Pray: To open your time together.
Read: Isaiah 9:1-7
Consider: Some thoughts for your group
Hope is different than optimism. When we find ourselves optimistic about a situation, we are making a rational decision based on data or facts that lead us to believe we can rely on a positive outcome. You might be optimistic that your favorite football team will beat their rival. Or that the rain might let up for your day at the beach. Those would be (mostly) rational decision based on information.
But hope is an altogether different thing than optimism. The Christian tradition of hope often flies in the face of rational thinking. For most of scripture, followers of God have been people with very little rational optimism. Think of the Israelites trapped as slaves for hundreds of years in Eygpt; or Paul thrown into a Roman prison; or the disciples on the day after Christ’s crucifixion. All rational thinking would compel these people to lose hope, however their stories (and many more like them) are the centerpiece of our faith.
This should compel us, in our present time, to live as people whose hope is found in something far greater than optimism. The hope of Christ-followers is that God’s character is good and true. God is not a man that He should lie. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is our hope in all circumstances.
- Are you a glass is half-full or half-empty kind of person? Why is that? How is hope different from optimism in your life and faith?
- Our faith can be shaken if our hope is rooted in something other than Christ. What are some things that compete for your hope? How do you re-center your focus on God’s character?
- We stand on the shoulder of fathers and mothers in the faith who have gone before us and shared the stories of God’s faithfulness in their lives. Who has inspired your hope? What story can you share of God’s faithfulness that might encourage others to hope?
Often the worst circumstances can be the rich soil of hope. Consider this paradox that there is no circumstance that is too great for God to overcome. What might God be asking you to hope for in this season that makes no rational sense?
Spend some time praying for one another. For those feeling short of hope, pray for reminders of God’s greatness and faithfulness to be a comfort to them. For those full of hope, pray for courage to share this hope with those around them.