I have always considered myself a pretty optimistic person. I try my best to find the good, the silver lining, in every situation. Sometimes, I do admit, my outward optimism is merely a façade as I may inwardly be worried or upset. It’s almost as if by forcing a positive outlook, I would expect the optimistic attitude to journey deeper within me until I truly am as constantly optimistic as I appear.
In the recent and highly publicized interview with Pope Francis, he talks about optimism:
“I do not like to use the word optimism because that is about a psychological attitude,” the pope says. “I like to use the word hope instead…Christian hope is not a ghost and it does not deceive. It is a theological virtue and therefore, ultimately, a gift from God that cannot be reduced to optimism, which is only human. God does not mislead hope; God cannot deny himself. God is all promise.”
Ah… Pope Francis really knows how to get to the heart of the matter doesn’t he? After reflecting on this thought, I began to reconsider my so called “optimistic attitude.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a positive and cheerful person. This attitude can encourage and uplift others around us and can indeed brighten our own day when we choose to focus on positive things. But where does this optimism come from? Is it just a false sense of happiness and momentary cheerfulness that we impart onto others? Or is it the gift of hope transforming our lives and reaching out to those around us? I know I can feel the difference when I am truly happy and filled with the hope and peace of Christ compared to when I lose sight of His light within me and instead project a fake smile and sense of “optimism.”
Surely the Lord does not expect that we will be continuously happy and pleased with every circumstance in this life. Jesus Himself tells us we will face difficulty
“I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33)
Our God knows that we will face trials in our lives. But He offers us a way to remain positive despite the difficulties that come our way! How can we let our earthly difficulties weigh us down when we have the hope of Christ in our hearts and His peace in our soul? The hope that Christ offers us doesn’t promise that we will be free of pain and distress in this world. It doesn’t mean that we will be constantly cheerful and smiling. But it means that if we keep our eyes on Him and keep the hope of Christ alive within us, we will see the silver lining easier. With the hope of the Lord in our hearts, we are already happier people and can pass on the true happiness to others instead of a false human attitude of optimism.
Optimism can fail us. It is said that the optimistic person sees the glass as half full rather than half empty. If we rely on this optimistic attitude only, what have we to fall back on when the end of the day comes and the glass is completely empty? We are left with an empty glass and need to start all over to fill it up again. Day after day of filling this glass with our perceived notions of positivity, only to drain it and have to start all over again…that is exhausting! But the hope of Christ will never fail us. He fills our hearts with His love, peace and hope. And should we feel exhausted or as through we have used up all the happiness within us, we do not need to worry about starting fresh and filling the glass again. God’s love for us is never-ending, His hope refills itself, His peace endures forever.
When we find ourselves feeling lost and discouraged or when we feel like giving up, we need to remember to be strong in the Lord! We cannot give up the hope that Christ has for us!
“Happy are those whose hearts do not condemn them,
and who have not given up their hope.” – Sirach 14:2