A person who was overly optimistic used to be called “Pollyanna”.
Pollyanna was a character in a children’s novel written by Eleanor H. Porter in 1913. In the book and subsequent movies, Pollyanna transformed misery into joy by playing “The Glad Game”.
Though now an orphan, Pollyanna’s father taught her the game. The object was to see the good in adverse situations. Most in her town found Pollyanna contemptibly naïve, but by looking on the bright side she ultimately changed lives for the better.
We may not use the term “Pollyanna” much anymore, but Christians who persist in believing in the goodness of God are often viewed as stupidly naive.
How can Christians play “The Glad Game” while so much suffering exists in the world? How can we praise God for His goodness when it seems that He is anything but good. Isn’t it all just a hypocritical lie? Is faith in God just a silly game of positive thinking vs reality?
The Bible tells us that there is more to this life than what we can see. As humans we look at the outward appearance of people and circumstances, but God says there is much more going on, both in the heart of a man and in the things we see happening around us.
Most people who believe in God see everything as His doing. He blesses one, curses the other, tosses out cancer here and there to “teach us something”. But, if He is the one making us sick, how can we pray with any confidence for healing? If He steals our fortune or withholds it all together, how can we believe He is willing to prosper us?
In John 10:10 (NLT), Jesus states “The thief’s purpose it to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” This tells us of His good intentions toward us. It also indicates that He is not the only one with a plan for our future. There is a thief who wants to destroy us. He is the enemy of God and all that He loves—and He loves us all.
The Apostle Paul throws light on this villain in his writings to the Ephesians: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV ).
Our eyes see bad viruses and bad people doing bad things, but Scripture tells us that the true enemy is the spirit behind these actions. Satan and his band of bullies marshal their forces to keep us sick, broke, and at war with each other.
The good news is that Jesus disarmed the dark spiritual rulers and authorities, shaming them publicly by His victory over them at the Cross. He told us that in this world we would face trouble but not to worry because He has overcome the world. We can put our physical eyes on the problem, or we can focus spiritual eyes on the One who says He has overcome our troubles.
The Bible encourages us to play the Glad Game, and Philippians 4:8 (NLT) gives us the rules:
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
There are many evil things affecting our lives right now and as the Body of Christ we must do what we can to eliminate suffering. Even in times like these, however, it helps to remember the quote by Tim Hansel, “Pain is inevitable, misery is optional.” The less well-known part of that quote is perhaps even more powerful: “We cannot avoid pain, but we can avoid joy.” One way to make things better is to deny circumstances the power to torture us. Be happy anyway.
Despite her bad rap, Pollyanna’s insistence on looking for every cloud’s silver lining transformed the sad, bitter lives of her companions. One transformative silver lining for us to focus upon in these tough times is God’s promise in Revelation 21:4 (NLT) “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
So, let’s play the Glad Game! What’s the silver lining to a recent rain cloud in your life?