Is faith marked by a positive mental attitude?
Is having a positive attitude an indication of vibrant faith?
In an effort to create an upbeat, optimistic and expectant atmosphere, Christians are sometimes taught to maintain a positive mental attitude. It is undoubtedly better to be positive, rather than negative. Above all, Christians have hope [Romans 5:1-2].
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.×
An unfortunate side-effect of some Christian teaching on positive attitude is that those who are experiencing trying times may become confused about their faith in Jesus Christ. For troubled believers, the Bible offers words of comfort and encouragement – even to the point of telling them to count it as joy [James 1:2].
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds ...×
What the Bible does not do is to imply that suffering and mental anguish are an indication of lack of faith.
In the Psalms we read that King David did not deny his pain when he was suffering. He did not use positive statements to cover up his torment. He cried out to God [Psalms 6:2-3,6-7].
Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in anguish.
How long, O Lord, how long?
I am worn out from groaning;
all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.
But, he followed his laments by declaring that he was relying on God to deliver him [Psalms 6:4,8-9].
Turn, O Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of Your unfailing love.
Away from me, all you who do evil,
for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
A positive mental attitude, from a biblical perspective, is not proclaiming what is not so, it is not denying reality, it is not pretence. It plainly states the problem and acknowledges suffering – but it sees the solution in the power and mercy of God.
Salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ. To complain without expressing trust in God indicates lack of faith. Equally, not complaining, but relying on our mental strength and positive affirmations rather than on God, also indicates lack of faith.