The book, Pollyanna (by Eleanor H Porter, 1913), is the delightful story of the little orphaned girl who learned a game from her missionary father. As a young child she desperately wanted a doll, but they were too poor to buy one. They received gift boxes on the mission field and in one of them was a pair of crutches (instead of the desired doll). Pollyanna was very disappointed, but her father taught her that there is something to be glad and thankful for in every situation. In that case they were glad they did not have to use the crutches.
Wherever Pollyanna went she spread the message and people changed for the better. When I again read the apostle Paul’s amazing Holy Spirit inspired attitude, it reminded me of Pollyanna: ‘…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.’ 1
The name Pollyanna is even in the dictionary! It means ‘a person who is constantly or excessively optimistic.’ That applies to the apostle Paul, who despite severe tests (prison, floggings, shipwrecks, in danger of bandits, stoned, beaten with rods, et cetera 2), still claimed that he was content in every circumstance.
As I read the story of Pollyanna to some of my grandchildren, it struck me how guilty I have been through my life. I would have saved myself tons of trouble and anguish by just being glad and thankful in every ‘crisis.’ I wasted so much time and energy to fret over nonsense, instead of looking for the good in situations like Paul. The story of Pollyanna is, in a sense, a parable of what we often find in life. People mope and complain and miss a good life (‘All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast’ 3).
When we look at the Bible and its message, it is wonderful how diverse it is. It prepares us for eternal life, but also teaches us to be glad. There is no need to worry, because there is always something to be thankful for.
Maybe the atheistic message on some of the buses in London should be changed from, ‘Relax and enjoy life! There is probably no God,’ to ‘Relax and enjoy life! There is a God and He wants you to live like Paul (and Pollyanna).’ Which means, ‘Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ 4
- Philippians 4:11-12
- 2 Corinthians 11:23-29
- Proverbs 15:15
- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18