A "my glass is half-empty" person chooses to accept or reject different parts of her life as being totally good or totally bad. People and experiences are either good or bad. If something "bad" happens to her, she will react in a totally negative, angry, bitter manner. "Life sucks!" she says - often. "Why is God punishing me with this? I'm a good person - I shouldn't have to suffer." For her, suffering has no redeeming spiritual value.
A "my glass is half-full" person knows from experience that life is a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. But he chooses to accept life as a whole. "What can I learn from this?" he ponders, or "what is God trying to teach me?" He can have his times of anger, bitterness and suffering, but he chooses to accept all of his life, say "yes" to every moment because he believes that God is working within every moment, every event, every relationship to eventually bring love and healing for him. Every experience, he thinks, has the potential to help him grow into a better person. He can be thankful for every new day because he trusts that God will be accompanying him in new, surprising ways.
Dr. Gerald G. May, a psychiatrist and a spiritual counselor, experienced cancer, and became a candidate for a heart transplant. In his book "The Dark Night of the Soul," he says
"When people speak of going through 'a dark night of the soul,' they usually mean they're experiencing bad things. The bad news is that bad things happen to everyone, and they have nothing to do with whether you are a good or a bad person, how effectively you've taken charge of your life, or how carefully you've planned for the future. The good news, or at least part of it, is that good things happen to everyone too.
"...I must confess," May goes on to say, "that I am no longer very good at telling the difference between good things and bad things. Of course there are many events in human history that can only be labeled as evil, but from the standpoint of inner individual experience the distinction has become blurred for me. Some things start out looking great but wind up terribly, while other things seem bad in the beginning but turn out to be blessings in disguise. I was diagnosed with cancer in 1995, which I thought was a bad thing. But the experience brought me closer to God and my loved ones than I'd ever been, and that was wonderfully good. The chemotherapy felt awful, but it resulted in a complete cure, which I decided was good. I later found out it may have also caused the heart disease that now has me waiting for a heart transplant. At some point I gave up trying to decide what's ultimately good or bad. I truly do not know."
Maybe you've had this same experience of trying to decide if an event or a person is or has been truly good or bad for you. How can we ever know? Only God knows. Sometimes it takes years for us to even begin to see some of the ramifications of even one event or of having one person in our lives.
You lost one job, but it gave you more time to handle a family crisis that suddenly happened.
The person you had mocked and disparaged behind her back stood by you when others avoided you.
Your marriage was terrible and finally ended, but it gave you three beautiful children.
Your father abused you and your siblings, but it was his sperm entering your mother's eggs that gave you all life.
Your husband died young, but several years later you met another man and fell in love all over again.
This is why people say that "God writes straight with crooked lines" or they talk about "The Left Hand of God."
When we take the "long view" of our lives, we discover that life is truly a mystery. We cannot pinpoint with any certainty whether a person or an event is ultimately good or bad for us - because God is the artist Who uses all the materials of our lives to create a masterpiece. Like an Amish woman making a quilt, God chooses both dark/sad and colorful/happy squares for the unique quilt which is our life. Even if we are filled with anguish, uncertainty, and anxiety, we can still choose to make an act of trust in an All-Knowing, All-Seeing, All-Acting God Who never deserts us. We can say "Yes" to life, content with not knowing how things will turn out or what their ultimate effects will be. Dr. May continues
"Although not knowing may itself seem like a bad thing, I am convinced it is one of the great gifts of the dark night of the soul. To be immersed in mystery can be very distressing at first, but over time I have felt immense relief in it. It takes the pressure off. I no longer have to worry myself to death about what I did right or wrong to cause a good or a bad experience - because there really is no way of knowing. I don't have to look for spiritual lessons in every trouble that comes along. There have been many spiritual lessons to be sure, but they've been given to me in the course of life; I haven't had to figure out a single one."
When we are in the darkness of crisis or suffering, we discover that we are not as in control of our lives as we thought - and that can be truly frightening. But once the dawn comes - and it will - if we have actively allowed our hearts to remain open instead of shutting our spirits down, we can discover that even the darkness has gifts for us. As we progressively let go of the need to know everything, to be in control of everything, we can become freer - because God is in charge! As we progressively stop concentrating on only ourselves, we can become more responsive, more available to others, more grateful for each new morning. But these gifts, as Dr. May pointed out, are not something we achieve ourselves. God gives them to us.
God is always at work, tilling the soil of our souls, fertilizing, planting seedlings, shining His light on new growth when to our limited minds everything is darkness. He and His work may be hidden, but eventually we will reap the harvest. All it takes from us is saying "yes" to life, allowing Him to be the farmer in our inner fields, even when we know He is working in the dark and we wonder how He knows what He's doing. Dag Hammarskjold said once
"I don't know Who - or what - put the question. I don't know when it was put. I don't even remember answering. But at some moment I did answer Yes to Someone - or Something - and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, my life, in self-surrender, had a goal."
Be thankful for every new day. Say Yes to it without knowing what it will bring. Choose to stretch in the sunlight instead of cowering in the darkness of self-imposed anger, fear, or bitterness. Dr. May encourages us
"The divine presence doesn't intend us to suffer, but is instead WITH us in all the experiences of life, in both suffering and joy. And that presence is always inviting us toward greater freedom and love."