Overcoming empty optimism with soul-stirring truth
“If you can dream it, you can achieve it” is just one of the ways we rush to imitate our culture while filling ourselves with empty optimism that never satisfies. God’s truth is more radical than cultural and Christian platitudes. It cuts to the heart while transforming it.
By Kimberly Cummings
God wants you to be happy! (1 Timothy 6:6)
I love me! (Mark 12:31)
Let go, and let God.
Like any good Father, God wants me to be healthy, wealthy, and wise! (Psalm 84:11)
Think positive, be positive, and positive things will happen.
Sending good vibes your way!
An attitude of positive expectation is the mark of the superior personality.
Bitterness, resentment, and anger have no place in a heart as beautiful as yours.
noun: platitude; plural noun: platitudes
a remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful.
The list above contains just a few platitudes I found floating around on the interwebs, complete with the Scripture notations shown ripped from context. If it has a verse attached to it, it must be legit, right?
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. — 2 Timothy 4:3–4 (ESV)
As believers, the thought process of the world undoubtedly surrounds us. Social media besieges us with it. The memes of positivity and optimism are almost as innumerable as the stars that the “power of positive thinking” thinkers are reaching to grab. It is everywhere we turn.
Nothing New Under the Sun
Satan convinced Eve of this thought process through enticing her that she would be like God simply by questioning what God said. His attempt is just one earthly example of deceived thinking Christ followers are warned to combat in Romans 12:2:
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
When my thoughts are crowded with the advancement of man’s sufficiency, authority, power, and goodness to sway the direction of my outcome and ability, I have successfully left little room in my thinking for God’s character, authority, or His unlimited power to speak the biblical truth my heart. I have allowed my feelings (vibes) to become the determiner of what is good and positive for my life rather than God.
Just. Like. Eve.
We crave all the “feels.”
The “ear tickles.”
All the glory.
If I am honest, whose power do I want to cling to — mine, or the Infinite Creator of the Universe who knows the end from the beginning, my sinful heart, and my genuine needs? The satisfaction that comes from a theologically- incorrect meme will satisfy about as long as the forbidden fruit did for Eve.
Positive Vibes or Therapeutic Deism?
In all reality, the so-called vibes people desire could better be understood as “moralistic therapeutic deism,” that does not address individuals as sinners, nor call ourselves or others to repentant obedience or faithful fellowship with other believers.
This god we have designed and love with every ounce of deceitful hearts is more interested in solving our problems and making sure we are happier than we are holy. This view prompts people to say things like I quoted above.
This god we long to be fulfilled by is more concerned about being nice and fair than just and pure. Steven Lawson wrote a great book, Made in Our Image. May I suggest you invest in this book to better understand this dilemma?
Pride-motivated thoughts and optimism founded on my will to bring positivity or well-being in any direction puts me on the top and leaves little room for the Giver of every good and perfect gift to receive the glory. God is not some celestial therapist we have created in our image to make us feel grand about ourselves.
Ladies, please be alert. It is everywhere. Even in the church. Women, especially, seem to be soaking in the empty optimism and coming up just that, empty. NADA. People — women teachers, specifically — are hijacking the Word of God and pretending to help others with hollow and even false platitudes.
It is a remarkable fact that all the heresies which have arisen in the Christian Church have had a decided tendency to dishonor God and to flatter man. — C.H. Spurgeon
However, humble trust and optimism in God’s sovereign and good grace exalts the giver of untold blessings, allowing us to appropriately place our feelings and affections towards Him and not ourselves (John 3:30). We should not view God as the One who affirms us. We should, rather, adore Him as He transforms us into Christlikeness.
We can and must mention our gratitude for what God is doing in the pleasant as well as the painful circumstances as we speak optimistically to others, both the saved and unsaved. Our hearts are not good. We are not good. We are sinners. Depraved. Wretched. It is the goodness of God we are to exalt. Not ourselves.
As believers who are being inundated with anthro-centric optimism, our focus must shift from ourselves to God. A great way to build our optimism in God is by being in His Word, and seeing what God has said about Himself. For example, look at Psalm 92:
1 It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
3 to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
4 For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
5 How great are your works, O LORD!
Your thoughts are very deep!
6 The stupid man cannot know;
the fool cannot understand this:
7 that though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever;
8 but you, O LORD, are on high forever.
9 For behold, your enemies, O LORD,
for behold, your enemies shall perish;
all evildoers shall be scattered.
10 But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox;
you have poured over me fresh oil.
11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.
12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the LORD;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the LORD is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
In this Psalm, we see the Psalter speaking optimistically about His Lord, declaring:
- His position (v. 1)
- His steadfast love and faithfulness (v.2)
- Our gladness and joy resulting in His great works (vs. 4–5)
- His thoughts are deep (v. 5)
- He is on high forever (v. 8)
- He is upright, He is our rock, and He is perfectly righteous (v. 15).
Romans 12:3 warns us:
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
If I am speaking empty positivity platitudes instead of the living and active words of God, I have too high of a view of myself. Amy Carmichael said it well:
Those who think too much of themselves don’t think enough.
Are you thinking enough? Whose glory is your focus when you go to the Word of God? Here are some simple suggestions to help shift your thinking to become more God-centered in your encouragement to others:
- Confess and repent of sinful, self-centered thinking, reading, and professions in which you have found yourself involved.
- Read the Psalms regularly, and begin a list what Scripture says about God and His abilities. Reading five a day, meditating on them, and recording what you learn about
- God and His abilities will give you a treasure trove of truths in just one month!
- Pray through the attributes of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
- Rehearse these truths by speaking His namesake to others (Psalm 115:1).
Please remember, those who don’t have a relationship with the Lord aren’t to be expected to know who to point their optimism towards, so don’t be a jerk. Instead, see this as a great opportunity to be a minister of the gospel. Exhibit God’s kindness when you talk about Him to other image bearers! Ephesians 3:7–21 is great encouragement in applying these truths!
Meme Food for Thought
As someone who makes social media images, I consider these questions when posting an image for She Disciples:
- Does the image point the reader to God or Christ or the truth of God’s Word?
- Does the Scripture or quote in the image properly represent scriptural context?
- Does the image make the readers consider their need in their part of the sanctification process?
- Does it edify the believer?
- Does it bring thoughts of the Gospel to both the believer and unbeliever?
- What theocentric optimism would you like to point others to today?
Originally published at Rick Thomas.