Have you ever wondered if positive thinking actually has an effect on what happens to you? Some of the most popular preaching in Christian churches today seems to me to be encouraging this idea. Besides focusing on a positive view of life, this teaching also draws from the self-improvement of good psychology, “We need to think happy to be happy.”
Having been raised in a Christian denomination that, at times, contained the replacing of bad thoughts with good thoughts, I am not denying that positive thinking can work. It can—sometimes. But we need to question seriously the idea that Christianity is merely about being a good person with a good attitude. Was this all that God intended when He sent his Son to save us?
I don’t think so. Jesus wasn’t commenting on their positive view of physical things when he said to the disciples, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear” (KJ Matt. 13:16). Christ, the Son of an invisible Father, came to offer a life that human eyes can’t see and a way of living that our best intentions for self-improvement can never achieve. His miracles of healing and control over nature and victory over death are filled with the uplifting power of Christ. They are promises of the unseen, inner reality of spiritual life.
The limited vision of positive thinking and psychology, at its best, looks at making physically tangible improvements in a natural life that will always be too short. At its worst, it leads to willfulness. And the pride of making the world be what we want it to be washes away every hope of meekness. Writing about “more deeply opened eyes,” George MacDonald admonishes, “We cannot see the world as God means it, except in proportion as our souls are meek” ** (from Yielding to Wonder, chapter 3)
**Knowing the Heart of God 195. Also found in The Hope of the Gospel, “Heirs of Heaven and Earth.”