Optimistic or Hopeful?

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13 (NRSV) [1]


A New Year offers a fresh start. Most people begin a New Year with a sense of optimism. We desire that this year will be better than last year. And, we tend to perceive a “good year” versus a “bad year” by comparing; what we have vs. what we want, health vs. sickness, missed vs. actualized goals, etc.


A couple of days ago a young man rang my doorbell. Thinking it was a repairman; I opened the door, gave him my standard spiel of how not to be concerned with my dogs that will bark, but not bite, and invited him in.


The confused look on his face made me pause. “You’re the repairman, aren’t you,” I asked. “No. I’m here to see if you would be willing to sign a petition to place a representative who desires to run for office on the ballot,” he replied.


I need a repair, and the last thing I’m thinking about is politics! But he’s concerned and committed to doing all he can to represent his candidate, and has no clue about the need for my repair.


Taking a breath, I listened to this young man. His optimism was obvious. He was articulate, and his desire for the welfare of our community and nation were admirable. Perhaps being young encourages confidence. Maybe being older has taught me to see the difference between optimism and hopefulness.


Optimism animates a sense of confidence that things will – in time – turn around, re-establishing a more comfortable way of life. If we hold on long enough, fight hard enough, and believe strongly enough, we’ll regain what we sense we’ve lost.


Hope, on the other hand, is not dependent upon our circumstances – pleasant or unpleasant. Hope does not rely on what’s convenient or inconvenient. Hope is not measured by what we have or don’t have. Hope is a confidence that is centered on God’s redemptive acts in the past and bolstered by a relentless trust that God knows what’s best for us – now and in the future.


I find the apostle Paul’s benediction extremely timely at the beginning of this New Year. I wish you a blessed New Year! However, I’m keenly aware that blessings are discovered in good times and hard times.


I’m not a fortune teller. It’s beyond my ability to predict what this New Year has in store for any of us. However, my prayer for you is that Hope will always be stronger than your optimism.


“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”



[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Ro 15:13.

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