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In a recent interview in the UK, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, spoke of the difference between optimism and hope, saying he was “never optimistic”, but “always hopeful”.


PICTURE: Pablo Heimplatz/Unsplash

“Optimism is a part of your personality or not…Optimism is human-created…” he said. “Hope rests on the faithfulness of God in Christ. And that’s what we hang on to as Christians.”

It’s also a thought touched on by disaster psychologist Dr Jamie Aten in his recent book A Walking Disaster. He reflects on how he’d thought of hope and optimism as interchangeable but that he was forced to look a bit deeper when, following a cancer diagnosis, he found he needed more than optimism.

He quotes Catholic priest Henri Nouwen saying that while optimism is the “expectation that things…will get better”, hope, in contrast, is “trust that God will fulfill God’s promises to us in a way that leads us to a true freedom”.

“The optimist speaks about concrete changes in the future,” Nouwen says. “The person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in good hands”.

Aten adds: “Another way to say it would be that optimism, believing things will be okay in this life, is a finite perspective; on the other hand, hope, trusting that if not in this lifetime then in the next God will make things right, is an eternal perspective.”

So which are you – optimistic or hopeful?



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