in the upper 40s. One driver said to me: “I am sick of this weather! I am sick of winter never going away! I am sick of everything I see when I look through my windshield!” The other man (same day, same weather, same traffic) said: “We need rain. It makes everything grow like it’s supposed to.”
There really is an undeniable power to positive thinking. That’s what Paul was getting at when he wrote to the early Christians for whom life was often stormy: “For by hope are we saved.” (Romans 8:24) And, the effects of a positive outlook is not simply confined to the one who thinks that way, but also to everyone in his or her circle of influence. Following my ride with the first driver, I felt down and discouraged. It was too wet, too cold, too wintry, too miserable. Following my ride with the second gentleman, I felt uplifted. God was washing the world and giving drink to a harvest of grass and flowers yet to come. The circumstances around me had not changed, but the people around me had. One man’s influence was negative and caused me to feel likewise. The other man’s influence was positive, and my outlook became better and brighter because of it.
I’ve given that some thought lately, not so much about those two drivers but about my own life and witness. What is my influence upon others? Do I live and relate in such fashion as to make those around me feel encouraged? Affirmed? Assisted? Heartened? Better? Brighter? Am I sowing seeds of faith and hope or seeds of despondency and despair?
Kevin Bacon said: “A good director creates an environment which gives the actor the encouragement to fly.” Do I do that with my church members? My children? My professional colleagues? My friends? I don’t mean by becoming a Pollyana, someone in denial about the hard and harsh realities of life around us. That serves no one well. Instead, I mean: Do I give people a sense of courage based on Faith, courage that in a sometimes difficult world they have a resource to do and become more than they often fear? Do I help them find the biblically promised power that encourages them to fly? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) Do I help people who look at a desperate world to see the Divine that is also present in it? Do I assist folks who live in fear to discover Faith?
The late Clovis Chappell used to say: “Anyone can take the air out of your tires. It takes a person who believes in God’s power to keep the tires inflated even on a bumpy road.” I want to do that. That’s what Faith-based positive thinking is all about. We don’t put blinders on to the realities of our world. But, we do embrace “the Truth that sets us free” (John 8:32), the Truth that God is in this world, and God is stronger than this world, and God can take what looks like defeats and turn them into victories. I believe that. The Bible believes that. If we don’t believe that, then to paraphrase J.B. Philips, our faith is too small.