If someone were to describe your personality, what kind of words might they use? Maybe cheerful, energetic, playful, or funny? Or perhaps bitter, angry, withdrawn, or critical? If I’m honest, my tendency would be on the grumpier end of that spectrum, and unfortunately, this sullen, unsociable soul was ironically born into a family of eternal optimists. Eventually, I learned that I could be optimistic too, but first, I needed to ask God for help.
My mother and grandmother were fond of the saying, turn that frown upside down—a phrase I learned to live by, often reminding myself to smile and act cheerful even if I didn’t feel cheerful. The goal in all of my social interactions was to fake it until I felt it. I even found Scripture that I thought supported this plan (like Proverbs 31:25) and pridefully patted myself on the back when people complimented me on how “happy” I always appeared to be. At first, it seemed like trying to be a positive person was going to work out just fine.
Sadly, as I got older, real trouble seemed to lurk around every corner. In those seasons of real trouble—sickness, death, financial insecurity—my trusty adage didn’t seem to cut it, and working my way toward positivity led to depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
There had to be a different way. I didn’t want to pretend anymore, and it was in that place of brokenness that I finally asked for help.
My heart problem needed more than a quick fix, a pasted-on smile, or a shallow slogan pointing toward brighter days. I finally realized that I needed Jesus. I needed to ask God to help me see why I couldn’t seem to stay positive any longer. That’s when Jesus gently taught me that my mother and my grandmother and I were wrong. The only way to turn that frown upside down is by trusting in the One who can reach down into the deepest darkness, take my hand, and pull me back into the light. And He did. He always does.
Through His strength, these are the steps I take to stay positive:
1. I ask God to renew my mind with His truth. You’ve probably heard of toxic negative thoughts, but I was a victim of my own toxic positivity! Renewing my mind couldn’t happen while I was ignoring the real difficulties I was facing. I couldn’t find healing by hiding my negative feelings or pasting a fake smile on my face. Instead, I had to learn that God cares about us, and He wants us to surrender our worries, doubts, and sadness to Him. God’s truth says that my mind is renewed when I recognize my inability to fix myself and instead humbly ask Him to help (Philippians 4:6).
2. I ask God to renew my mind with His thoughts. God is not surprised by the heartbreaking situations we face in our lives. Jesus promised that we would have trouble in this life, but He also promised that the solution to every hurt could be found in Him (John 16:33). When we focus our minds on the things of God—what is true, right, pure, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8)—He is able to do supernatural work on our souls so that what pours out from us is not fake cheer but divine joy.
3. I ask God to renew my mind with His peace. Pastor Craig Groeschel says that trying harder will never get us to where we want to be. And it’s true, trying harder to act positive made me miserable, but asking God to walk with me in my struggles, focus my mind on His goodness, and help me believe that He was carrying my burdens, gave me something I had longed for all my life—peace.
Do you see yourself in my story? Are you pasting a smile on your face, knowing that you’re actually crumbling inside? Friend, you are not alone, and you don’t need to pretend anymore. Ask God to walk with you in whatever difficult circumstance you find yourself in, and I promise, He will meet you there. You won’t have to pretend to feel peace—you’ll experience His real peace.
These days, people still comment on how “happy” I am. Only now, I can’t pat myself on the back for a job well done. No, I’m not fooling anyone. I do pour out joy to as many people as often as I can, but only because I am loved, I am held, and I am strengthened by my God. I want this for you too! If you’re struggling with toxic positivity, let’s pray this together today:
God, I don’t want to pretend to be happy anymore. I want to truly feel joy and peace. Please help me trust that You are walking with me and holding me through my hurt. In Jesus’ name, amen.