“Wow, this is deep,” I mused.
I find myself enraptured by the words I read on the screen, when the inevitable moment arrives: I disagree with the author.
“No, that’s a horrible way to look at it. This is exactly the mindset that irritates me about people today.”
Then I remember a crucial detail: I’m reading my own posts from 3 years ago. At some level, I wonder if this points to growth. It surely shows change of some kind… I’ll just call it “growth” for now.
This is the quote in question: “Yet, before we can see the wholeness of God, we must first be confronted with the utter brokenness of the world and feel the painful despair of knowing that we are powerless to fix it.” (If you’re curious, it comes from this post.)
You may have heard this same idea phrased in terms of light and dark: “You don’t know the value of light until you’ve experienced darkness.” The problem is that since dark doesn’t technically exist, but is only a term to describe an absence of light, the root issue of not valuing light is a one of perspective and insinuates that if you don’t value light, it’s because your perspective actually values darkness. While it is possible to learn to value light by experiencing its lack, it’s also possible to learn to value light by experiencing a greater measure or intensity of it. Say for instance that you were sitting in a room lit by 800 lumens and then turned on another light which brought the level up to 1,200 lumens, you could say that the increase of light revealed that you had only known darkness before the increase (pessimism) or you could say that the increase of light revealed to you a more marvelous reality of the power of light (optimism). Thus “darkness” becomes relative to your experience of light. There is no such thing as darkness, only a perspective that values diminishing light (that is, centered around measuring visibility in terms of how much light is missing from the environment and evaluating what you can’t do because of this lack, which is the nature of pessimism).
Bringing it back full circle, there is no such thing as brokenness (which I believe is nothing more than a perceived lack of the desired level of wholeness), but only a perspective that is centered around the concepts of brokenness and despair. In any situation, I believe you can see brokenness getting in the way of healthy and functional systems, or you can see wholeness promoting the growth and betterment of the same institutions. You can pinpoint areas of lack and problems, or you can pour effort into increasing the efficiency and health of the good things that are working. The two perspectives are not getting at different issues, but are approaching the same thing from different angles.
The thing about the pessimistic perspective I’ve described that irritates me is that it encourages you to actively look for problems and exerts an emotional gravity that sucks you into cycles of hopelessness, despair, and frustration. The pursuit of problems can eventually lead you to ones that seem so big and so powerful that you feel utterly insignificant and powerless. It leads you to experience a reality that often defies the facts because you are emotionally compromised. Without the realization of a powerful and loving God who is committed to your deliverance, this realization of insignificance is an emotional dead end.
However, if you are somehow convinced of the reality of a God like I mentioned, something must fundamentally change in your perspective. To continue looking for bad things in life is an activity that is incongruent with the assumption of an all-powerful, loving God. If you live from a pessimistic perspective, your actions reveal a belief (perhaps even a subconscious belief) that God is not good, uninvolved in your life, not willing to help you, or other similar ideas.
Optimism can also cause you to become emotionally compromised, but in a way that enhances your ability to act, connect with others, and flourish. It can lead you to experience a reality that defies facts by convincing you of your power to change things through a commitment to your internal values and practicing boundaries that keep unhealthy thoughts out of your heart and mind. It leads you to celebrate life through engaging in it, rather than withdrawing from your circumstances through criticism.
Coming back to the quote (from my own mouth!) that set me off in the first place, I believe that what I’ve said is correct as long as it’s interpreted as a descriptive statement rather than a prescriptive statement. I don’t want to tell anyone that they have to be aware of darkness before they can value light. As long as you’re aware of what’s changing, that’s what matters. It can be viewed as brokenness causing pain or as wholeness advancing peace, but don’t make your perspective into a prescriptive stance on life. Use it to celebrate the possibility of change. Use it to enjoy the present. Use it to subvert reality and make circumstances your playground rather than your prison.
If you also happen to confess (as I do) that God is loving, all-powerful, and engaged in your personal life, then I want to encourage you with the thought that you are a Divine detox agent. Your positive confession of who God is creates an environment where negative thoughts and brokenness become consumed by righteousness, peace, and joy. The intensity of your detoxifying effect is determined by the singularity of your focus on God’s power to raise the dead to life, as shown by the life of Jesus who is the firstborn of the dead, and your choice to remain fully convinced that God wants to make you like Jesus.
Basically, life with God in view is wildly optimistic because the nature of His being is goodness. I don’t have any more time for negatives.