The Case for Optimism

These days it’s trendy to be pessimistic. Every time we sign into Facebook our friends (or moms) are telling us about how crime is up, incomes are down, morality is on the way out, Zika virus is about to infect us all, and if that doesn’t kill us, Islamic Terrorism definitely will.

These are the stories we tell ourselves every day. They shape our outlook, often hanging a dark cloud over our lives.

The problem is these stories aren’t true.

We live in the safest world humankind has ever seen. Violent crimes in the US are half of what they were just 30 years ago. World crime is down an astonishing amount.

If you’re in your 30s right now and live in the US, you likely earn twice as much money in real dollars as your parents did when you were born.

Life expectancy in the US is up nearly 10 years from what it was 50 years ago, and continuing to rise.

What’s even more amazing than how life has improved in the US is how vastly improved living conditions are across the world.

Since 1980, extreme poverty has fallen across the globe, from 44% to 9.6%. To put that into perspective, in 1980 2 Billion Humans lived in extreme poverty. Today, 687 million do.

That’s 1.5 Billion people who are no longer living in extreme poverty, in just 30 years time. It’s not just possible, but very likely that extreme poverty will be eradicated in our lifetimes.

Then, consider maternal and infant mortality. It’s fallen so much in the last 300 years that the graph looks broken. Pregnancy and childbirth were very recently terrifying and extremely dangerous. Today, they’re safe and routine.

For the vast majority of people on Earth, life isn’t just a little better than it was 30, 50, and 100 years ago, it’s fantastically better.

This immense cup Common Grace that God has poured out on the world is one from which we should drink deeply, and with delight. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!”, said the Psalmist.

This alone should be enough to make an optimist of all of us, but for Christians it gets better; oh so much better!

Sweeter and infinitely more satisfying than his Common Grace is the Saving Grace poured out for us through Christ. Our Greatest Need has been met; our souls have been saved. We have a feast before us such that we will never hunger or thirst again!

How then, can we be pessimistic?

Certainly the world is not perfect. We don’t live in the New Earth. But the stories we tell ourselves are important, and every day we have the choice to tell ourselves stories of optimism or stories of pessimism. As Christians, our lives are characters in the One True Story, and it’s a happy ending for us all, where everything sad comes undone in the end.

Don’t give in. When someone offers you a half-empty glass of fear, uncertainty, and doubt, set it aside. Pick up the golden goblet of Grace from the table in front of you, drink it deeply, and laugh. Let the warmth fill you from the inside out. This is a wine that will make the heart of man glad today, tomorrow, and forever.