Is the power of positive thinking enough to overcome circumstances? This is a question I’ve been pondering over the past several months as I drive around Orlando, Florida. The reason I’ve been pondering this question so deeply is that I keep seeing this bumper sticker–if you live in Orlando, you’ve likely seen it too–
“If anything can go well, it will”
My initial thought to this was out of sadness for those who don’t know Jesus and have only this shallow phrase to live by. But then I started seeing cars with both this bumper sticker and those of the local Christian radio station. This blew me away–is Christianity so shallow these days that people who claim to follow Jesus, also need such statements to keep them going?
The premise of Gene’s Law is based off of Murphy’s Law–
“If anything can go wrong it will go wrong”
So basically, one could argue that the power of positive thinking is better than the power of negative thinking. I’m not going to argue that neither positive nor negative thinking have their place. I definitely believe that the more we train our minds to think in the positive rather than the negative the better off we are. However, there is simply no validity to either of these “laws” whatsoever. They are simply shallow lines of thought.
I use the word “shallow” to describe these statements not to be demeaning to the person who thought them up but because they lack a solid foundation. The man who created the bumper stickers happened upon a series of positive circumstances in his life and I think it’s great that he lives in gratitude for his fortune. I do not believe these circumstances were simply a result of Gene’s positive thinking, however. Gene cannot be God, nor can anyone else who just believes enough that if anything can go well, it will. This completely contradicts God’s Law…and our freedom from it!
God created us with free will which, from the very beginning, humanity has abused. Enter sin. The love relationship within which God created us was broken when sin entered the world. Where once man* had a perfect and unconditional relationship with God, we are now disconnected from Him. God knew that, given free will, we could not resist sin, so he had a plan. He gave us a set of rules–a law –to live by. When we failed, as He knew we would, He would give humanity a second chance…and a third chance, and a fourth chance (as can be seen throughout the Old Testament)…but man could do nothing to completely please God. God knew that we could never live up to the perfect standard we needed to that we might return to a right relationship with Him. He told His people over and over that soon He would send His son to return us to His unconditional love…and He did.
The Gospels of the New Testament details how Jesus came into the world, showed us what it means to have a relationship with his Father, and then payed for our sins by overcoming death on the cross. We do not deserve it, we are sinners, but it is by grace we are saved from our own destruction.
Does this mean that all Christians are perfect? No, it simply means that one who follows Christ surrenders to the fact that nobody’s perfect.
So, what does this have to do with Gene’s Law?
First of all, we are not God, cannot be God, and will never be God. Man has proven that over and over again. We may have free will but we do not have divine power of any kind. Therefor, if we try to have control over our own destiny, we are bound to fail. Simply thinking to oneself, “But if anything can go well, it will,” cannot change that.
When tragedy strikes, is that line of thought going to give you any comfort? I say “when” because everyone at some point in their life will experience some sort of tragedy. People get sick, they die and it’s not easy for those who remain. As I’ve already said, people are sinners who do evil things, even if unawarely so. We do not have control over those circumstances. We do not have control over a hurricane hitting Florida or an Earthquake in California. We do not have control over our father’s alcoholism or our wife’s depression.
We are not God, therefore we do not have control over every aspect of our lives.
But what about free will? This is an extremely huge topic which I will not completely cover, as no one really can in brevity. What I will say is that while we have the choice day to day to do what is good and honoring to God, ultimately He’s in charge. We can only have control over our own choices…and even then, sometimes we fail at what we aimed to do. God gave us free will to allow us to choose whether we want to follow Him on a day to day basis, or follow our own path.
Following God is often the harder choice and may not seem to work out so well at times. Bad things will happen and God allows them to happen so as to remind us to lean into His great love and might. So, just because it can go well, it may not. This may seem like bad news from an insensitive God, however, having challenges in our lifetime is completely worth the opportunity to point others to Christ throughout our mortal lives, not to mention the eternal bliss we will experience with God in heaven someday.
An example of this is marriage. God created marriage to be good, in fact he parallels His relationship to all believers with marriage. He gave us the choice of whom we marry but He also gave us guidance in the Bible on how to navigate that relationship. God created marriage to go well for both the husband and the wife…and it can go well. However, since all people are sinners, part of marriage is learning how to deal with conflicts caused by sin. This is really hard work! A married couple must be actively engaged in both that which goes well in his/her spouse’s side of the relationship and that which goes wrong. No matter what race, culture, or religion, it is a well known fact in this country that there is a 50/50 chance a marriage will end in divorce. So while marriage is created to be good and to “go well” sometimes it just doesn’t and one spouse only has control over one person–50%–in that relationship.
When Life Gives You Lemons
As I mentioned, sometimes God allows for bad things to happen as a way to remind us to seek Him with our whole hearts. If every time something bad happened to me I just thought, “well, I guess it just wasn’t meant to go well,” I would not be sustained. I’ve experienced too many challenges in my lifetime which could have gone well and just didn’t even though I did everything right. This is especially true when it is an extremely devastating circumstance or a series of bad things in a short period of time–things completely out of my control. To just wait for something to go well would just drive me into depression.
Like a marriage is an active relationship of hard work, of give and take, of extending grace upon grace, so are most things in life. If I were to just sit around and wait for the perfect job or the perfect spouse or the perfect child, nothing would happen. Am I supposed to think that it just wasn’t meant to go well? And then, let’s think about eternity. What happens after I die? Am I supposed to just sit around to wait and see how it turns out? No! I ask questions, seek answers, then act upon those truths to lay a foundation for my life.
As I’ve expressed, my foundation is in the saving grace of Jesus Christ, which is based on truth proven time and again for millenniums. The power of positive thinking can keep us going on a daily basis but nothing can take the place of the power of the Cross of Christ and his resurrection.
So, when something in your life could have gone well but doesn’t, what is keeping you standing?