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Hard Times? Think Positive

Margaret Peale Everett, daughter of positive thinking expert Norman Vincent Peale, shares a few pieces of advice her father gave her about dealing with tough times.
Hard Times? Think Positive?

My father, Norman Vincent Peale, might have been a minister, but he cared a lot about how people managed financially.

After all, he, as the son of a preacher himself, didn’t grow up rich, and he and Mother lived through the Great Depression. He would be the first to tell you how much the Bible says about money, and one of his frequent themes as a preacher was God’s abundance.

These days with so many suffering from layoffs and foreclosures and wiped out 401(k)s, I’ve often thought about Dad’s advice on prosperous living—and how it’s just right for today.

Dad called it the Law of Supply: The world is full of goodness and prosperity, but the only way to realize that is by giving.

Dad found this out in the depths of the Depression. He and Mother had just gotten married and he was the minister at University Methodist Church in Syracuse, New York.

The nation was plunged in gloom and Dad took on a share of his congregation’s fear and anxiety. One sleepless night he went outside and paced frantically in the park. What would happen to the church? What would happen to his family? How would they pay their bills?

It was Mother who sat him down in the living room and reminded him of his priorities. “Things will be fine,” she said. “All we need to do is give.”

“But we don’t have anything to give!” he exclaimed.

“We will give what we have,” she said, “and when we can, we will increase our giving. We will do what we can for others and for the church, and God will take care of us as he always has.”

By giving, you put yourself in God’s care and demonstrate your trust in his providence.

Thrift and frugality were as natural to my parents as their generosity.

Being prudent didn’t mean being stingy. To do without, to do more with less, to use all that you had, were matters of good stewardship.

One of Dad’s favorite stories was about how Henry Ford didn’t waste a thing in the manufacturing of his famous Model A car.

Ford gave meticulous orders on how the engine blocks were to be crated for shipment to the assembly plants, meticulous because every crate was later used as floor boarding in the cars.

As Dad said, “God gave us abundance not to squander but to cherish.” It’s simple—save more, give more.

When Mother and Dad started Guideposts magazine, things were pretty rocky. Costs were climbing, so a wealthy woman was invited to a meeting of the board of directors in hopes that she’d make a donation.

After hearing a litany of complaints, she stood up and announced that she wouldn’t give a “nickel more,” but she had some good advice for the fledgling publication.

“What I keep hearing here is the word ‘lack’,” she said. “‘We lack subscribers, we lack equipment, we lack money, we lack ideas.’ Well, you’re never going to move ahead until you get rid of those lack thoughts and replace them with prosperity thoughts.”

As Dad would explain many times in the years ahead, the person whose attitude is one of lack will never have enough no matter how much he has.

The positive thinker, on the other hand, will value what he has, even if it is a little. The key is to focus your thinking on the good things God wants to give you. Is it any wonder that once Guideposts followed that wise woman’s advice, it thrived?

Dad loved to tell the story of a business friend who kept a print in his office of a beached old scow, the two oars resting dejectedly on the sand. On the horizon is a glimpse of the distant water.

Nothing could have been more hopeless looking than that boat in the sand. But at the bottom of the picture was the caption, “The tide will always come back.”

That picture reminded the man to live in hope. Again and again the Bible counsels us not to be anxious about the future.

Worry blocks creative thinking, shrivels accomplishment and tends to stop the flow of ideas. Worry distances us from God, whereas living in faith brings us peace of mind and closer to him.

Hard times never last. Abundance is as close as the turn of the tide.

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