By Pastor Timothy L. Neptune
Hope is confidence in God…not wishful thinking. To have hope is to trust in God to meet our needs…even in the midst of difficult times. When we do go through tough times our confidence in God can get a little rattled, as the Old Testament figure Job experienced. In the midst of his pain and heartache he cried out, “Where then is my hope? Who can see any hope for me?” (Job. 17:15)
Ultimately, hope comes from God. The Scriptures say, “May the God of hope fill you all with joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13) Hope is an essential element of the Christian’s life. In 1 Corinthians 13 the Apostle Paul included hope as one of the top three qualities of a person’s life: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13)
As followers of Christ, we are called to be dispensers of hope. We should exude a confidence and trust in God that demonstrates that we have hope. Yet I pose the question, “Can a person be filled with hope without being filled with optimism?” According to the encyclopedia, optimism is “to anticipate the best possible outcome.” Can we demonstrate hope in God without anticipating the best possible outcomes of the situations we face?
I believe we can. In fact, I think hope is best exemplified when it is demonstrated in the face of negative circumstances. There are many times when hope and optimism go hand in hand. David had both when he faced Goliath. He had confidence in God and he expected the best possible outcomes…Goliath’s defeat and an Israelite victory over the Philistines. And yet, there are many examples of people who had hope in God but did not anticipate the best possible outcomes.
Simon Peter is a good example. He and the disciples had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. They had worked so hard and yet still had nothing to show for their labors. And then Jesus tells them to cast out the net one more time. Simon did not expect to catch any fish. He was pessimistic. But, he had confidence in Jesus, so he cast the net. Though the circumstances did not look promising, his hope in God made up for his lack of optimism.
Esther is another good example. She had confidence that God would ultimately provide deliverance for the Jews but as she prepared to go before the King she said, “…I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (Esther 4:16) She demonstrated hope but not necessarily optimism.
The point is this: hope and optimism are not the same thing. You can still be hopeful even if you are not optimistic. You can still be a dispenser of hope even if you think you are going to face hard times ahead because you know that God will meet your needs.
Jesus didn’t sound very optimistic when he said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation (a rather pessimistic view); but be of good cheer (maintain your hope), I have overcome the world (which is the basis of our hope).” (John 16:33)
Hope doesn’t mean that the best possible situations will always occur, but it does mean that in some way God will bring something good or useful out of the situation. As we look into the future, we may not always be filled with optimism, but we must always be filled with hope…God is still in control!