Is positive thinking the same as faith?
Is a good attitude in the face of illness or adversity the same as faith?
Many people would answer these questions in the affirmative, which reveals a basic confusion we may have about faith itself. Faith is not just a positive mental attitude, though people of faith usually have one. Positive thinking can be the result of faith, but it is definitely not faith’s equivalent.
There have been medical studies which show that people with a “positive outlook” heal more quickly and more often than those who don’t have such an attitude. One study even indicated that laughter helps a person recover from illness.
If you agree with the conclusions drawn in these studies and you decide to adopt a positive attitude in all your circumstances, you have made the step to being a positive thinker. This does not, however, make you a person of faith. Positive thinking is a mental exercise, an agreement with an idea. Since positive thinking is good for you, you decide to think positively.
A person can make this choice, can express mental assent, without having any faith at all. Yet, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard how a “positive attitude” is the right way to deal with an illness, or other adversity. But the reality is, a positive attitude is 100% generated by one human being’s choice to “think positively”. The question then is, is that human being a container of enough power to face an irrefutable adversity, like the Corona Virus, and give me genuine peace and absolute confidence?
Faith is a commitment of one’s entire being, not a mental exercise. When I say I “believe” God, it’s different from saying I “believe in” God. Believing in something is an agreement with an idea; believing something runs much deeper. I can believe in the importance of having speed limits on our highways, but I will never exceed those limits if I actually “believe” them. A lot of people who have received speeding tickets will agree that speed limits are a good thing.
People who “believe in” the Bible will say that this book contains a lot of important moral teachings, giving us examples of the practical benefits of ordering our behavior according to a certain code of ethics. People who “believe” the Bible will say that it is God’s inspired Word, a direct revelation of His nature to us and His will for us. The latter group will take more seriously the mandate to keep their actions in line with their words.
Believing is about “doing” more than it is about “saying.”
There are two basic types of knowledge. One is “sense knowledge,” or the kind most people generally mean when they talk about knowledge. This knowledge is information we get through our senses, which our brains assimilates and processes to various conclusions. We hear a familiar sound, and our brains tell us it’s coming from a bird singing outside the window.
Sense knowledge also comes to us through reading (sight) and seeing/hearing (television reports). This is how we learn about those medical studies on positive thinking. We process this knowledge and conclude that positive thinking has certain benefits when we’re dealing with illness or some other crisis.
This sort of knowledge has its limits. A deeper, more powerful form of knowing is called revelation knowledge. This is the “knowing” that accrues to people who exercise faith. This faith connection is the real source of healing and deliverance in troubles.
No matter the pain and suffering you are going through right now, God has promised to deliver you from your struggle. He may not deliver you out of the trial, but he will definitely deliver you through the trial. How? You will find strength to Rise Up, to rejoice in suffering, and peace in affliction… then, when genuine faith is engaged, you will very likely have a “positive attitude” as a result.