Are the expectations of a pessimist more often met compared to an optimist? It can surely seem that way. It is said that we most often receive that which we expect, but does “life” go awry more often than it goes in a pleasant direction? How can we best explore the relationship between our expectations and beliefs?
There is a story of a woman who took issue with her minister’s sermon one Sunday. He claimed that if we have enough faith, we can remove mountains, just as the Bible tells us. The minister asked the woman if she had ever tested her faith to know if the Bible’s promise worked or not. When she indicated that she had not because it was ridiculous to believe in such things, he challenged her to try it first before passing judgment.
So every morning for a month, the woman dutifully prayed and meditated, just as her minister suggested. She could see a mountain from her bedroom window and her desire was to move it simply through the power of her faith. At the end of the month the woman awoke, threw open the drapes and there was the mountain, unmoved as ever. She was disgusted and said allowed, “See! I knew it wouldn’t work!”
The subtle message of this story is that our inward beliefs and expectations do not necessarily change with our outward actions. We can openly state we believe something, but in our hearts we feel it simply cannot be that way. In this kind of circumstance, the pessimist always prevails over the optimist because there wasn’t an optimist involved to begin with.
What about the minister in the story; the one who challenged the woman to test her own faith? Was he being truthful about his own belief that faith can move mountains? Would a real person in his position really expect the woman’s efforts to move the mountain so much as an inch? Since the minister likely knew the woman’s stated desire to move the mountain through faith lacked conviction, challenging her in this way was hardly a risk. Still, would the mountain have moved if the minister had prayed daily for such to happen?
The story doesn’t offer a clue in answer to that question, but it does illustrate what doesn’t work. Our beliefs and expectations must be aligned in order for our desires to be realized in our daily lives. We can’t successfully pray for prosperity if we don’t feel we deserve it or won’t change our lifestyle to bring prosperity our way. We can’t pray for good friends or the perfect spouse unless we are willing to be the same to them. In the case of whether or not faith really works, the Bible says repeatedly, “If you will be My people, I will be your God.”
So we must discern what it is that God is truly asking of us if we are indeed to be His people. There are 613 Jewish laws given in the Torah and Old Testament. Jesus addressed all those rules to live by with The Great Commandment: “We should love the Lord, our God, with all our hearts, minds and souls, and we should love our neighbors as ourselves.” Until we believe that is the ultimate goal for all humankind, the expectation and outcome, that we all live in peace and harmony cannot come to pass.
The question to ask ourselves is whether we are part of the solution or a part of the problem in realizing the world as Jesus envisioned.