Not Optimism, Not Pessimism…Just Trust

Happy Moltmann Monday!  Today I’m sending you a little section from Jesus Christ for Today’s World which is one of Moltmann’s “broader audience” books (read: not academic theology).  In this chapter he picks up an earlier strand of conversation he’s had with us about the  false dichotomy of anxiety and fear and tries to answer the “then what?” question.

Today, we ourselves belong to both groups of people (people of anxiety and people of hope). We read the newspapers, and are filled with anxiety. We read the Bible, and hope for God. Like everyone else, we are afraid of the dangers ahead of us in this world. Like the people in the Bible, we believe that God’s deliverance is near. This is an age of anxiety. That is true. But it is an age of hope too. We believe in God and hope for (God’s) coming, but we are not optimists–we are afraid for our world. We are afraid of the things that imperil its future: we can imagine the social catastrophes in Russia–we can calculate the ecological disaster in our own countries–we know more than we can believe. But we are not pessimists, for we have faith in God and believe that (God) will never let his creation go. People who hope for God are not optimists. They don’t need the power of positive thinking. People who hope for God are not pessimists. They don’t need the logic of negative dialectic. People who trust in God know that God is waiting for them, that God is hoping for them, that they are invited to God’s future, so that they are holding in their hands the most marvelous invitation they have ever had in their lives.  (p.131-132)


I often run across people and friends who feel that faith is a form of blindness, either ignorant or intentional. We either do not know enough about the world to see how it really is, or we are so afraid of what we have seen that we choose to put blinders on and convince ourselves we see something else. I confess to being overwhelmingly annoyed by these assumptions. Certainly, people believe in God (and a million other things) for these kinds of reasons from time to time. We’re all working our way toward understanding. But to say the task of faith is blind optimism and the task of fear or doubt or even atheism is staunch pessimism is far too simplistic.

We are always both people of fear and anxiety, if we indeed have our eyes open. We see the dangers of the world (even if Moltmann’s references are outdated…).  We know the future could bring hard times. But we also see the hope in God’s promise, and dare to hope. However, this tension between anxiety and hope does not require us to pick sides. We do not have to wear team jerseys declaring our allegiance to optimism or pessimism, changing teams based on the outcome of Monday morning’s headline. People of faith are simply people who trust in God. It’s not blind trust. It’s not trust that means no bad things will happen. It’s not trust that we will get to have life just the way we want it. It’s trust in a relationship—a friendship–that remains intact no matter what. Faith is not contingent upon what happens, but upon who holds us. We trust that whatever the future holds, God is with us, God is before us and behind us. Faith is trust that when all is said and done, what will be left is not optimism or pessimism, anxiety or hope, but the fullness of God realized.

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