The Difference Between Faith and Optimism
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“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)
Compare the definition of faith from God’s word with this dictionary definition of optimism: “A tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation.”*
The two words’ definitions seem superficially similar. Both mention “hope,” and both talk about having confidence that things will turn out well. But where does the optimism of someone who doesn’t know Christ find its foundation? On what basis can someone who doesn’t know Christ be reasonably optimistic? Surely not from observing the world around us. Pick up any newspaper, and most of the news you’ll find will be quite depressing. By mere observation of our fallen world alone, no optimism could reasonably be found.
A Christian’s faith, however, in contrast to optimism, is “assurance” based on evidence. By knowing the living God and His divine promises, we know that no matter how bad things may look, God is ultimately sovereign and in control. “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!” Paul assures us, quoting the Old Testament prophet Joel (Romans 10:13; Joel 2:32). We know that among God’s people, He “will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:3,4)
God has proven again and again by His historical acts in the Old Testament (such as the Exodus) and the New Testament (the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus) that He provides the firm foundation upon which to base our faith.
Unlike some who follow their own whimsical, baseless optimism, followers of Jesus can take real comfort. We do so not because of blind optimism, but instead because of our faith in God and His firm foundation: His mighty works, and His words: “Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
* American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.
Question: How would you explain the difference between faith and optimism?