Jim Denison on the Key to Optimism in Hard Times

“This is Odessa, Texas. Things like this don’t happen here. This is small-town Texas.”

This is what Senior Pastor Del Traffanstedt told his congregation Sunday morning after a shooter killed seven people and injured twenty-two in his community. His church is within sight of the movie theater where the violent chase ended.

Then the pastor added: “The reality is, things like this happen all over planet Earth all the time.”


The apparent randomness of the attack in West Texas underscores the threat it represents. It seems that anyone, anywhere, can be a victim of violence.

The same is true of natural disasters. As of this morning, Hurricane Dorian has killed at least five people in the Bahamas and left countless people homeless. The National Hurricane Center warns that the storm will get “dangerously close” to the Florida coast late today through Wednesday and will threaten Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina by Thursday.

In other news, a dive boat caught fire off the Southern California coast Monday morning, leaving at least twenty-five people dead and nine others missing. A twenty-seven-year-old minor-league catcher for the Detroit Tigers died yesterday from injuries sustained in a skateboarding crash.

A five-year-old girl was killed in Brooklyn when a decorative stone fence fell on her. Earlier this summer, a fifteen-year-old Tennessee girl was killed on a church mission trip in Mexico when a tree fell on her group’s van.


You and I can neither predict nor control the future, but we can control how we respond to its unpredictability. Our response, in turn, plays a pivotal role in our personal future.

A new study suggests that people who tend to be optimistic are likelier than others to live to be eighty-five years old or more. Researchers from Boston University and Harvard found that the most optimistic men and women demonstrated, on average, an 11–15 percent longer lifespan.

How can we become more optimistic? A clinical health psychologist explained that she works with patients to “uncover systems of beliefs and assumptions people are making about themselves in their lives” so they can “begin to change those.”

When we begin making optimistic assumptions, our attitudes toward our experiences become more positive, our stress levels respond, and our physical health can improve as well. In other words, when we choose to view life positively, life often responds in kind.

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Source: Christian Headlines