“Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 NIV)
Optimism should not be confused with hope. Optimists are purposely unaware of the negative. (This is illustrated by the ostrich’s “head in the sand”.) They opt to view the world through “rose-colored glasses”, so truth is distorted. Warning: Watch out for perpetual optimists.
Hope, on the other hand, does not filter out the painful realities of this life. It may even embrace them. Despite trying circumstances, true saints cast their eyes on heaven. They look beyond the present–whether good or bad–meditating on God’s promises. Jesus willingly carried his cross knowing a crown would follow crucifixion (cf. Hebrews 12:2).
In Ben Sherwood’s The Survivor’s Club, the author argued that “optimistic” POW’s in North Vietnam’s Hanoi Hilton, or optimists adrift in an ice-cold sea, have a poor chance at survival. When false expectations of early rescue shatter, they lose faith, then the will to live. Those who do survive are those who quickly adjust to their new reality. Fueled by hope of overcoming, they cope as best they can with each difficult challenge.
The Apostle Paul warned some Thessalonians (see above) that they were living an illusion. A lie had taken root within the fellowship. While false prophets had exploited the blind optimism of the “Peace and Safety” crowd, the children of light were not fooled. The clever fraud had given the unsuspecting victims what their itching ears had yearned to hear.
A strategy of the evil one is not unlike the farmer who strokes the chicken’s neck and back to calm it just before the hatchet falls.
The Bible of these wicked deceivers has scratched out phrases, verses and chapters. They advocate Isaiah to Malachi should remain unread. Other references to the prophets and their prophecies are scrubbed: “Too negative!” is the verdict. “The images are too disturbing,” their spiritual leaders say. “We worship a God of love, not an angry God,” they boast.
Current U.S. campaign slogans such as “Hope and Change,” “Stronger Together” or “Make America Great Again” are market-tested to comfort anxious voters. In effect, they promise “The future is bright, but only if we elect our candidate.” This is coupled with “If the other wins, the worst will happen!” Optimism and pessimism are manipulations. Devoid of genuine hope, they are two imposters masquerading as reality.
Our Lord prayed for his disciples. He asked that they remain in the world, yet not be of it (John 17:15-16). Jesus’ followers’ awareness of the signs of the times must be sharp. Their buoyed spirits are not due to their leaders’ charisma, their nation’s prosperity or the size of its army. (Such hopes have a shaky foundation.)
God-inspired hope is anchored in an unrelenting trust in Christ and a thorough knowledge of prophecy. Those who have this kind of hope will endure every trial. Those optimistic about “peace and safety” will not escape. In this wicked and adulterous generation, they are shipwrecks waiting to happen.