This week Walter and myself have been doing some work on the differences between optimists and pessimists, specifically looking at how to help pessimists to be more optimistic and the benefits involved. There are no easy answers, no short cuts, but instead of giving you ten things you could do, I thought I would tell you a story.
John Wesley was a religious person, in fact he was an ordained minister who had left England to be a missionary to the Indians in Georgia, America in the year 1736. It was mid winter, and while crossing the Atlantic in a small sailing ship, they were battered by a series of storms, each more devastating than the one before. As a result of his pessimistic nature he recorded in his journal his great fear, as gigantic waves broke over the side and cascaded down between the decks “as if the great deep had already swallowed us up.”
As he and the majority of English passengers screamed and hung on for dear life, there was a group of Moravians on board who showed no fear, who in the middle of all this carried on with a worship service! Wesley was amazed and deeply challenged by this and after a fairly short time returned to England a broken man, seeing no hope for the future. Yet this experience with the Moravians continued to impact him and so on the 24th May 1738, he attended a small Moravian meeting and listened to someone reading Martin Luther’s preface to the book of Romans. He later said, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt that I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for my salvation; and an assurance was given to me that he had taken away my sins, even mine.”
That changed his life! No longer did he live in fear, pessimistically expecting the worst, he became an optimist who was able to stay unflappable in the many storms that confronted him as he became a famous evangelist, reformer and founder of the Methodist church. Being religious was not enough, he needed God’s help to overcome his natural tendencies, and achieve his full potential. If you are struggling to overcome your fears, this Sunday would be a great time to do something about it. Visit your local church and have a chat with the minister!
Chaplain Ian S Whitley