By Nancy Kreitzer
The half full-half empty glass of water paradox has been used forever to describe polar opposite perspectives people have about situations and life in general. I think many of us have labeled ourselves as one or the other. Because I’m a realist, or as some would claim a pessimist, my tendency is to see myself as a “glass half empty” kind of person, while my husband, who’s an eternal optimist, views most situations as hopeful and sees the glass half full most of the time.
I’ve fought hard to defend my perspective, arguing that without realists the world would soon end in chaos with people building castles in the sky. My husband counters that visionaries and dreamers keep hope alive and without them people would perish. As I was thinking about this concept recently, it occurred to me that both perspectives are essential for maintaining a biblical worldview which always includes suffering as well as redemption. Bringing them together challenges people like my husband and me who want to polarize positions and tout our view as superior.
Jesus didn’t seem to think that there had to be a choice between the two perspectives, but encouraged the disciples and believers to embrace both outlooks, with a foundational commitment to the fact that the half full glass will eventually, at the consummation, give way to a perpetual overflowing. He said, “In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). Paul, in recounting his sufferings, made sure to include both the half empty and half full portion of the picture when he said, “We are pressed on every side, but we still have room to move. We are often in much trouble, but we never give up. People make it hard for us, but we are not left alone. We are knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Death is working in us because we work for the Lord, but His life is working in you” (2 Cor. 4:8-12).
Both spoke realistically of suffering and evil, but at the same time they saw resurrection hope as the antidote to discouragement or despair. It never honors God for us to deny reality that there’s a spiritual war raging. Jesus warned Peter that the enemy wanted to sift him like wheat (Lk. 22:31). He knows that each of us faces similar trials and temptations from the world, the flesh, and the devil, and he warns us in His Word that unless we face them, suit up in our spiritual armor, and pray for His sustaining power we’ll become casualties on the battle lines (Eph 6:10-18).
Because He offered up His own life to secure our triumph over sin and death, it’s clear He doesn’t want us to allow an attitude of defeat to rule our lives. Instead, He yearns for us to have eyes to see and ears to hear His call to acknowledge that the battle is definitely raging and the enemy who tried to destroy Him at the cross remains our enemy (1 Pet. 5:8). But He doesn’t want our focus to stop there – at what could look like a half empty glass. He summons us to fix our eyes on the greater reality of the cross, the resurrection, and the promises of Revelation so that we’re able to determine with fortitude that even though we’ll experience immense trouble and attacks from the enemy “greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4). He has already overcome the world, and as His daughters and sons we’re victorious with Him. By faith we can say in every situation, no matter how distressing it is, that we are more than conquerors through Christ (Rom. 8:37). We have His promise that He’s with us to the very end (Mt. 28:20), His Spirit’s power is within us giving us strength (Eph. 1:19-20), and He always leads us in triumph (Col. 3:15).
Yes, in some ways it appears the glass is half full: loved ones suffer from sickness and disease, marriages sometimes end in divorce, jobs are lost, people we trust let us down. But for the Christian the story never ends on the sorrowful note. Hope remains and healing will come both in this age and in the age to come (Mk. 10:29-30). God is in the process of making all things new. And even in the middle of the worst life experiences, He’s reminding us, whispering to our hearts, that He’s with us in our pain and suffering. The sun will shine again, healing will come, and hope can never be extinguished. We are more than overcomers through Him!
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39).