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Optimism Trumps Circumstances

Crash course to handling life's curveballs.

(Originally published April 13, 2014)

At the end of a 12+ hour day when nothing goes as planned, it can sometimes be difficult to retain optimism.


I know for me personally, there are days where I feel like I am thrown nothing but curve balls. My natural posture is to develop a self-centric, "woe is me" attitude. It is a fairly common occurance in American culture. We (young American 20 somethings) get put off by trivial circumstances and we allow our attitudes to be wrecked by them.


 I am not a fan of this attitude. I think it is a waste of time and energy when anyone laments over trivialities that are out of his or her control. But there are not a lot of clear and present examples of what it looks like to be joyous regardless of circumstances.


Enter David.


My dad and I are reading through the same Bible devotional, and so far it has covered about the first 70 chapters of Psalm. In the middle of this march through Psalm, I rediscovered the story of David, the chosen heir to the throne of Israel who was persecuted by the incumbent, King Saul. David fled from Saul and his soldiers throughout the wildernesses of Gath, Adullam, Engedi, et cetera. To put it lightly, David's circumstances were less than favorable.


"All day they twist [David's] words; all their thoughts are against [him] for evil. They gather together, they hide, they mark [his] steps, when they lie in wait for [his] life."


-Psalm 56:5-6


"[His] soul is among lions; [he] lies among the sons of men who are set on fire, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword."


-Psalm 57:4


David fled from cave to cave in constant fear for his life. That level of anxiety is incomprehensible-- I have no frame of reference for it. David's circumstances brings new meaning to the idea of "hitting rock bottom." His circumstances, however, are nowhere near as intruiging as his attitude.


"Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God I will praise His word, In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?"


-Psalm 56:3-4


David's fear did not cripple him. It did not cause him to despair. He remained hopeful in the Lord. In the words of Dr. Rob Zinn:


"Whether at home, with the sheep, in the palace, or in a cave, David's routine never seemed to change: he would pray to the Lord, sing praises to the Lord, and exalt the Lord. While his circumstances may have determined what he prayed, they did not stop him from praying."


David knew his circumstances did not set the terms. Even with an Israelite King on his heels in the wilderness, he praised the Lord for His protection. Because of this holy peace, David did not strike down Saul later when he possessed the opportunity. He did not hate Saul for what he did. He remained hopeful and optimistic, because he was focused on his source for peace.


David and I have one thing in common: we are both 100 percent human, with all the sin, complication, and awkwardness that brings. There is nothing unique to David that gave him the ability to be joyful despite his circumstances-- his peace came from God. This gives me hope that in times of trial I can adopt David's posture: not a self-centric one, but one of quiet confidence and joy in the Lord's sovereignty.


And besides: being an optimist is much more fun than being a pessimist. It's just that simple.


Don't let the days drag you down into despair. Find joy in the Lord, and life's curveballs will feel much more manageable. With God, optimism trumps circumstances.

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