Sometime back my family was walking through Lynton Park and the winding back streets of Belair, without a map. I wanted more of an ‘adventure’ and led us into unexplored territory. At various junctions, members of the family became highly concerned we were lost. My response was, ‘I am optimistic’. In the end, my optimism proved well placed (of course). ‘I am optimistic’ is a phrase I often use. My experience has led me to expect things will turn out well, in the end. I decided this week I need to change my phrase.
I read Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:
“Optimism and hope are not the same. Optimism is the belief that the world is changing for the better; hope is the belief that, together, we can make the world better” (“To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility”).
Sacks says optimists are often naïve to a world where things do not turn out in the end. A happy ending is not inevitable – this is the story of Jewish history. “It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it does need courage to hope.” I find this a profound insight. The prophets of old were people of hope. They saw with clarity the sorrow of their people and hoped that God would work in them for a better future. The first followers of Jesus were a people of hope for they trusted in the presence, power and promises of their resurrected Lord.
Is not ‘I am hopeful’ a richer, realistic, more courageous statement? The certainty of hope is based on the strength of those working together towards it. In human endeavours we have greater hope when strong unity and high capacities are brought to the table. With God, his power to deliver is presumed. Our hope is based entirely on whether God is for us. How strong can our hope be when we know God certainly is?
He [God] who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things” Romans 8:32