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Lesson 11: Optimism: Happiness and Healing *

Introduction: My wife teases me about always being the optimist. However, even I understand how people can become discouraged. The reasons for discouragement are sometimes obvious. This week I visited a fellow who was just moved to the section of the medical facility where people go to die. Although very physically fit, he was brought to this point by a brain tumor. Others become discouraged over what most would consider to be a very minor thing. How can we keep a positive and happy outlook in life? How can we have joy in life? Let's jump into our study and see what the Bible suggests!

  1. Despair

    1. Read Ecclesiastes 9:5-9. Solomon writes of gladness and joy. Is that how do you feel after reading his words? (It is hardly a joyful message. He tells us that our lives are meaningless, and after we die people will forget all about us. Worse, no future reward awaits us.)

      1. Is it true that our lives are meaningless and that we have nothing to look forward to after death? (Read 1 Corinthians 15:19. Paul tells us that if we have only this life we are the most pitiful people on the planet.)

        1. Is there joy in a pitiful life?

        2. How can we explain Solomon's words in Ecclesiastes? (Solomon is depressed. The man who has everything decides that life is pretty meaningless.)

          1. Can you relate to King Solomon's words?

    2. Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Paul is going through a difficult time. What does he say should be our reaction to difficult times? (He says that he delights in difficult times.)

      1. Is Paul serious? Who delights in insults, hardships and persecutions?

        1. The fellow with the brain tumor knew that things were not going well. His wife suffers terribly from this drastic change in their lives. How can you delight in this kind of tragedy? (I was amazed to hear the wife of the brain tumor man tell me that this difficult experience had been a tremendous boost for her Christian walk. Their Christian friends had rallied around them.)

    3. When I walked out into the sunshine after visiting the fellow dying of a brain tumor I was grateful I was not in his place - but thought that it was perfectly possible that a stroke or something like that might happen to me in the future. Should we fear such a future? Will God keep us from this kind of thing? (My thoughts reflected my selfish heart. I do not want such a thing to happen to me, and I doubt many would. But, 2 Corinthians 12:9 tells us that God's "power is made perfect in weakness." At some point we can reach the mature attitude that whatever happens to us we will rest content in God.)

    4. Read Psalms 42:11. What should we do when we feel despair and depression? (We need to remember that Jesus is our Savior and our God. We can put our hope in Him. Praising Him helps to lift our despair.)

      1. Notice that "hope" is the basis for praise. What is the hope that Solomon overlooked in his depression? ( Revelation 21:1-4. A new heaven and new earth in which all pain, suffering and death have "passed away.")

  2. Worry

    1. Read Luke 10:38-40. If an important person was coming to your home would you clean it and get some food ready?

      1. Why? (You do not want to look bad. You want to be a good host. You want that important person to speak well of you and to return!)

      2. Is Martha's request for help reasonable?

    2. Read Luke 10:41-42. Can you relate to Martha's situation? Are you "worried and upset about many things?"

      1. What does Jesus suggest is wrong with this? (Martha has the wrong focus. She is upset about things which do not matter.)

      2. Consider the things which have you upset today. Do they really matter? Will they matter a year from now? Ten years from now?

      3. My son graduated from medical school this past Sunday. We had "good" seats, but it was hard to see the stage. A huge television monitor helped us see. When my son's name was called to receive his diploma, I was watching him in line. However, I decided that I would try to take a picture and this diverted my attention from his walk up the platform. I finally got my eyes to the monitor when he received his diploma. I failed to focus my attention solely on what counted - watching my son receive his medical degree. How many times is your life like that?

      4. Have you been reading the paper or watching television when your spouse or your children want to talk to you? (Sometimes we just need to sit down and decide what is important in life.)

  3. Joy

    1. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. Why is joy a goal for our lives? (I would love to feel joy every minute of life.)

      1. Is feeling joyful connected with praying all the time and giving thanks? (Consider how the parts of our lesson are connected. We get relief from depression by thanking God for giving us eternal life and the hope of a new heaven and new earth. We avoid worry by focusing on what is important - our relationship with God. Both of these are aspects of "pray[ing] continually," and "giv[ing] thanks in all circumstances.")

    2. Read Proverbs 17:22. What impact does a cheerful attitude have on our health? (The Bible tells us that it is "good medicine." On the other hand, a crushed spirit is hard on our health.)

    3. Read Proverbs 14:30. What does the avoidance of worry do for us? (Again, we see that our attitude has an impact on our health. If we are trying to keep up with the success of others, we injure our health.)

    4. Read Proverbs 15:13-15. What other benefits come from having a happy heart?

      1. Read Proverbs 15:16. How is this connected with the prior text? (The suggestion is that obeying God, rather than having wealth, helps us to live a happy and contented life.)

      2. Compare the effort you put forward to obey God with the effort you put forward to obtain wealth?

    5. Read Proverbs 5:22-23. What relationship is there between obedience to God and joy? (Sin snares us. It holds us fast. It creates all sorts of problems for us. Facing these problems, problems that we made, kill our joy. One very important aspect to living a life of happiness is obedience to God.)

    6. Friend, the Bible gives us the key to living a generally positive, worry-free life. Having these positive attitudes gives us better health. Will you commit today to asking God to help you to obey and to give you a more positive, joyful attitude?

  4. Next week: Nutrition in the Bible.
* Copr. 2010, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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