The subject of blind optimism compared to real faith is one I grapple with a lot.
Blind optimism feels like a form of arrogance and naivete’. Faith is more like grounding oneself in something beyond the present toward the future. Yet, do we as humans follow blind optimism (or conversely cynical beliefs) more than we follow Faith?
Blind optimism is easier to follow. I had what I felt and experienced as a beautiful loving relationship come to an abrupt ending a few weeks ago. It truly was heartbreaking. I leaned on good friends as I cried, and in my mind negotiated the situation. I brought blind optimism with me when doubts or fears would rise up. I brought blind optimism with me when I was still negotiating in my mind how we would be together again. Blind optimism is not faith. It does not give you rest. It only churns and churns within you. It rises and falls according to your emotions and thoughts.
Faith- it is solid. The earth can shake, the waves rise high upon the water, but faith keeps steady. People have faith in many things- a marriage will last through the test of time; friends you love will always be close; and the job you love (or at least feel some sense of contribution) is secure.
And it is jarring, painful and sorrowful when the bottom drops out-your marriage is not sustainable, your friend leaves, and you are laid off after working a lifetime at a place you thought cared about its employees. These are all circumstances. Yes they involve people, connections of some sort. We have on some level invested our time and attention, and even more our heart and faith in these circumstances.
Faith is believing without seeing. It’s how an invention or a business begins. Faith carries you through the set backs, the challenges and the things unseen in the moment.
How do I replace blind optimism with faith? And what is my faith in-truly? Is it in the idea that the right person will come into my life if I just trust they will? Or that this person and I will have a chance later down the road? Or the job I now have, which is disintegrating is opening to another opportunity?
Other people might handle all these circumstances differently. Distraction works well, at least temporally- stay busy, occupy your mind and time with other activities. Or maybe go into deep sorrow and hand-wringing worry over the circumstance. Or a real blind optimism of spouting affirmations that will change the circumstance on the person’s behalf.
Are any of these anchored in Faith? No, I can attest to these methods- I’ve tried them all.
This time I am doing my best to put my desires and human sorrow and disappointment into a faith. This faith is not easy. It requires doing and saying things that feel contrary to my present experience. And it requires me putting my thoughts of successful outcomes-those I think are best for me, aside. And then what? What does this lead to?
My faith rests in the biggest L word of all, faith beyond myself, Faith in God and in trusting Him. For me- this is the hardest kind of Faith. And many times faith is mistaken for blind optimism. How do we know? Because Faith is not fighting, struggling or figuring out the reason behind the human plane of disappointment or heartaches.
Faith is resting. Faith is handing over my blind optimism and my doubts. But how do I do this? and what is my motivation, my backup of reason that says I am doing the right thing?
One of my favorite verses has been a tag line for me in my present state. “Be still and know that I am God.”
What does meditation, prayer accomplish? Being still, stilling the mind, stilling the doubts and sorrow. Breathing in, breathing out and being present with myself and allowing Love to enter in. I am too busy wringing my hands, trying to figure out what went wrong or what I did. None of this helps me.
Sitting still and feeling God’s love come in does help. Reading inspirational words or writing also helps. But being still and surrendering to what is, is the best. And I believe faith usually does not come in a big wave and voile’ you have faith. Jesus said, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move the mountain.” That’s not a whole lof of faith. And what is the mountain? All those worries, all the sorrow, all the disappointment, and all the doubts.
Faith the size of a seed? Surely I have that much faith. So then, how is it my mountains still stand in front of me? Why has it not been thrown into the sea? I’m still working on this. But when I see David in the Old Testament running for his life from King Saul and living in caves with his loyal men, I see his faith working.
Faith is not ignoring what is going on around us. Faith is stretching out beyond what is going on. In the Psalms there is a pattern: It begins with recognizing and bringing to the forefront the goodness of God. Call it praise. Something happens when we do the contrary of what we are feeling. When we believe beyond our sorrow.
The psalms begin with stating the truth-God’s greatness or His protection or His love for me. Then it usually states the problem-the situation of either the problem or more likely the heart in the problem. Blind optimism would gloss over this, would rearrange the truth for deception.
David grapples with his truth, and God’s truth. He grapples with his heartache, his worry and fears. But after the grappling and stating the situation, he comes back to relying on the source of love outside. He becomes still and sits with God. And then he ends in praising, in resting and in Faith, knowing he is being led in the right direction.
Whether I am sitting still on my couch in the early hours of the morning or I am walking at my beautiful park and taking in the gorgeous sunset over the mountains or enjoying the cool breeze and the green of Spring everywhere, I am praising and ‘sitting still.’
You build faith in life not in a vacuum or a place of ease. You build it brick by brick until it becomes a wall of strength and surety.
And as anyone will tell you- sitting still involves letting go. And when we let go, wisdom arrives and gently and compassionately speaks to us. It happened on Wednesday. The day had been awful- all of my hurt and worry and doubts just hit me full force. I cried a lot. But then I went for my walk and all of it was lifted, I breathed in the beauty and listened to my songs of joy. And God whispered to me, “I desire your heart more than you desire XXX’s heart.” And I felt like a child, a lamb. In that moment my heart shifted and the thought of God loving me so much quieted my restlessness, my worry. At least for today.