Real Optimism vs. Fake Optimism

In her book Do No Harm, by Italian writer Fiorella De Maria, she pens a phrase that I find worthy of pondering. “There are two types of optimism, real optimism and fake, cowardly optimism. Real optimism sees the Valley of Dry Bones and says, ‘These bones will rise!’ Fake, cowardly optimism says, ‘I like these bones. Dry bones are so very artistic to look at.”

I’ve been struggling with ‘real optimism’ lately. 

For the most part I like to think I am optimistic, always believing the best is yet to be. Over the past few months, it feels like my optimism has been shadowed by a dark cloud that just won’t go away.  

In the bible we hear the story of someone else who needed the hope that comes from ‘real optimism’. Ezekiel tells of a vision given to him by God. He was transported to the valley of dry bones and directed to prophesy the rebirth of Israel (Ezekiel 36). God used the prophet, Ezekiel to announce that Israel would be restored to her land in blessing under the leadership of ‘David, my servant (who) shall be king over them” (Ezekiel 37:24). He was foretelling of the future under Jesus Christ, the Messiah, descendant of David. However, this promise seemed hopeless considering Israel’s present condition. A dead nation, deprived of her land, her king, and her temple. Israel had been divided and dispersed for so long that unification and restoration seemed impossible. God gave Ezekiel the vision as a reminder of the hope rooted in ‘real optimism’. 

Sound familiar? Like me, have you been feeling the weight of our nation divided, leadership questioned on every front, people dispersed to silos or at best behind electronic screens to passive aggressively share convictions. Have you lost hope that unification and restoration is possible on this side of heaven? Some days, I feel just like that. 

But there is hope. Ezekiel was to not only ‘see the bones’ but he had an active role to play in God’s plan. God directed him to speak to the bones. He was to tell the bones that God would make breath enter the bones and they would come to life, just as the creation of man when He breathed life into Adam (Genesis 2:7). What happened next is our cause today for ‘real optimism’. Ezekiel obeyed, the bones came together, flesh developed, skin covered the flesh, breath entered the bodies, and they stood up with a unified purpose. The reviving of the dry bones signified God’s plan for Israel’s future restored. More importantly, it showed that Israel’s new life depended on God’s power and not the circumstances of the people. Breathing God’s spirit into the dry bones showed that God would not only restore physically but also spiritually. 

So today I am committing to cling to the hope of ‘real optimism’. To do my part in allowing God to use me to breathe new life into our nation, community, and church so that we can experience the breath of God’s Spirit afresh and new. Only then will we see the restoration and unification we so desperately need. Will you join me? 

By: Jeannie Troutman, Minister of Engagement