Work, Ministry & Community Outreach Support: How to be Optimistic
In Good to Great, Jim Collins wrote about Vietnam War prisoner, Admiral Jim Stockdale, who was tortured over 20 times during his eight-year captivity in the prisoner-of-war camp and had no guarantee as to whether he would survive. When Stockdale was asked how he stayed strong through the uncertainty and brutality, he explained that he never lost faith in the end of the story and knew it would become a defining event in his life.
Stockdale was also asked, “Who didn’t make it out?”
Oh, that’s easy, he said, “the optimists.”
“The optimists,” the interviewer questioned, “I don’t understand.”
“The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come and Easter would go. And then they would say, ‘Thanksgiving,’ and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of broken hearts.”
Then after a long pause, he said, “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end (which you can never afford to lose) with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.” 1
What is the Takeaway Regarding Optimism?
Perhaps there are two variations of optimism… one where we focus on the outcome we want and think is best. Or there is optimism where we find peace in trusting that God knows what’s best, He loves us, He wants us to make the best of each situation, He’ll work it all out, and we can trust His promise of eternity.
How Does this Perspective on Optimism Influence Community Impact in Our Work & Ministry Lives?
There are many ways to be involved in community impact. From starting your own community minded business, to launching a community outreach initiative at your church, to serving at a ministry or non-profit. We’re all called to make an impact in the communities we’re involved in. But there may be times we feel overwhelmed by the scope of the vision. Or we can easily become overburdened with tasks. Even with our best intentions at heart, sometimes our callings in our communities can feel overwhelming.
We may hang our hopes on specific outcomes and hopes we believe will happen and therefore think we’re optimistic. However, we learned from Stockdale that optimism hangs on remembering the big picture of eternity and finding the peace God provides in the turmoil. It’s such an encouragement to hear stories like Stockdale’s. He persevered through trials that are difficult to comprehend. If he could endure his circumstances, we can stay positive about our work and ministry goals.
Will you re-visit your hopes to be sure they’re placed in the right context? That is how you will persevere through setbacks and be the most successful in helping achieve whatever mission you’re on for God.
- Jim Collins, “Former POW Jim Stockdale on Hope,” Preaching Today, accessed June 26, 2017, http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2002/april/13620.html