Optimism is “the tendency to expect the best possible outcome or to dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation.” Optimists usually feel that “good things” will happen in the future or that what they hope and dream for will happen. By nature, most people tend toward either optimism or pessimism, regardless of their relationship with God. Everyone’s glass is either “half full” or “half empty.” So, optimism is not necessarily the same as faith in God. It can be a natural personality trait that has nothing to do with faith.
Worldly optimism is not based on faith in God. Many unbelievers simply refuse to worry because life is more pleasant that way. “Don’t worry; be happy” is their motto. They may place their faith in any number of lesser gods, such as karma, denial, the “universe,” or intentional ignorance. This may work temporarily, but it is a misplaced optimism with no real foundation. Optimistic people find more enjoyment in life and are usually more pleasant to be around because they refuse to worry about things they cannot control. However, simply because a person appears optimistic does not mean that he has great faith in God or that her faith is appropriately placed.
Without realizing it, some Christians also place their faith in a “lesser god” because they have a misunderstanding of faith. They may stubbornly cling to the belief that they will receive whatever they want simply because they believe it hard enough. They take care to appear outwardly optimistic because they fear that “negative confessions” might cancel out their prayer requests. Or they simply cling to the notion that there’s power in positive thinking. This is false optimism because it is not based on the sovereign nature of God but on their own ability to believe hard enough to get what they want. This can lead to confusion and disillusionment with God when their requests remain unfulfilled.
Biblical optimism is the result of faith in the character of God. The Bible refers to this as “hope.” Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” When we hope in God, we put our trust in His sovereign plan above what our circumstances tell us. Romans 8:23–35 explains it this way: “But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Paul is speaking of our future reward and the things that “God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Regardless of what may happen in this life, we know that God sees, cares, and will “wipe every tear from our eyes” when we are forever with Him (Revelation 21:4). That confidence can give us an optimistic outlook, even in difficult circumstances. Biblical optimism does not place so much emphasis on earthly events. It can accept difficult circumstances because it believes that “all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Godly hope looks beyond what we understand to view life from God’s perspective.
God designed us to live with hope. Psalm 43:5 says, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Optimism is a choice. When we choose to trust God for everything, we can rest in His promises to take care of us the way He sees fit (Philippians 4:19; Luke 12:30–31). We can “cast our care upon him” (1 Peter 5:7), “let our requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6), and accept His “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Knowing that we have a loving heavenly Father who desires to care for us and provide for us should give every child of God a reason for true optimism (Matthew 6:8; Luke 12:29–31).