I used to be a pessimist—or a realist, as I called myself—because I thought that’s what God wanted of me.
I thought God was very much about my sanctification (which He is), and very much about the refiner’s fire (which He is), and very much about suffering gloriously (which He is), and not at all about having fun, or having hopes, dreams or wishes.
I heard that to have expectations was to set myself up for disappointment and resentment. So I determined to expect nothing and be completely surprised when something good happened. I was like the disciple, Nathanael, who said to Peter’s plea to come see Jesus (John 1:46), “Could anything good come from Nazareth?”
The small town of Nazareth had been brutalized by the Romans, its surviving inhabitants sold into slavery. It was on the verge of being blotted from history. Could anything good come from these unexpected places?
The thing is, Scripture, from the moment of Creation onward, shows us the path for Christians is one of delight, provision and contentment—not cheap optimism or begrudging realism. Scripture shows us again and again that God brings beauty from broken things. And as we struggle to believe something to be possible, He has given us a mysterious source of joy along the way—the Holy Spirit.
It's easier to be a pessimist or a realist. It’s much easier to expect nothing or only bad things and be wildly surprised when God blesses us. But it is not the way of those who house the Spirit of God within them. A fruit of the Spirit is joy (Gal. 5:22–23), and evidence of love is hope (1 Cor. 13:7)—and not just future joy or future hope, but joy and hope for today because of the hope that’s secure for us in Christ (Heb. 6:19).
I know the temptation, friend, to look at today’s portion and wonder how anything good could come from it. We look at the desolation and destruction around us, within us, coming out of us, and wonder how anything good could come from it.
But consider this—why did God use murderers, adulterers, selfish rulers, children, women, lame men, slaves and a son of Nazareth to bring about our hope and future? So we could learn to ask the question that will lead us into joy: What if God really is this good?
And the answer is—He is.
Our optimism doesn’t rest in good things happening. It rests in a good God who has always brought His good gifts from unexpected places. Our expectation is in Him. In Him, we can hope all things (1 Cor. 13:7). In Him, we can find joy in all circumstances (Phil. 4:12). In Him, we are cheerful in our giving (2 Cor. 9:7). In Him, we look for beauty from ashes (Isa. 61:3). In Him, we are eternal optimists (John 6:68).