Thursday, July 26, 2012

Faith versus "positive thinking"

One of the things I have learned over the years is that the disposition of the heart is extremely important when it comes to our spiritual lives. A few years ago, the Holy Spirit, in a very pointed manner, showed me how anything and everything (and everyone for that matter) can be used as stepping stone to Him. Even situations that seem to be quite awful in our eyes need not be a stumbling block and can actually be HUGE stepping stones to God. We know by faith that God brings good out of everything and I've seen this at work in my own life in remarkable ways. Illness, deaths, trials of every sort, attacks, little daily irritations - every single one of these things can be springboards into the arms of God.

It's very easy for us to see how the joys in life can bring us closer to God but at times it's a bit harder for us to see how the "not so good stuff" can do the same - at times in more powerful ways than the happier aspects of life can. The conversions of most of the people I know came about through what  people would consider a bad experience (or a series of them). I'm not saying that the wonderful things in life don't bring us closer to God, I'm simply stating that many people I know turned to God wholeheartedly after a series of painful events or circumstances. God transformed their pain into something good.

They "allowed" Him to.  We always have a choice in our response.

When it comes to suffering of any sort the disposition of the heart can be the difference between allowing bitterness to enter the heart or allowing the Lord to  transform our pain and suffering into something beautiful. We can wallow in bitterness (I spent years in this "spiritual state", unfortunately) or we can trust that God is not "picking on us" (obviously I thought this at one but allowing certain events to happen knowing that He is going to use these events for our good. This isn't what I would call positive thinking but rather "trusting in the God of all truth and goodness".  The words "positive thinking" make me a bit wary in our days because they can be used as blinders or a refusal to see truth. They can even be used as a way to avoid correction or as a way to avoid responsibility. I'm not so sure the term  means the same thing as it used to. Jesus was a truthful thinker not a positive thinker. He was often very blunt in His manner of speech. When He cleansed the temple He didn't put a positive spin on it "Oh, everything is fine and dandy here in God's house so I'll just leave things be." No, He saw the "truth" of what was going on and did something about it.

Look at the Crucifixion of Our Lord. God changed the world for all time through His death and resurrection. All things were transformed through Jesus who suffered so painfully for our sake. 

Jesus never said we would not suffer here on earth. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke the "conditions for discipleship" are taking up the the cross and following Jesus. After each of these Gospel passages the next passage is about the Transfiguration of Christ. A coincidence? No way. 

Picking up our cross and carrying it transforms us because God made it so. 


  1. So very true, Mary. The "state of the world" has been on my mind a lot lately. I've been feeling very defeated and hopeless. But your post reminds me that there is hope in Christ and that the trials of life WILL bring us closer to Him, if we let Him. God has really spoken to me through this post. Thank you!

  2. Thank you for writing this important message.

  3. Hi Mary,
    The state of the world is causing us to choose to pick up our cross or just go with the flow. It's harder now to stand firm for christian values than in decades past. He is separating the wheat from the chaff.

  4. Love this!
    Love how you put it, trials, etc., "can actually be HUGE stepping stones to God"
    Great post!

  5. Mary, I wonder if one of the differences between faith and positive thinking is that faith implies sole trust in God, whereas people often take positive thinking to mean self-belief. With faith, I think we submit to God's will but, with positive thinking, it seems that we will our own desires and become self-willed.

    It seems that, historically, Protesant faiths have been more inclined to positive thinking, often seeing nothing wrong in willing material success, whereas Catholics, in general, were less prone to see positive thinking as an antidote to suffering.

    I agree with what you say about suffering, Mary. We all have a choice over whether we allow our sufferings to embitter us or sanctify us.

    I might have gone off track here, Mary, but I was nodding as I was reading this post because I've thinking about this, too.

    God bless, Mary:-)

  6. Mary - this is an important and spot-on reflection. (Not always easy to remember, of course!)

    God Bless.

  7. Thank you Mary for sharing. Blessings.

  8. Hi Nancy,
    I'm glad this post spoke to you. The world is kind of upside down right now but God has things well in hand. People might be "out of control" but He's not. I sincerely believe that He brings good out of everything and He is the source of all hope!

  9. Hi Nancy (S),
    You're welcome. Did you recover after chasing around your grandchild? Lol.

  10. Noreen,
    Yes, He's definitely doing that!

    The puppies are doing well. My carpets on the other hand...
    Good thing they are such sweet dogs other than the carpet issue!

  11. Hi Madeleine,
    Thank you :) They certainly have been huge stepping stones in my life!

  12. Hi Vicky,
    Good point on the difference between faith and positive thinking. We want to stand on solid rock, not shifting sand. Self-will is actually what we are trying to RID ourselves of.

    There are a bunch of New Age books on the market regarding "positive thinking" and this is the type of positive thinking I mistrust. I think Protestants, at least those I know, are more inclined to think of it as God's provision and care for them as stated in the Bible. Maybe some go over the top in this area but in general I think they stand with Catholics on trusting in God and faith in Him versus self. Randy comes from a Protestant background (Baptist and Pentecostal) and he had a very good understanding of faith, the cross, and trusting in God before converting to Catholicism. He did have a friend who was a Baptist that tended toward this manner of self-reliance though - they used to argue about it a lot :)

    God bless you, too!

  13. Hi Michael,
    Thank you for your comment. I'm glad you liked the post!

  14. Hi Grace,
    I'm coming by to visit you in a bit:) I hope you are doing well! It's raining so we are hanging out at home today. God bless!

  15. Hi Victor,
    Thanks again for sending me more information on St. Charbel. I really appreciate it!

  16. Sorry, Mary, my comment sounded like an attack on Protestants. I was thinking, in general, of denominations such as the Quakers who were successful in business through self-belief or positive thinking. And, also, the writings of Norman Vincent Peale (who wrote The Art of Positive Thinking). There seems to be a different view of the value of suffering here.

    God bless:-)

  17. Hi Vicky,

    I knew what you meant. Norman Vincent Peale came to my mind too as I was writing my comment to you. I think the difference between faith in God and "positive thinking" can be confusing for some people and you explained this difference very well in your comment.

    What really concerns me are books like "The Secret" which place self at the center of the universe rather than God.

    Wasn't that written by an Australian producer? You've probably heard of it I'm guessing.

    God bless!

  18. I haven't heard of "The Secret", Mary. Those people must be a bit closer to the fire, here Downunder - I'm trying to find a cool spot, remember?! ;-)

    I'm glad you knew what I meant. Sometimes, I cringe after reading what I've written because what appears to be truth can sound so judgemental, at times.

    God bless, my friend:-)

  19. The book was a bestseller and she wrote two more that I know of. They are very misleading. I'm pretty sure she comes from!

    It's not exactly cool "up" here right now ;) We get a lot of humidity which makes it feel hot even when the temperature isn't too bad.

    I loved the newest pictures on your blog. (Didn't have a chance to comment on them yet over at your site - I kept getting interrupted.)

    God bless you too! Hey, you put the r in this time!

  20. Love this post, Mary. Odd that in the past few days I've been very amused by the famous book title, "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill, inspired by businessman Andrew Carnegie. It was written during the Great Depression and some Protestant ministers started using it claiming that it worked. Funny that I've been thinking most of my life and I'm far from rich. In the end, we do have to have a deep sense of our value in God's eyes - we can't be putting ourselves down - but also, as you say here, we have to be truthful. The truth is God has given each of us gifts to be used for His greater honor and glory, and if we are living the life He desires for us in submission to His will, in gratitude and peace of heart, we are richer than we can imagine. My take on the positive thinking stuff of these days is that it is New Age man-centeredness and that is more a recipe for disaster of the soul than anything else.

  21. Hi Barb,
    I don't think I've ever heard of "Think and Grow Rich" but I'm guessing it doesn't work :) Good point about understanding our value in God's eyes - we are precious to Him. I liked all your thoughts on this subject!

  22. Mary...seeking you out today. How providential to come to this post. I am in the midst of a terrible bout of depression and insomnia and I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Meds are not working well at all. I know I probably need to see a doctor, but I want one that treats mind AND soul, you know? Anyway, I know you understand exactly what I am feeling. Thanks so much for this post when the bitterness is starting to take over.