Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, are being treated in Australia for COVID-19. On Thursday, they shared a social media post with a picture of themselves and an update:
“Hello folks. Rita Wilson and I want to thank everyone here Down Under who are taking such good care of us. We have Covid-19 and are in isolation so we do not spread it to anyone else. There are those for whom it could lead to a very serious illness. We are taking it one-day-at-a-time. There are things we can all do to get through this by following the advice of experts and taking care of ourselves and each other, no?”
Then the message closes: “Remember, despite all the current events, there is no crying in baseball. Hanx.”
Tom Hanks’ optimistic spirit is not surprising to anyone who has followed his career. But such a positive attitude is also vital to his health—and to ours.
Optimism has been linked to positive outcomes for coronary artery bypass surgery patients and those with hypertension. It has also been shown to lessen the development of heart disease. In one study, optimistic volunteers were less likely to develop viral symptoms than their less positive peers.
Remarkably, a US study found that the most pessimistic individuals had a 42 percent higher death rate than the most optimistic. A study in Holland similarly found that those who demonstrated dispositional optimism showed a 45 percent lower risk of death.
The healing power of optimism
How can we develop and strengthen an optimistic spirit?
One: Seek to be positive.
As Joshua was preparing to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land, the Lord said to him, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
We cannot always choose our circumstances, but we can choose how we respond to them.
Two: Base your optimism on the power of God.
One of the most positive people I have ever known was a member of the pastor search team for the last congregation I served. He suffered from a multitude of health challenges that led to his eventual death. But through his hardest days and even in his final days, he never stopped citing his favorite Bible verse: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).
My friend could say with the Apostle Paul, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Both men knew the source of their strength. When we choose to trust our Father with our challenges and depend on his power, we find that his Spirit encourages our spirit.
Three: Encourage others to be optimistic.
One of the best ways to improve our morale is to serve others. A famous psychologist was once asked what advice he would give to a person who was discouraged. His response: “Cross the street, knock on your neighbor’s door, and ask what you can do for him.”
Paul exhorted us, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). When we encourage others, we encourage ourselves.
St. Augustine observed, “God is not a deceiver, that he should offer to support us, and then, when we lean upon him, should slip away from us.” To the contrary, as William Law advised us, “Pray, and let God worry.”
Gilbert M. Beeken noted, “Other men see only a hopeless end, but the Christian rejoices in an endless hope.”
Why do you need such hope today?