Reflecting God’s Image in Optimism
My daughter is unique in our family in many ways. But nothing stands out more to us than her optimism.
Her typical first response is to look for the positive in any situation. She trusts others, and she forgives quickly. And trust me — I need to be forgiven a lot.
I often wonder where she gets her optimism from. My wife and I are more analytical, pessimistic, and negative. I don’t just see a half-full glass as half-empty; I see a glass that is 90% full and complain that it’s 10% empty. Conversely, my daughter will have a glass that is 10% full and says it’s the best mouthful of water that she’s ever had!
No. She did not get her optimism from us. She received it as a gracious gift from God, and as a reflection of His image.
Positively Bearing God’s Image
In my daughter’s optimism, she is reflecting the God that made her in His image (Genesis 1:27). Despite knowing that sin would soon enter the world, God declared all His creation to be “very good” (v. 31). It was all so good that He took time to step back and observe all that He made, and so that He could rest (2:1-3).
In the book of Nehemiah, when the Israelites were being restored to their land after the exile, they struggled to get right. They were facing political obstacles, and struggling with their own sins. But in the midst of God restoring them (physically and spiritually), He reminded them, “The joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10).
Note that God didn’t say, “joy from the Lord” or “joy in the Lord” or “joy for the Lord.” He said, “joy of the Lord.” We do not need to muster up our own joy. We need to remember that God Himself is joyful in our restoration.
I see our broken world, and despair. I lose my joy easily. I forget and ignore the great things that God is doing around me. My hope tends to get choked by the worries of the world (Mark 4:18-19).
But then I see the optimism and joy of my daughter. I see the joy that is a pure reflection of who God is. And her optimism makes me want to be more positive. And her joy makes me want to be more like the God who is joyful.
The Caution for Optimism
I love my daughter’s optimism. But there are two cautions for her: 1) having an empty hope, and 2) a lack of discernment.
First, God doesn’t call us to a baseless optimism and an abstract hope for a better future. We need a hope in Jesus Christ. His past work of dealing with our sin problem gives us a future hope (see I Corinthians 15). Any optimism and joy we have must be rooted in Jesus and the gospel.
Second, my daughter must grow in her discernment. While I love that she trusts others, she must also learn to not just believe anything that she hears or reads. We must teach her to observe and think with a biblical worldview.
Jesus told His disciples the same, as He sent them on mission into the world. In Matthew 10:12-14, He told them to give people the benefit of the doubt. But, He also said that sometimes we just need to ignore certain people and move on.
And in verse 16, He says,
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”
How I Must Lead Her
My daughter is an innocent sheep, and in a world of wolves, she needs a little more serpent in her. I must lead her and help her grow in this area.
My mission is to guide her towards greater wisdom, while not squelching her joy. She needs more discernment, but she doesn’t need to stop loving and trusting others.
She is helping me to love others and trust God, and I am helping her be more wise in this broken world.
There is nothing greater in parenting than knowing that we are mutually sharpening each other (Proverbs 27:17).
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