We all know someone who is both painfully and perpetually positive.
I have certainly known my fair share in my lifetime. These people aren’t just simple-minded optimists. It takes an incredibly strong mind and a truly determined spirit to not only find the silver lining in a sky filled with storm clouds but to bathe in the warm glow of the light it provides.
It strikes we “normal” people as insanity, and we are often dismissive if not outright derisive of their attitude and efforts as they not only endure but find enjoyment and peace where there seems to be none to be found. I wonder, however, if our annoyance doesn’t find its genesis more from feelings of jealousy rather than contempt.
I ran into one such friend recently. As we greeted one another, I asked how they were doing, which in that moment was simply a formality. I assumed they were “living the dream, one nightmare at a time” just like the rest of us. Surely the long slog of 2020 and all of the horrors it provided had tamed even the most positive of people.
They looked at me with bright eyes and what I’m assuming was a wide smile under their brightly colored mask and said, “I’m blessed. Too blessed to be stressed.”
I had to work extremely hard in that moment not to simultaneously roll my eyes, audibly scoff and gag at the ignorant impossibility of that statement. Be honest. As you read those words, you performed one, if not more, of the aforementioned actions.
Two realities struck me in that moment, though. First, my friend truly bought what they were selling. And second, my decidedly negative response was as much a reflection of my regular modus operandi as it was the influence of the mess of the last year.
My friend’s response has been ringing in my ears for several weeks now. I want to dismiss it as a terrible cliché, but just because something is cliché doesn’t mean it is necessarily untrue. I’ve come to believe the phrase is profoundly true both forwards and backwards. Whatever dominates our thinking will determine our attitude and influence our actions.
Just as focusing on blessings can reduce the impact of the stressors of our lives, focusing on the stressors can reduce our ability to both see and share blessings. Rather than counting our blessings, many of us have developed an extremely unhealthy habit of recounting our bothers. We become much like the author of the book of Ecclesiastes, repeating the refrain, “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!”
I think a similar mindset has been festering in the past year. We’ve become so consumed by the difficulty, division, discord and dissatisfaction of recent months that we are having difficulty seeing the light in the world. Misery loves company, and this pity party has gone global. In times like these, it is all too easy to be too stressed to be blessed.
No year, regardless of how difficult it may be, is without its redeeming qualities. As I reflect on my own life, even in the darkest and most difficult of times, there were clear and apparent blessings. I would go a step further and say it was in those days that I experienced the greatest blessings of my life, and it was in those moments I was most aware of the goodness and presence of God with and for me.
It wasn’t that there were no stressors in my life during those seasons. Quite to the contrary, in those seasons, I often had more reasons for stress. Perhaps it was simply a matter of perspective. Perhaps it was that in my most hopeless days, I was most desperate for something to provide hope.
Light does, in fact, shine brightest in the darkness. When we fix our eyes on the light and learn to move toward it, the darkness tends to dissipate.
I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but as we turn the page into a fresh set of days, I want to flip the script of the last several months. I want to fixate on the blessings in my life. I want to do a better job of both seeing and sharing the light that shines in the darkness that cannot be overcome. I want to be a perpetually positive presence in the world.
We’ve had our shot at the “realness” of being too stressed to be blessed. I think I’d like to try the other-worldliness of being too blessed to stress. It strikes me as cliché even as I type it, but I’m more than eager to try it out.
The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com. Send comments to [email protected]