Hope is Not Optimism

by Melissa Duncan on August 03, 2020

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

                                                                        —Genesis 12:1

For example, there was God’s promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name, saying:

“I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.”  Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.

So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.,

                                                                        —Proverbs 6:13-15; 18-20

Today we begin a new sermon series on the Church, and this week’s topic is on the Church as the hope of the world. But what does hope mean?

I’ve always thought of myself as a faithful person. Living in hopeful expectation of God’s promises comes naturally to me—or so I thought. But here’s what I’ve come to realize: I confused being an optimist with having hope.

Ask any of my siblings, and they’ll tell you it takes a lot to burst my bubble. Growing up things tended to go my way, something they found incredibly annoying. I generally believe everything will be just fine, and it almost always is.

When we had a housing crisis that strained us medically, financially, and left us with no roof over our heads, friends from church had us tucked away in safe housing before I could blink. To this day, I remain astounded at their radical hospitality and generosity. Anytime I’ve been overwhelmed, there have been family, friends, meals, phone calls, medication, and more. I have rarely found myself with nowhere left to turn. So even now, in the face of a global pandemic, uncertain economics, and crippling racial inequity in our nation, in the back of my mind I really do think everything will be okay.

Does this make me faithful, or does it make me an optimist? Is my hope securely fastened to Christ, or in my physical circumstance and relationships?

If it is the latter, then let’s call it what it is: wishful thinking and the protections available to the middle-class. I will wake up sorely disappointed one day.

A faithful person finds their hope rooted far more deeply in their expectation of God’s faithfulness. A truly faithful person might even be convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that things will most definitely not be okay, and yet still have hope. This hope is rooted in a truth that is unseen but deeply known, and the willingness to wait patiently.

Abraham was such a person. In fact, he worked his whole life towards a promise he knew he would never fully experience. Offspring as numerous as the sand? That would take generations. And yet he dropped everything and went. Trusted in a God he had newly met for a promise that was too good to pass up.

The same God calls us today: Place your hope in me, anchor your soul in me. I’ve gone before you and I promise to satisfy you. It’s too good to pass up.

Questions for reflection and discussion: Where have you placed your hope today? Is it optimism, or true faithful hope?

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