QUESTION: It seems like I am naturally a pessimist like my father, whereas my sister seems to be an optimist like our mother. I assume that in itself, such a personality trait is not sinful (perhaps a cross to bear). But still, it predisposes a person to certain temptations to sin. What kind of advice would you give a Christian who wishes to avoid falling into sins associated with a pessimistic trait?
ANSWER: This question is most difficult and this writer empathizes. His father and mother tended toward pessimism. His dad had a springtime tradition. He would kick Murphy (of Murphy’s Law) out of the house because so many things had gone wrong over the winter and Dad expected the situation to continue. This pessimist tends to expect things to go wrong.
We have good reason to be pessimistic. Our nature is sinful apart from Christ Jesus. It is prone to sin. It is eager to succumb to temptation. A world of sinners surrounds us. We can expect fellow sinners will do their worst to make life harsh.
Jesus warned about the last days: “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). Jesus told His children to take up the cross and follow Him. Paul encouraged suffering disciples, saying that through many tribulations they must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
At the same time, we have good reason to live with hope. Though we live under a cross, God controls the future. God filled His Word with promises answering every temptation toward worry and pessimism. Jesus resisted temptation in the wilderness by the power of God’s Word. We turn to God’s Word in all our temptations.
It is not easy. This writer confesses to suffering many nights wrestling with worry. Again and again, he would remember promises from God, but again and again the worries would stir in his heart. Worry accomplished nothing good. God took care of him in all things in spite of his worry. Every Christian has many memories of times God took care of them.
God is true; we trust Him. No matter how bad this world becomes, no matter how troubled our lives may be, God is with us. He promised: He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32). God took care of our sin. He suffered death for us. He promised life eternal by faith in Jesus and His cross. He will take care of all the other things that go wrong in our lives.
This does not mean we will be free from suffering. Suffering did not defeat Jesus. By it He accomplished our salvation. God promises that our suffering will not defeat us. Suffering will end. It may end with our death, which will bring us to our Savior because of what He suffered for us.
God also gives us prayer. God said: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). Peter advised: Cast all your anxieties upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). You may still be tempted with anxieties that feed your pessimism, but God will keep His promises. He will hear and answer your prayers. He is your heavenly Father and you are His child, redeemed in the blood of the Lamb.
Reverend Charles Keeler
Resurrection Lutheran Church
Winter Haven, FL