Memo 1002: Pessimism
A few weeks ago, we looked at a story about Elisha and a widow in debt. Let's go back and look at another story this time involving Elisha's mentor, Elijah, and his encounter with a needy widow:
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink.” And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’ ” So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days.The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah (1 Kings 17:8-16 NKJV).
What can we learn from this story to help us unlock the power of our faith? Let's find out.
The widow in this story was at the end of her rope, so to speak. She was poor, had little in the house, and her regions was in the grip of famine and drought. In response to all that, she was planning one last meal and then they would die. She had no hope and was going to act out the end result of the hopelessness she had already plotted in her mind. Fortunately, God interrupted her pessimism through His prophet. It can be difficult not to be pessimistic when you assess what you don't have and then assume the future will always be like it is today, just like this widow had done. That is the reason God directs us to stay in the moment of today and not include a lot of tomorrows in our daily assessment: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:34).
God interrupted her pessimistic forecast through the prophet's audacious request that the widow give him some of her bread and water that comprised her last supper. When she responded that she was out gathering some sticks to prepare that last repast, the prophet gave her important advice that put the spotlight on her pessimism and gloomy forecast: "Do not fear." It is easy to assume that the opposite of faith is unbelief, but that's not the case. The opposite is fear. This woman was terrified that her family's lives were over so she prepared for the worst. Elijah gave her a different strategy, but it could only be carried out once she dealt with her fear.
The same is true for you. Until you face your fear, you cannot flow in faith. If you are afraid you have the last job in the universe and there is no way God can give you another, you will stay in an abusive, draining situation. If you are convinced the income you have is all you will have or the only way God can provide, you will only give what you can see your way clear to give once the bills are paid. If you have talked yourself into the fact that you "don't travel well," then you will be afraid to get on a plane and go where God has put in your heart to go. If you don't see yourself as God does, you will be afraid to step up and out to express your purpose or creativity. In other words, you fears are the mental pollution that stifles your faith.
I'm sure you are familiar with what Paul wrote Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:7, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." You have quoted that verse and you believe it in its potential, but perhaps not in its personal application for your life. The preceding verse says this: "Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands" (verse 6). Paul wrote about fear in the context of your gift, so therefore the fear he was referring to is most applicable to your faith walk as you identify, develop, and express your gift(s) from God.
Where have you been pessimistic about your future because you see yourself the same there as you are today? You are acting like the widow, perhaps not expressing it to others, but it manifests in your lack of bold goals and dynamic plans for your future. Where do you see yourself as in possession of only a few sticks that will not enable you to "cook" much more than what you can muster for you and your immediate family—rather than a multitude of other needy folks who need what you have? If you are going to unlock the power of your faith, you must learn to address and overcome your fears. God will send you your Elijah to help you do that, but you must show through some basic faith steps that you are willing to address your fears to function in faith (the only way to please God). Once you do your part, God will do His, and help you confront your pessimism so you can replace it with His optimism. Have a blessed week.