Question: “How should a Christian respond to all the negativity out there?”
Answer: Negativity is nothing new. Since Adam and Eve were first banished from the garden, life has been hard and we have been complaining about it (Genesis 3:23). It is the nature of sinful humans to live for ourselves and to complain when our desires are not being met (Galatians 5:19–20). We tend to argue for our “rights,” demand our way, and oppose anyone who disagrees with us. That combination results in a general spirit of negativity toward the world and life in general. It is understandable if those who do not know Christ are negative. They have no hope of anything beyond this world and its confusion. But negativity in a Christian’s attitude means he is refusing to see life from God’s perspective. When we join in with hostility, pride, and complaining, we are reacting the same way unbelievers do.
Unfortunately, God’s people are often just as guilty of negativity and grumbling as those who do not know God. We often forget Jesus’s words, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Negativity was one of the Israelites’ gravest sins after God brought them out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, and destroyed their enemies with a single, crashing wave (Exodus 14:16–18). Yet, as soon as the Israelites weren’t getting what they wanted, they began to grumble against God (Numbers 14:27). Rather than rejoice over all God had done for them and trust that He would continue to provide, they murmured and complained. The Lord hears when we do that, and it greatly displeases Him (1 Corinthians 10:10–11; John 6:43).
There is a difference between being grieved over sin and being negative. Someone who agrees with God over the gravity of sin also agrees with God that we should do something about it. When God saw the evil desperation of humanity, He did something about it (John 3:16). Jesus came to show us what God is like and to get involved in our messy world (John 14:9). He was not afraid to “roll up His sleeves and get His hands dirty” (2 Corinthians 5:21). As His Body (1 Corinthians 12:27), we remain to carry on the work He modeled for us.
Christians can counter the doom-and-gloom mentality with a gentle, loving, faith-filled approach to life (Ephesians 4:32; 1 John 5:14). We can refuse to be caught up in the hopelessness and me-first mentality that is too normal in the world (Philippians 2:14–15). We can offer light in the darkness (Matthew 5:14), truth in the midst of Satan’s deception (John 17:17), and hope in the face of despair (Psalm 43:5). First Peter 4:12–16 gives us some clear guidelines about facing trouble. Peter says, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”
Christians are to model a better approach to life. In the Beatitudes (Luke 6:20–23), Jesus gave us a glimpse into that better life. First Timothy 4:12 tells us to “set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” It is important to always keep in mind that, for the unbeliever, this world is as close to heaven as they will ever be. For the Christian, this world is as close to hell as we will ever be. When we live with that as our focus, we have the tools to combat the world’s negativity and model the abundant life Jesus came to give us (John 10:10).