• Eldon Peterson

Half-full? Half-empty? Why not overflowing?


Are you familiar with the question of whether you view life from a cup being half-full or half-empty? Our answer reveals if we are an optimist or a pessimist. Optimists will say that the glass is half-full, whereas pessimists will usually point out that it's half-empty. Optimists tend to focus on the good; that there is still water in the cup to drink. Pessimists, on the other hand, see the negative; that there is water missing from the once full glass.

We all can face struggles in life that wear us down and discourage us. In times like this, the old adage of the half-cup can leave us empty (pun intended). Why? Because it suggests that the answer to our troubles is found in simply changing our perspective. While there is a half-truth here, thinking that all we need is a change of perspective can become like a riptide that pulls us out into deeper despair as hard times come.

Should we view our troubles in such a way, our only recourse is to put on a plastic smile, to fake it till you make it or until circumstances improve. But these will not satisfy us. Rather than addressing our troubles they tell us that what is needed is an adjustment of our attitude about our trials. While a positive perspective concerning our troubles can help us, there is something better for the Christian to do. For no matter which side of our half-cup debate we find ourselves on, we are still living our life in view of circumstances rather than from the Lord’s love and care for us.

I would guess that most of us desire to have the optimists view, but when I heard an illustration from a pastor friend, I realized that there was a third option that was even better. He observed that, “While some view the world from a half-full perspective and others from a half-empty one, the Christian sees the world as a cup that is overflowing!” I love this idea.

This is where the promise that I can live an abundant, overflowing life is encouraging. This is what Christ came to do. He came to not just give us life but to give life abundantly! “A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10) Knowing this allows me to live in the present while gazing into the eternal. It brings me life in the midst of death. It breaths hope into the hopeless.

The overflowing life that Jesus gives can never be depleted because it is continually being replenished. Therefore, the half-cup metaphor does not apply. Through our faith in Christ, the Father gives us, by His Spirit, new life that enables us to see beyond our pain and rest in the hope Christ brings. From a Roman prison Paul instructs the believers in Philippi saying, “…I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

If we can say AMEN to this, then we are likely to already know what it means to live life with a cup that is overflowing. David uses this image in Psalm 23 testifying of both what the Lord has done and what awaits those who trust in Him, “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23:5-6)

When I view life as a cup that is overflowing with blessings I am able to rest in the promises that the Lord gives rather than trying to get myself to think a new way. When I believe that what is needed is for me to change my perspective (half-full rather than half-empty), I will struggle in trials, striving to change my thinking, focusing on circumstances rather than the Lord for my contentment.My prayer for you today is that you will move beyond half-cup metaphor and look to the Lord and discover the abundant, overflowing life that Jesus gives to all who believe.


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